As a defensive mechanism is easy to get angry first off, so I gave the book a chance, read it slowly, trying to not fall asleep on the academic terminology and wordiness, and attempting to get to the core of what he is trying to say.
"modern, transnational yoga is predominantly an anglophone phenomenon"Is it? His exposure is thorough, and if anything, I am left with more questions than answers.
I enjoyed reading about the early Palace years (30s) of Krishnamacharya and could not but wonder about him, high in yoga, coming to the palace and being given a wing in it. I wondered about how he had to please a Maharasha (whom in turn reported to the British?), who was intent on getting Indian youth fit, while at the same time having to deliver results, and keep true to what he knew.
I suppose India is too big a place, to deep a country to just follow military records, but nevertheless, it is an eye opener.
The author seems to have a bit of a control issue, he knows that he will be critiziced and he lets us know how it will happen:
I am well aware... my work will elicit very specific reactions... is dismissed as either irrelevant or malign in intent and its author as an academic trespasser on hallowed ground... others...revel in what they see as a much needed exposure of convenient but specious myths".Instead, he suggests we think of modern yoga (the postural poses) as a hononym, (same word different meaning) to the old yoga of Patanjali.
It is interesting to see the paralels he draws from how both the gymnastics and the yoga would influence each other
"as a bodybuilder, Iyer was an avide promoter of hatha yoga ... in his Muscle Cult (1930)... declares "Hatha Yoga had more to do in the making of me... than all the bells and bars, steel-springs and strands I have used"
Three suggestions are the ones that kind of "hurt", one is his dismissal of the Yoga Korunta as being mere fantasy...as when he retells of a student of Krishnamacharya reporting that the master would "chuckle" when asked to produce the book,
The second one could be perceived as a direct dismisal of the ancestry of the ashtanga system:
"For example, the claim that specific gymnastic asana squences taught by certain postural schools popular in the West today are enumerated in the Rg Vedas is simply untenable from a historical or philological point of view. This claim is made by Pattabhi Jois about the suryanamaskar sequences"Third his suggestion of how suryanamaskar may not really be coming from an unbroken tradition/lineage of yogis, but rather...
"Suryanamaskar, today fully naturalized as a presumed "Traditional" technique of Indian yoga, was first conceived by a bodybuilder and then popularized by other bodybuildersI am sure that the biggest insult for ashtangis may come when when he poses this question, (I made the emphasis on the but):
"Could it be that what has come to be known as Ashtanga represents the institutionalization... of a vinyasa bricolage designed by Krishnamacharya in the 1930 for South Indian youths but transmitted subsequently by Pattabhi Jois to mainly Western students as the ancient... asana practice delineated in the Vedas and lost Kurnuta?"When I approached Eddie he seemed very convinced that the Korunta did exist. "It absolutely existed" he confirmed, as well as the living tradition. It felt true, in my body, as I looked around at the 60 or so people in the shala, following his guidance, which he gathered from his guru, who gathererd it from his own guru, and so on. A living legacy, no records involved.
Do we as Westerners have such desire to own yoga that we cannot really accept that traditional spoken lineage and must look at papers to draw conclusions? do we need to absolutely know and trust only what is written?. Then again, could it possibly be that books like the Korunta were just fictional creations to give credibility to a world that seems to increasingly need such things?
The book, just like yoga, is a product of our times, and I have a feeling that more books will begin to come out in the near future, showing us different shades, different findings, creating more controversies.
As per me, I am sticking to practice, and getting as close to the living tradition as I can. Even though books like this have their place and certainly arise my curiosity, I am far more interested in what direct students say, even if they also try to tear each other down sometimes, how they operate in the world, and most importantly the effect that the practice has on me.