30 July 2010

award time Friday

Guess what, readers! This Ageless Hippie Chick Yogini will NOT be writing about the Yoga Rock Star who shall remain nameless mentioned in the New York Times. Why? Because everything that can possibly be said about it, him, them, has been said, and frankly, because the entire brou-ha-ha bores me. And boredom does not become me.

So this post will be in gratitude to Brooks the Yogic Muse and Svasti. Both of them were gracious enough to list me as one of their favorite yoga bloggers for different yet similar reasons.

From Brooks...

...because she admires and connects with blogs that she sees as "transmitting the beautiful humanity of the writers as they live a most yogic life."

And from Svasti...

...because she thinks "that most of us who blog (girls and guys) are warriors, because writing involves opening the heart. And my definition of being a warrior includes not being afraid of looking deeply into your own heart, fears, sorrows and all!"

I thank them both, humbly and deeply. Please go to their blogs to read about the other fine yoga bloggers they wrote about. These two mentions mean much more than what I wrote about here.

Visit my blogroll to see all the bloggers who I think are yoga stars.

Let's all support one another.

27 July 2010

gratitude is better late than never

Guru Purnima...I missed writing about it on THE day, but I am grateful every day for my teachers, whether past, present, or future.

"This day we acknowledge the light of the Eternal having found voice and form through a living teacher. We give thanks for the guidance, wisdom, and love that our teacher has shared with us and we recommit ourselves to becoming our own teacher--a bright light to all, a living expression of the Eternal teacher."


26 July 2010

what is tantra?

"Tantra" is a word that gets thrown around a lot in yoga circles. It's a word that many American yogis have become familiar with via Sting who claims that he can get it on for hours because of tantric sex (see the comments that follow in YogaDork's post.)

I don't think there is anyone who has done as great a disservice to tantric yoga as Sting because of his comments. The whole sex thang is about 1% of what tantric yoga is about. Once Sting and tantra were on Oprah you knew it was going to be all downhill after that. IMO, if this culture's attitude about sex wasn't so f*cked up in the first place (pun intended), there wouldn't be all the giggle-snorts with the mere mention of the word "tantra." ("Oh yeah, you mean THE SEX!!" slobber, slobber...)

Then there is John Friend who is sometimes referred to as "Tantra Lite." In the NY Times article about him that is burning up the yoga blogosphere it states:

"Friend’s “dharma talks” — short sermons — are based largely on simplified tantric principles (not, he stresses, the ones relating to tantric sex): students learn that they are divine beings, that goodness always lies within, that by opening to God’s will — opening to grace, Friend calls it — 'you actually become vastly more powerful than the limited person that you usually identify with.'"

What I don’t understand is when people talk about Anusara yoga’s concepts such as “opening to grace”, etc.. I have heard more than a few yoga teachers say that they never heard those concepts before in their trainings and I really have to question that.

Isn’t all yoga about “opening to grace”? Isn't all yoga about moving beyond our limitations? Isn’t all yoga about opening the heart, surrendering, giving it up to something greater outside ourselves? At least for me it is and always has been. John Friend isn’t the first teacher to talk about such things, he did not invent these concepts, he merely repackaged them for mass consumption.

When I hear a yoga teacher say that they've never heard such things before it makes me even more thankful for my non-Anusara inspired teachers and how they taught and what they taught me. I've been blessed to have the teachers I've had.

Mark Whitwell says, "asana is hatha yoga, the non dual tantra of direct intimacy with Reality that is nothing but nurturing."

All yoga is nurturing. No one specific brand, no trademarks, just do YOUR YOGA.

So what is tantra? In his book Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses, David Frawley writes that "Tantra can best be defined as an energetic approach to the spiritual path, using various techniques including mantra, ritual, pranayama, and meditation. It contains a devotional approach emphasizing the worship of the Goddess and her Lord, Shiva. It contains a way of knowledge, directing us to Self-realization and the realization of the Absolute. As such it is a complex yet integral system for the development of consciousness which has something for all those who are seeking the truth."

In my training "tantra" was never separate from hatha yoga. The word is a combination of "tanoti" and "trayati". Tanoti means "to expand, to stretch, to extend" and trayati means "to liberate or free". Therefore tantra (tan+tra) means to expand one's experience and awareness of everything, to extend the frontiers of apprehension beyond the material, thereby attaining spiritual knowledge and liberation.

Isn't that YOGA, no matter what brand name it is?

I learned that "tantra" means "to weave." Through weaving in certain breath and meditation techniques, we train up our system to become more sensitive to the subtle forces of prana or the vital life force. Through learning to control the prana in yoga you learn to control the mind.

Isn't that YOGA, no matter who trademarked it?

Taking a deep breath....SO......

What inspired this post was a Facebook discussion that followed the above photo. It is a photo I took at the Kumbh Mela of a baba whose arm has atrophied from his austerity, his extreme tapas. My caption to the photo was "no Tantra Lite at the Mela!" because the sadhus I met at the Mela were the real deal, the down and dirty tantric yogis.

Taking part in the Facebook discussion are Carol, blisschick, and Baba Rampuri, who's about as real of a yogi deal as you can get.

Talk amongst yourselves and leave a comment if you are inspired.....


"blisschick: and the point of that would be...[i.e., the frozen arm]

Carol: Would actually really like it if someone could explain to me: What is this form of Tantra about, and what if any relationship does it have to anything that we call Tantra in this country?

L-S: these sadhus are devotees of Shiva and the upraised arm is a form of mortification or austerity, it's tapas. it's a way of showing extreme detachment from the body, transcending the body. other sadhus might stand day and night,... even while sleeping, or they sit in one place and stay sitting there, till they die.

Baba Rampuri: Wonderful photo! It is Naga Baba Amar Bharti Ji in this photo, he is a Naga Sannyasi, and a very close friend for many years. He is an "Urdhvabahu" meaning "raised arm", but this is a description not a sect. One of the main things distinguishing traditional yoga from American yoga is austerities, "tapas." It is a powerful means of obtaining knowledge and power. In one way, it's an extreme form of focusing will power, almost like saying, "Nothing is going to stop me in my quest! Not pain, not discomfort, not the attraction of the world, not even death! I don't need food, water, nor even air!" When I make disciples, and some of you know that we have 5 gurus, I always choose Amar Bharti Ji to join me as one of the five.

L-S: Carol, what is tantra in this country? In America, hasn't the phrase been mutilated, people taking a sensationalist approach encompassing only thinking about "sacred sexuality," with little reference to its true practice as a path to enlightenment? for me, hatha yoga IS tantra yoga because there is philosophy, meditation, and mantra and other practices. don't forget there is also Buddhist tantra in the Mahayana tradition.

of course American yogis aren't going to perform austerities like the Urdhabahu baba (who blessed me with his other hand!), or cover their bodies with ash and sit in cremation grounds to try to transcend their worldly attachment to life.

Baba Rampuri: Carol, these days Tantra means anything you want it to. In the West, it's normally a marketing tag for something to do with new age sexuality, or at best, new age psychology. In India, at it's worst, it is thought of as black magic. Yoga, as practiced in the West, has nothing whatsoever to do with Tantra as it is practiced in its high and low forms in India. At it's best, Tantra is the teaching that Shiva gives to Parvati regarding knowledge and immortality. The practice of this involves the connection of Sacred Speech with Knowledge and the corresponding withdrawal from the illusory perception of the world.

Carol: thank you so much, Linda-Sama & Baba Rampuri! I feel so fortunate to wake up & find so many answers to my question. If you are interested, here is a link to a Yoga Journal article that I think captures how I commonly hear Tantra described in the American yoga community:

blisschick: It seems very much to me like a denial of the GIFT of this life. If transcending the body were meant to be a spiritual goal, why are we given bodies at all to begin with? (I know these statements will simply be perceived as me not getting it but I find this bothersome. I choose YES and this seems like a giant NO.)

Baba Rampuri: Christine, you are right, if it is his purpose to transcend his body, which it is not. He is pushing the envelope. He is using an extreme practice to get quick results. He is using his body in a way to acquire knowledge.

L-S: thanks for the clarification....I used the wrong word in "transcending"...yes, we have these bodies to use as vehicles for enlightenment (as the Buddha also taught about the "fathom-long body"), but these austerities (to me) show a non-attachment to the body, i.e., "non-attachment" being different from "transcending."

Carol, I scanned the YJ article and will read it more deeply later...but as for tantra in the US...I have heard people say that they never heard of the tantric concepts or even the word tantra before they studied with John Friend.

I find that a bit hard to believe. I don't know about anyone else, but I became familiar with tantric concepts from India from my teachers early in my yoga training. so I agree with Baba when he says that it seems that "tantra" can mean almost anything in American yoga. I also think many of the concepts have to be distilled in a different way for westerners. I mean, I've been to studios where the mere picture of Durga or Shiva on the wall makes people are they going to handle tantric ideas if a teacher talks about them?

blisschick, to me, tantric yoga is about "sacred body-fearless mind". Buddha taught that the path to enlightenment is in this body, watching body/breath, watching the feelings/felt senses, watching those mind objects that are our thoughts, and embodying the dharma, the ultimate truth of reality which is impermanence. those are the four foundations of mindfulness, and that is how we can use our body, use the physical asana practice to realize deep truths."

20 July 2010

a classic yoga text...but not the one you think

AUM in Tamil

Sanskrit is the language we are all familiar with in yoga classes, but the Indian government declared Tamil an "official classical language" in 2004, the year before they declared Sanskrit to be the same.

As yoga students we are familiar with Patanjali's Sutra-s, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, but how many are familiar with classic yoga texts that are outside the mainstream? How many have you heard about in your teacher trainings?

The history of the Tamil language and its literature is as equally rich as the Sanskrit language and its literature, but unless one travels to south India, it remains unfamiliar to many. I am grateful that my first experience of India was in the south and not the north. I am grateful that my first experience with the heart of yoga was in Tamil Nadu in the Krishnamacharya tradition and not in the ashrams of north India.

So I was glad to see Georg Feuerstein's review of a classic yoga text that was not written in Sanskrit and is not among the "big three" of classic yoga literature, although Mr. Feuerstein believes it should be right up there with them. It is my humble opinion that if a serious yoga student only sticks with the "mainstream" yoga literature, one will miss out on the vast richness of the yoga tradition.

For example, one of the texts given to us when I first studied at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram was Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya. The Yoga Rahasya is an important text that was lost for many centuries. The revival of this text by Krishnamacharya brings us the teachings of Nathamuni, a 9th century yogi and Vaisnavite saint. Some of the concepts presented in this text include the importance of yoga for women, yoga practices to be done during pregnancy, the adaptation of yoga to suit people in different stages of life, and yoga as a tool in therapy. A 9th century yoga book that contains very modern yoga concepts.

A huge thank you to Brenda Feuerstein for giving me permission to reprint Georg's review in its entirety.


Tirumūlar`s Tirumandiram: A Tamil Classic on Tantric Kundalinī-Yoga

The Tirumandiram. T. N. Ganapathy, gen. ed. Ten volumes. St. Etienne de Bolton, Quebec: Babaji`s Kriya Yoga and Publications, copublished with Varthamanan Publications, Theyagaraya Nagar, Chennai, India, 2010. 3766 pages. $100.00 USD plus $50.00 S&H 10-volume set.

Review by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.

There are at least four Yoga scriptures that should have a place in any library of core Yoga works: Patanjali’s Yoga-Sūtra, the Bhagavad-Gītā, and the ten-chapter edition of the Hatha-Yoga-Pradīpikā of Svātmarāma Yodīndra, which are all composed in Sanskrit. The fourth scripture is Tirumūlar’s Tiru-Mandiram, which is written in Tamil. Until recently, the last-mentioned work was available only in a dubious English rendering, which I was reluctant to recommend to my students.

A dozen or so years ago, I expressed to Marshall Govindan (Satchitananda), president of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas, my earnest wish to one day see a competent English translation of the Tiru-Mandiram. I had no idea that my words would find a receptive ear. Govindan wasted no time to raise the necessary funds to assemble a team of Tamil experts to set about translating this text of no fewer than 3,047 recondite verses. After a decade of solid labor, Tirumūlar’s highly encrypted esoteric work was released in English at a gala celebration held in Chennai, India, on January 17, 2010.

I confess I was both awestruck and overjoyed when I unpacked the ten finely printed volumes of the Tiru-Mandiram translation, which came to me as an unexpected gift in a neat cloth-wrapped package from India. Immediately I started to look through all ten volumes and then settled on carefully reading word for word the third tantiram (“book”) of Tirumūlar’s composition, which deals specifically with primary yogic concepts. Being familiar with these teachings from the Sanskrit literature, I readily slipped into the rhythm of Tirumūlar’s poetic/devotional exposition and allowed him to carry my mind toward the lofty regions that seem to have been his spiritual home. Later, I read the remaining eight of nine books of the Tiru-Mandiram in their proper sequence, allowing Tirumūlar’s work to progressively unfold itself for me.

Based on the Tiruppanandal Kāci-t-tirumadam edition, the present translation with commentary, which runs into more than 3,000 pages, also made use of Dr. S. Annamalai’s 1999 critical edition of the text. The present edition of 3,000 copies is complemented by a DVD, which makes the text, translation, and commentary affordable to a larger number of people. As Marshall Govindan explains in his preface, the DVD also honors the Order of Acharyas’ commitment to “Green Yoga.”

What makes this edition singularly attractive is that in addition to a close-to-the-original English translation, Tirumūlar`s text is also reproduced in Tamil and in transliteration. I have personally found it inspiring to recite aloud some of the Tamil quatrains, appreciating their mantric quality and the melodious Tamil language.

In his General Preface, seventy-eight-year-old Prof. T. N. Ganapathy confesses that this massive project made him “stagger at times” and also made him wonder whether he was “attempting the impossible” (p. xix). This undertaking was complicated by the fact that certain traditionalist Shaivites objected to producing a commentary on Tirumūlar’s sacred work, especially in English. Humbly, Prof. Ganapathy, who served as general editor, states that the English commentaries accompanying Tirumūlar’s verses are not intended as a traditional bhāshya but claim only to furnish “clues and guidelines for understanding the richness of the spiritual mystical experiences of the saint.” “The commentaries,” he goes on to explain, “are meant to be guides, pointing to the goal, to the essence, but themselves are unrealized, mere descriptions of truth” (p. xxi).

Prof. Ganapathy’s team of translators and commentators comprised Shri T. V. Venkataraman (books 1-3), Dr. T. N. Ramachandran (book 4), Dr. KR Arumugam (book 5), Prof. P. S. Somasundaram (book 7), and Prof. S. N. Kandaswamy (book 8). Prof. Ganapathy himself was responsible for translating and commenting upon books 6 and 9, and he also edited the entire translation. He admits: “No translation can convey the literal sweetness of the original and its wonderful philosophical concepts and mystical emotion, which carry one away like a torrent or a tempest” (p. xxv). The Tiru-Mandiram is extremely recondite, and its verses are “most difficult to translate and interpret” (p. xxv). Prof. Ganapathy assures the reader, however, that the “translators have taken extreme care not to project certain pet theories and prejudices” (p. xxv) and to translate the verses as faithfully as possible, given their limited understanding.

In particular the present edition seeks to steer a neutral course between the two contending philosophical orientations to Tirumūlar’s work. The first is the strictly theistic (dualistic) interpretation of the devotional Siddhānta branch of South-Indian Shaivism. The second is the Tantric orientation, which is nondualistic and follows the pathway of the Siddhas. In the tenth volume, which contains various appendices and indices, the controversy about theistic/dualistic versus Tantric/nondualistic is taken up separately. As the overall editor, Prof. Ganapathy has allowed each translator his own voice rather than attempt to achieve “dull uniformity.” There is, however, a fundamental unity underlying the various translations, which he ascribes to Tirumūlar himself.

The following is a short synopsis of the nine books (tandiram) of the Tiru-Mandiram:

Book 1: Beginning with a 50-verse invocation of Lord Shiva, Tirumūlar next praises the Vedas and Āgamas and then offers verses on the guru tradition, fellow students, his own seven disciples (viz. Mālāngan, Indiran, Coman, Piraman, Uruttiran, Kālāngi, and Kancamalayan), and his own journey, followed by a section on Shiva’s relationship to the Hindu trinity (consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra). After these introductory stanzas, Tirumūlar proceeds to impart spiritual instruction about the path of attaining Shiva’s love, which leads to the opening of the “inner eye” and ultimately to absolute bliss.

Book 2: Commencing with 2 stanzas in praise of Sage Agastya, Tirumūlar then goes on to explain the mystical import of Lord Shiva’s eight heroic exploits and other deeds, as described in various Purānas, He also offers verses on the three categories of individuated being (Sanskrit: jīva), on worthy and unworthy folk, as well as on the desecration of temples. Tirumūlar concludes with a unique teaching about Shiva’s “downward face” (Sanskrit: adhomukha) by which he showers grace upon devotees.

Book 3: This portion, consisting of 335 verses, specifically deals with the eight-limbed Yoga first formulated by Patanjali and also with various Tantric practices. It strongly champions the Siddha tradition.

Book 4: Here Tirumūlar discusses various cakras (i.e., mandalas)—their construction and ritual use, and he dedicates 100 quatrains to describing the kundalinī-shakti.

Book 5: This book offers a description of the four ways to God realization—through the caryā, kriyā, yoga, and jnāna method—and the four stages of liberation to which they lead: sāloka, sāmīpya, sārūpya, and sāyujya. Tirumūlar also defines the three realities of Shaivism: pati (lord), pashu (soul), and pāsha (bondage). He also speaks of the four degrees of the descent of divine power (Tamil: catti-nipādam), known in Sanskrit as shakti-pāta.

Book 6: This short section talks about the guru, subject, object, and knowledge; renunciation, austerity; the attainment of knowledge through divine grace; hypocrisy; sacred ashes; the apparel of a penitent, a knower, and a Shiva devotee, which leads over into a discussion about who is fit or unfit for the spiritual process.

Book 7: This book explains the six props (ādhāra), worship of the guru, of Shiva’s linga, and of Shiva’s devotees; the microcosmic sun; the bindu; the soul, the enlightened one, and related matters.

Book 8: Here the states of experience on the spiritual path are explained at some length (in 527 verses). In verse 2370, Tirumūlar states that the end of the Vedas, the end of the Āgamas, the end of the subtle sound (nāda), the end of illumination, the end of the eight-limbed Yoga, and the end of the five subtle aspects (kalā) are all essentially the same, but only a pure individual can comprehend this. As verse 2381 states, these six endings occur in ecstasy (samādhi) where jīva becomes Shiva.

Book 9: This final book of the Tiru-Mandiram describes in mostly esoteric language the ultimate realization of Shiva (shiva-bhoga) and the state of liberated souls.

Tirumūlar, a fully realized adept (by his own testimony), was a master of Kundalinī-Yoga, who had been initiated into this method by Nandi, a North-Indian adept whose spiritual realization was such that Tirumūlar equated him with Shiva himself. His Tantric store house include mantra (sacred sound), yantra (graphic mantras), locks (bandha), seals (mudrā), breath control (prānāyāma) and the other seven limbs of Yoga, as well as ritual worship, the right-hand method of “bedstead Yoga” (paryanga-yoga), and various forms of initiation (dīkshā).

Tirumūlar’s description of diverse aspects of the kundalinī process leave no doubt that he had completely mastered this esoteric (Tantric) Yoga, which leads to the highest goal of emptiness (i.e., insubstantiality), or shūnya (Tamil: kaduveli). This is a reference to the indescribable infinite luminous space that is the ultimate Reality, Shiva. Little wonder that this kind of nondualist mystical language did not sit well with the dualist Shaiva Siddhānta adherents. It is, however, gratifying to know that thanks to the efforts of the late Sri Satguru Sivasubrahmuniyaswami (see Appendix One in vol. 10, pp. 3393-3449), the gap between the nondualists and the dualists (or, rather, pluralists) has been narrowed, which has led to a new appreciation of the spiritual genius of Tirumūlar and his extraordinary work among the Tamils.

Yoga-loving English speakers and the academic community owe an enormous gratitude to Marshall Govindan (Satchitananda) for initiating and sustaining this mammoth project, to his wife Durga Ahlund Govindan for her unstinting editorial and other support, and to Prof. T. N. Ganapathy and his team of translators and editors for successfully completing a truly monumental undertaking. One can only hope that the release of this complete rendering of the Tiru-Mandiram will end the relative neglect of the Tamil spiritual literature at the hands of Western scholars. The immense value of a careful study of this literature is overwhelmingly clear from the present work.

One problem area that deserves attention is Tirumūlar’s date. The editors generously placed him about 200 A.D., which is close to Prof. S. Dasgupta’s (first Indian ed. 1975, vol. 5, p. 19) proposed date for the saint (first century A.D.). But in light of the teachings, as they are now reliably accessible through the present translation, such an early date is highly improbable. A review is not the place to examine this chronological matter in detail. I would, however, like to proffer the following basic thoughts:

First, The age of the Shaiva Āgamas is a bone of contention between the Sanskrit-speaking North and the Tamil-speaking South. Tirumūlar himself (see verse 65) explains that Shiva expounded his teachings in both “Āriyam” (i.e. Sanskrit) and Tamil. But then he also hints (see verse 81) at himself taking to teaching the wisdom of the Āgamas in Tamil after having received them from his guru Nandi(deva) at Mount Kailāsha. This Nandi is mentioned in verse 62 as one of the recipients of nine Āgamas (listed in verse 63, which could have been interpolated), which he then transmitted to Tirumūlar. The Nāthas know Tirumūlar as Mūlanātha, a direct disciple of Adinātha (i.e., Shiva). The South Indian Siddhas regard Tirumūlar as the first promulgator of the new tradition of Yoga (nava-yoga), which Tirumūlar himself confirms (see verse 122). He calls this innovative teaching Shiva-Yoga (see verse 884).

Tirumūlar states in two verses that the Āgamas are countless (see verse 58), and that there were twenty-eight of them (see verse 57). Prof. M. S. G. Dyczkowski (1988, p. 5) observes that “there is no concrete evidence to suggest that any [Āgamas] existed much before the sixth century. The earliest reference to Tantric manuscripts cannot be dated before the first half of the seventh century.” He further notes that “the Śaivāgamas proliferated to an astonishing degree at an extremely rapid rate.”

Second, Prof. K. V. Zvelebil (repr. 1993, p. 73), who places Tirumūlar in the seventh century, says that the saint is mentioned in Cuntarar’s Tiruttonttokai, which Prof. Zvelebil assigns to the late seventh to early eighth century. If correct, this is a definite terminus ante quem.

Third, Tirumūlar refers to the Linga-, the Shiva-, and the Tamil Kanda-Purāna by name. The first-mentioned text has been dated to between 500 and 800 A.D. The Shiva-Purāna, which quotes the Linga-Purāna, must accordingly be of a later date. Prof. R. C. Hazra (repr. 1982, vol. 2, p. 261) suggested 600-1000 A.D., with some portions having been composed not earlier than 950 A.D. But these dates are conjectural, and the Shiva-Purāna could have been in existence one or two centuries earlier. The Kanda-Purāna was created probably as late as the fourteenth century, which makes this reference suspicious. Obviously, the Tiru-Mandiram has been subject to fairly extensive interpolation.

Fourth, according to Prof. D. G. White (1996, p. 76), who places Tirumūlar and his teacher Nandi in the sixth to seventh centuries, the “magical alchemy” of the Siddhas (see, e.g., verses 834 and 841) belongs to the period before 1000 A.D.

Fifth, in verse 563, Tirumūlar refers to 108 āsanas. This quatrain was very probably interpolated, as it suggests that Tirumūlar was aware of a fairly developed form of Hatha-Yoga, which would place him after the time of Goraksha—an unlikely date. Early Hatha-Yoga was focused on breath control and meditation rather than postures. It is, of course, possible that “108” symbolically stands for “a plethora.”

Sixth, Tirumūlar’s biography is given in the Periya-Purānam, which, according to Prof. L. Rocher (1986, p. 77), was composed in the eleventh century by Shekkilār, the minister of a Cola king. Interestingly, the Tiru-Mandiram refers to the Periya-Purānam twice (see verses 744 and 2113), which would seem to mark these stanzas as interpolations.

Given the above considerations, I would tentatively assign Tirumūlar to the period between 600 to 650 A.D. to allow sufficient time for his reputation as a Siddha to have spread and for Cuntarar to refer to him in his Tiruttonttokai. Placing him earlier would clash with widely accepted dates for the Purānas and the earliest Āgamas. Based on his teachings, I would intuitively have placed him closer to the time of Goraksha (eleventh century), but if Tirumūlar does indeed belong to the seventh century, we must conclude that he had access to early forms of sophisticated Tantric teachings (his guru Nandi’s).

At any rate, Tirumūlar was a premier teacher, who was chiefly responsible for disseminating Shaiva Tantric teachings to the Tamil-speaking world. Irrespective of his actual date, his teaching is of inestimable value and, in part, helps explain and complements the Sanskrit sources of North India.


Dasgupta, S. A History of Indian Philosophy. Volume 5: The Southern Schools of Śaivism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, first Indian ed. 1975.

Dyczkowski, M. S. G. The Canon of the Saivāgama and the Kubjikā Tantras of the Western Kaula Tradition. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1988,

Hazra, R. C. “The Purānas” in: Cultural Heritage of India. Vol. 2: Itihāsas, Purānas, Dharma and Other Sāstras. Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 1962.

Rocher, L. The Purānas. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1986.

White, D. G. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Zvelebil, K. V. The Poets of the Powers. Lower Lake, Calif.: Integral Publishing, repr. 1993.

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19 July 2010

bad yoga?

"Expand. Evolve. Grow. Forget not the goal.
Awake. Achieve the goal."

Swami Sivananda

Let's a "modern" yoga class Swamiji would be told his yoga is "wrong".....

Oh my! His legs aren't straight in locust!

He has a rounded back in his forward fold!

Look at his hand position in shoulderstand! He must not know what he's doing! Shame on his yoga teacher for allowing him to do that! His fingers MUST point up, not turned out to the side, that's not right! He is seriously going to injure himself!

In a "modern" yoga class Sivanandaji would also be told to put his elbows closer together in his shoulderstand and a teacher would immediately run up to put a strap around his upper arms because that's the way his arms "should" be.

And Swami, look at your belly! You need a lot more CORE WORK! C'mon, Swami...get a Yoga for Abs DVD!

(shakes head...)

13 July 2010

the best writing about yoga in a long time

I've been writing this blog since 2005 and I've come across many yoga blogs over the years -- some great, some not so much, some to which I am indifferent, i.e., those I read once and never return. We all have our tastes and I know that this blog is too snarky for some, maybe not foo-foo-peace-love-dove enough about yoga for others, and that's fine. I've been criticized for not sugar-coating my words, for not being "yogic" enough, for being too bold and brash, and frankly, for being too me. That's fine because I know that neither my yoga (not hard enough) nor I (not gentle enough) are everyone's cup of chai in the blogosphere or in real life. At my age, ask me if I care.

But today I found The Magazine of Yoga and I am hooked.  Maybe some of you know it already, but I can't stop reading the articles.  I especially loved this post about teaching: Tired, Uninspired, and Teaching Yoga. Some pithy remarks from the post:

"In teacher’s everyone life there are times the problem is more intractable or more existential, sometimes both at the same time.

My personal prejudice about this is that if you are serious at all about teaching, it’s going to happen to you. I have never had a bad teacher ask me what do about boredom, exhaustion, or doubt....

....If we are ever going to develop the emotional maturity to rise to our full potential as human beings we’re going to have to go through feeling abandoned, mistaken, dubious, and afraid."

Holy Shiva, did that sentence resonate with me...the times I have felt abandoned and mistaken on this path are more than I care to count. I have felt so alien in my local yoga world you can call me ET. So reading these last two lines...

"'Get up and go out in the world,' she [Eve Ensler] said, 'and do what you came here to do.'

Because there’s more to the practice than asana, there’s life."

...recharged me.

As did a new private student today...because there’s more to the practice than asana, there’s real life, yoga warts and all.