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December 23, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014

Are yogis after inner peace or tighter glutes?

By Pablo Toledo
For the Herald

Death of yoga giant revives debate

The passing (1) this week of Indian yoga giant B.K.S. Iyengar has been cause for mourning (2) among practitioners across the West, where he is credited with bringing yoga poses to the masses.

Celebrities tweeted thanks to Iyengar, who died Wednesday at the age of 95, and prominent US teachers including John Schumacher of the Washington-area Unity Woods wrote that Iyengar’s teachings would live on (3). Iyengar is credited with mainstreaming (4) yoga decades ago by teaching it to bigger groups instead of one-on-one and using props to help the less flexible reach poses. “He took away the esoteric trappings to some extent,” Schumacher told The Atlantic.

But what teachings are living on? Iyengar’s passing revives a debate about whether most Western practitioners are misusing (5) yoga, misunderstanding (6) it as primarily a way to firm their bodies when the physical practices traditionally are just a segment of what is meant to achieve a transformational world view. Complete yoga involves breathing exercises, meditation and philosophical readings — all leading to inner peace and the relief of suffering.

As yoga has exploded as a physical exercise (not to mention a major industry in which US$100 yoga pants aren’t uncommon), some advocates have pushed back – including Iyengar’s son, Prashant, who was quoted as saying in 2005 that “what has spread all over the world is not yoga. It is not even non-yoga; it is un-yoga *.”

Perhaps the most vocal voice (7) concerned about the understanding of yoga is the Hindu American Foundation, a key Washington advocacy group that founded a campaign in 2010 called Take Back Yoga. The campaign says it sees yoga “purposefully delinked from its roots in Hinduism.”

Schumacher, who studied for decades under Iyengar, said Iyengar “was in favour of people coming to yoga however they did.” One time Schumacher saw him lecture in Washington and heard an attendee say: I’m too busy with work and family and housework to get in a really substantive practice. “He said, ‘Why don’t you stand on one leg while you’re doing the rice?’”.

Adapted from an article by Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post.

Passing (1)
The word “passing” is used to refer to the end of something or the death of a person. Also related is “pass away,” a euphemism (word that we use to avoid using another) for “die” / when we do not feel comfortable talking about death, finding that the idea of something passing into another state is more tolerable, we use these two phrases.

Mourning (2)
This is pronounced just like “morning,” but the meanings are impossible to confuse: mourning is the sadness that you feel because someone has died.

On and on (3)
When “on” is used after a verb, it adds the meaning of “continue to do something.” A famous example comes from Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing, when Beatrice encourages Benedick saying “love on: I shall requite thee”.

Mainstreaming (4)
To mainstream an idea, product, etc. is to make it accepted by most people.

Mis- (5) (6)
The prefix “mis-” indicates that something is done incorrectly: to misuse is to use something in the wrong way, to misunderstand a message means to understand something different from what the person who said it intended, and so on.

Vocal (7)
“Vocal voice” seems redundant (all voices are vocal, right?) , but “vocal” here means people who express their opinions or protest about something loudly and publicly. And by the way, the letters a, e, i, o and u are not called “vocals” but “vowels”! (Also, “vowels” are letters but “bowels” are your stomach, intestines and so on, so be careful how you spell and say it.)

* Many ways to say “no”
Prefixes are particles that we add at the beginning of words. They do not change the category of the words (change a noun into a verb, for instance), but they do change the meaning: “national” to “international,” “use” to “misuse” and so on.

This phrase is a great example of the difference in meaning between different negative prefixes. “Non-” means “anything that is not X,” so “non-yoga” is anything that is different from yoga, from running to football to airplanes. “Un-” means “the opposite of” when attached to adjectives (usual/unusual), and the reverse action when attached to verbs (dress/undress).

This explains the difference: “non-yoga” is simply something that is not yoga, whereas “un-yoga” means the opposite of everything yoga stands for. Quite a difference, huh?

@destierrado

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