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“There Is No Violent Yogi”

26 Jun

Man, I am missing the hell out of my Ashtanga asana practice. It’s been over two weeks and I am freaking miserable!  Seriously, I feel like I am about to go nuts. I think I am going to try tomorrow and see how my hand holds up. If it’s OK, I’m going to resume until my hand surgery on Thursday. Going to try modifications for all of the Sun Salutations so that I don’t put so much weight on the finger. In the meantime, I have been reading a very interesting book and thinking lots about the non-asana and spiritual aspects of yoga:



This book takes the form of a conversation between Srivatsa Ramaswami and one of his senior students, David Hurwitz. Ramaswami is the guru and teacher behind the Vinyasa Krama system and was a direct student of Krishnamacharya. There’s all kinds of stuff for me to chew on while I am on the mend, including the statement:

“There is no violent yogi…yogis have clean minds and bodies….moderation is a yogic virtue…all that the yogi does, he does so with a sense of loving offering to God.”

Let me tell you, this totally ran through my mind this morning when I had a total meltdown in the parking lot of a health food store. It takes so little to set me off and bruise my ego sometimes that it just freaking amazes me. The slightest perceived insult about certain things (ahem, my weight or appearance) just pushes me over the edge.  Talk about beneath the surface!

In the section entitled, “On Yoga Philosophy”, Ramaswami makes the following statement:

“So a person who has taken to yoga as a spiritual mission, after acquiring some conviction that yoga will lead the way to kaivalya, will have to spend time and effort to cultivate these traits of nonviolence and so on. Otherwise an angry young man, without deliberate attention and effort, will end up an angry old man, despite all other efforts. In fact the sage Vyasa, in his commentary on Yoga Sutras, compares the yogi who has taken to yoga and transgresses the yama niyamas to a dog who eats his own vomit.”

I had to look up the word “kaivalya” in the handy dandy glossary of Sanskrit terms at the back of the book (worth the purchase price alone!). Kaivalya: “to be alone, freedom.” The simple definition of namas and niyamas as yogic do’s and don’ts is about all I can handle right now. I interpret “yoga will lead the way to kaivalya” as: Yoga will lead me to a place where I can be truly alone, which is also a state of spiritual freedom. That is tantalizing. I think one of the primary appeals of Ashtanga yoga is the emphasis on slow and methodical solitary home practice as a mainstay of the system.

My brain is not wanting to wrap itself around a lot of what I read lately. Where’s Sanskrit for Dummies when I need it?  I’m stressed and distracted and a yogini loose cannon. It’s going to take me some time to really read Yoga Beneath the Surface; there’s a whole lot of juicy, complex stuff happening in only 234 pages. A lot of it is way over my head, which makes me squirmy and happy at the same time. My ego-driven, prideful and intellectual inner Comparative Religion major self wants to immediately understand everything, NOW. It’s been a loooooong time since I even tried to study Sanskrit, and I was always half-assed about it anyway. In fact, it was a huge deterrent when I was thinking about applying to graduate school for Buddhist Studies. When I found out I would have to learn Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, German AND French for the graduate program I told my advisor, “I think I just want to go drink and wash dishes for a living and go to punk rock shows. I’m outta here.” Even though I did all of the course work for my degree, I ended up refusing to do my final oral comp exam (on Mircea Eliade)  because I was convinced that the head of the department hated me and I decided it just wasn’t worth it. The English degree by itself was all I could manage. I still regret this, but I was too tired and sick at the time.

With that being said, I am going to go drink more coffee and read a regency romance novel. I think about all I can handle right now is The Revenge of Lord Eberlin and a nice, hot trough of hazelnut coffee.


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