There has always been a tension in yoga between social engagement and inward retreat. Although some teachings promote being kinder, this is to help with withdrawal from the outside world not harmonious relationships. That’s not how yama and niyama are usually presented to modern practitioners – or how people interpret them. If old texts need adapting to sound more appealing, should we look elsewhere for moral guidance? Might other ethical frameworks be more relevant to modern challenges? Come and share ideas at a workshop in London!
I’m co-teaching this weekend immersion (May 4-5) on Patanjali’s sutras, traditional commentaries and modern applications. It’s a great opportunity to focus in depth on foundational aspects of yogic philosophy, to ask lots of questions and meet fellow students. This might have added appeal if you’ve already taken an online course through the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, which is hosting the event. There’ll be presentations from Dr Nick Sutton and other OCHS staff, plus some guest contributions.
What exactly is hatha? In modern yoga usage, it often refers to a slow approach – perhaps in contrast to flow – but originally it covered all aspects of physical practice, from breathing techniques to arm balances. In Sanskrit, the traditional language of yogic texts, the word hatha means “force”. It is therefore a “forceful” form of yoga, whose dynamic techniques have powerful effects. Another meaning of hatha is “obstinacy”, which suggests a need for strength of will.
What exactly is yoga? How did it evolve from a meditative way of transcending the world to a global industry worth billions of dollars? This talk explores the meaning of yoga in multiple contexts: from ancient ascetics who never sat down to modern stretching for affluent urbanites. Despite what Hindu nationalists claim, there is no such thing as “One True Yoga.” Come and find out more on Tuesday, March 12 (7:00 PM), at Cafe 1001 on Brick Lane, E1 6QL. Tickets available here.
In October, I'll be teaching yoga history and philosophy on a teacher training course in London. There'll be 15 hours of classes over two days (22 / 23 October), exploring what we know about the evolution of practice from the distant past to the present day. This essay gives a brief introduction to what to expect. The photo shows Jim Mallinson, with whom I've been studying at SOAS as part of my MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation.