John Friend strongly recommends Yoga Body, The Origins of Modern Posture Yoga for all yoga students. Mark Singleton is an expert in the field of modern yoga. He explains how it has evolved within and outside India.
However, the book is mostly about how yoga has changed in India in the last 150 years. How T. Krishnamacharya and K. Pattabhi Jois (his students) were the most prominent proponents of yoga. They also incorporated European gymnastics into their home-grown Hatha Yoga practices.
Many Indian yogis found a way to cope with modernity. They moved to the city, rather than staying in the Himalayan caves, and adopted the emerging European cultural trends. They were especially open to the “esoteric” forms and gymnastics of Ling (1766-1839), which is a well-known Swedish technique.
Singleton uses the term yoga as a homonym to explain his main thesis goal. This means that he stresses the multiple meanings of yoga, according to who uses it.
This emphasis is an excellent idea for students of all yoga. It allows them to understand that their yoga may be different from mine. There are many yoga paths.
John Friend is correct in that John Friend’s study is the most comprehensive in-depth examination of the history and culture that influenced the yoga lineage. It spans from T. Krishnamacharya’s humid and heated palace studio in Mysore to Bikram’s artificially heated Hollywood studio.
The majority of the book is Singleton’s study on “postural Yoga”. However, Singleton also devotes pages to the history and origins of “traditional” Yoga, starting with Patanjali, and ending with the Shaiva Tantrics. They compiled the Hatha tradition in the middle ages and wrote the well-known yoga textbooks, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and the Geranda Samhita.
Singleton’s heat is so intense that he gets in water more than a Bikram sweat while undergoing these examinations. Singleton’s excellent dissertation deserves
Singleton claims that his project focuses solely on the study of modern yoga postures. Singleton’s book would have been a success if he had focused only on this project. He makes the same error as many modern hatha yoga yogis.
Hatha yogis claim that all yoga styles are good. All homonyms, they assert, are equally valid and good. Except for one homonym, which cultural relativist Hatha yoga is seen as an arrogant form of yoga. Why? It is because its adherents, traditionalists, claim that it is deeper, more spiritual, and traditional than yoga.
Singleton thinks this kind of ranking is counterproductive, and a waste of time.
Georg Feuerstein disagrees. He is the most popular and respected yoga scholar outside India. He is also one of those traditionalists who believe yoga should be considered an integral practice. Yoga can be a body-mind-spirit practice. What is Feuerstein’s integral homonym for yoga? Is it different from Singleton’s modern, non-integral yoga homonym?
Feuerstein’s amazing writings on yoga focused on the holistic practice and benefits of yoga. There are many practices that traditional yoga has developed over the past 5000+ years.
While posture yoga primarily focuses upon the physical body and does postures, integral yoga practice involves both the subtle and physical body. It also includes a variety of mental and spiritual practices that have rarely been seen in today’s yoga studios.
Singleton’s “Concluding Reflections,” which criticized Feuerstein, was the reason I brought this up.
Singleton should critique Feuerstein’s yoga interpretation, which is very similar to mine.
Singleton wrote: “For some,” Georg Feuerstein, a best-selling author on yoga, writes, “The modern fascination with postural Yoga can only be an abomination of the authentic, traditional yoga of tradition.” Singleton quotes Feuerstein as saying that yoga “was slowly stripped of its spirituality and remodelled into exercise training” when it arrived on Western shores.
Singleton rightly pointed out that the fitness revolution in India was started by yoga. Singleton correctly pointed out that fitness is not an alternative to yoga’s spirituality. Feuerstein does not mean to argue that. He simply points out the lack of a “spiritual orientation” in modern yoga’s exercise component.
That is a key difference.
Singleton declares that Feuerstein’s assertions are missing the “deeply religious orientation of some modern women’s exercise training and bodybuilding in the harmonial gymnastics tradition.”
Although I think I know exactly what Feuerstein means when he says “deeply spiritual”, I don’t know what Singleton means. However, I do know that I can understand Yoga Body. It makes it difficult to make an intelligent comparison. Singleton made this point in his final arguments in a book that is devoted to physical postures. You can see the point.
It was a valid point that he made, and I would like to address it.
Feuerstein states that the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is not physical fitness but enlightenment. It is not about a slimmer body, but rather a greater chance of spiritual liberation.
He views yoga as a spiritual practice, involving deep postures and deep meditation. While postures are an important part of traditional yoga practice, enlightenment can be achieved without using posture yoga. It has been proven indisputable by such sages, as Ananda Mai Ma Ma, Ramana Maharishi, and Nisargadatta Maharaj.
The bigger question regarding the purpose of yoga from traditional yoga’s perspective is: Can you achieve enlightenment by only practicing fitness yoga? It’s not very possible. It’s unlikely. You can’t even practice the fitness yoga Singleton says is spiritual.
Integral yoga teaches that the body is the first, outermost layer of the brain. The fifth and innermost layer, or Kosa of the subtle bodies, is where enlightenment occurs. It does not take place in the physical body. Yoga, therefore, has its limitations.
Feuerstein and all other traditionalists are similarly affected (oh, those awful labels!). We’re simply saying that if you are looking for enlightenment then fitness yoga is probably not the right choice. Although you can do power yoga every day from dawn to midnight, it will not make you enlightened.
For such purposes, they created sitting yoga postures (padmasana and siddhasana), vipassana, and vipassana. They preferred to sit still and meditate rather than move about in a variety of postures. This is because the sitting postures were what induced the desired trance states or Samadhi.
This means that, even though you may be able to be enlightened if you do not practice the various Hatha postures, it’s unlikely you will ever become enlightened if you only practice these postures.
These are the insights and perspectives I was unable to grasp while reading Yoga Body. Feuerstein’s criticism of him seems shallow and naïve.
Singleton only focuses on modern yoga’s history and practice. This is a comprehensive and accurate description. But his insistence that there are spiritual aspects to modern gymnastics or posture yoga overlooks an important aspect about yoga. The truth is that our bodies are only spiritual as they are. This can be seen from the space within our hearts and beyond.
Yoga Body, therefore, misses a key point many of you have the right to claim. And without being criticized as being arrogant and mean-minded, yoga is primarily a holistic discipline in which the physical body can be seen as the first layer in a series of ascending and all-encompassing layers of being, from mind to spirit to body. That is why even the body can be considered the home of Spirit. Summa sum, the body is the sacred place of Spirit.
This yoga perspective comes from where? Feuerstein said that it underlies the whole Tantric tradition, particularly the schools for hatha yoga which are an offshoot.
Tantra clearly states that the human person is a three-tiered being: physical, mental, and spiritual. Tantric carefully and skilfully developed practices for each level of being.
This ancient perspective makes it very satisfying to see how yogic and tantric practices such as mantra meditation, hatha yoga, breathing exercises, and scriptural studies are being integrated into many modern yoga studios.
This article will answer the question in its title. Is it possible to have a healthy body and a peaceful spirit while doing yoga? Yes. Yoga isn’t either/or. Yoga is both yes/and. Yoga practice should be holistic. This means that spirituality and posture are incorporated into yoga. As a result, these two seemingly opposed poles – the spirit and the body – will blend and unite. Unity was, in fact, the goal of ancient Tantra.
Perhaps someone will soon write about the new and growing phenomenon of global yoga. Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body does not include such a book. However, a book about this, let’s call it, a holistic or neotraditional form of yoga would make for a great cultural exploration.