On staying true to yoga’s roots –

One of my favorite explanations of yoga is from Michael Stone –

Yoga is an intimate connection with all things. The goal is to become human again.

I struggled recently with the idea of what it means for something to be “yogic.” In most ways, I think I understand what it means for someone or something to be labeled as “yogic” these days, but after studying the history of Eastern philosophy and religion somewhat extensively, I have had to question what yoga should mean to me more than a couple times.

What brought me to question myself most recently on this topic was regarding what it means for music to be “yogic.” Is it wrong to play hip-hop or reggae in a yoga class? Should all yoga classes be set to massage music or kirtan sung by “authentic” singers like Krishna Das or Steve Ross? Or should an “authentic” yoga class involve music at all?

Objectively, I have to honestly say that I really do not have the answer to this. But subjectively, after much thought, I do not see any problem with a yoga class set to hip hop music, or any other kind of potentially controversial music genres. Yogis originally were rebellious creatures, people who lived on the fringes of society and focused on attaining supernatural abilities that were not often used for spiritual good. If they were around today, they probably would have enjoyed hip hop or heavy metal very much.

Other early “yogic” practices stem from tantric religion, many forms of which centered around the idea of finding spiritual enlightenment by fighting fire with fire– that the most enlightened being would not be affected by even the most powerful poison. If they were around today they might play loud heavy metal during savasana, challenging themselves to stay relaxed.

In fact, the only problem that I see with using music during a yoga class would be relying on the music itself to create a sense of deep relaxation at the end of class. For the seasoned practitioner, the ability to surrender one’s body and mind during savasana should be available no matter what kinds of distractions surround them. Not an easy task, but a valuable one in today’s world.

But the truth is, yoga has so many different forms today, and so many different definitions and associations from the past, it can be easy to define someone or something as “yogic” but perhaps much more difficult to argue the opposite.

At it’s simplest, yoga means “union.” So maybe at its core, that is what yoga shows us– that anything can be “yogic” or spiritual, or important, when approached in the right way.


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