Not just by modern-day yoga fans, Patanjali was misunderstood even in history
In his new book, Alistair Shearer traces the origins of Maharishi Patanjali's 'Yoga Sutra' and writes why modern postural yoga is missing the big point.
Alistair Shearer 1 February, 2020
The Story of Yoga: From Ancient India to the Modern West by Alistair Shearer
In a nutshell, Patanjali's yoga emphasised steadiness of mind, not physical strength or flexibility.
For India’s revolutionaries in freedom struggle, gyms & akharas were a cover for politics.
"In the 1930s, for example, the teacher Tiruka (Raghavedra Rao) traveled around India gathering techniques that could be disseminated to freedom fighting 'yogis..."
Singleton mentions that some militant nationalists and freedom fighters used yogapractice as a front for instruction in violent methods of resistance.
One of them wasTiruka, or Sri Raghavendra Rao, who pretended to be a travelling guru teaching yoga,while in reality training recruits in a combination of exercise and combat practices (103).As Singleton observes:“To ‘do yoga’ or to be a yogi in this sense meant to train oneself as a guerrilla,using whichever martial and body-strengthening techniques were to hand, and it is thusthat the yoga tradition itself, as Roselli [1980:147] puts it, ‘could be used to underwriteboth violence and non-violence’” (my emphasis, Singleton 2010:104).
In a way, the violent, institutionalised ascetic of India’s recent past was creativelyre-fashioned by nationalists like Tiruka “to fit current needs and future aspirations” (myemphasis, 102; also 101,106).
The “close relationship that obtained between nationalist struggle on the one hand and the early formulations of modern (postural) yoga on theother”, is close relationship that obtained between nationalist struggle on the one hand and the early formulations of modern, a figure instrumental in the infusion of physical cultural principlesin the akhâla; yogic physical culture pioneer, Swami Kuvalayananda; the influentialmodern transnational gurus, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and ParamahamsaYogananda, as well as the Rajah of Aundh (103-104).Depending on the context and discourse at work, the hatha yogi could either becast as “reviled other” or held up as “the ideal of embodied power in the world” (106).
Regarding the latter, Singleton notes how modern physical culture proponents in India often selectively “combined in themselves the mythos of the medieval siddha with th emodern day strong man.”
Singleton, Yoga Body page 106
The equation of yoga with physical fitness began in health clubs and gyms run by Indian freedom fighters during British rule. Martial arts training was conducted in the guise of spiritual practice, which led to a modern yoga which emphasized physical training, while claiming justification from Patanjali.
Calcutta Yoga: How Modern Yoga Travelled to the World from the Streets of Calcutta by Jerome Armstrong
The Jugantar movement started by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh used the guise of a fitness club to take in young teenagers and turn them into revolutionaries.
Jerome Armstrong 2 February, 2020
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/18/2020 12:42AM by corboy.