Ashtanga briefly in the news: A primer from Canada

A Tantric diagram of five-faced Hanuman. Via

If this keeps up, I may have to take back my pronouncement that Ashtanga doesn’t get much news coverage.

Another — albiet brief — mention of our branch of the yoga line today in a quick, down-and-dirty “history of yoga” piece in the Vancouver Sun. The reason forthe story seems to be the Indian Summer festival, which just finished there. It looks like it still is offering yoga classes, though, so I think that’s the “hook.”

Ashtanga, and Guruji, get a mention as the story traces the “history” of yoga from those measureless moments in history to the present day:

Yoga returned to the classical philosophy with the father of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya who brought it back to the public in the early 20th century.

Krishnamacharya studied yoga from the monks living ascetic lives in caves in the Himalayas. When he returned to his home in Mysore, he started working for the royal family many of whom were ill. He taught them yoga and when they experienced the benefits, they decided to start a school and supported spreading the teachings.

“Most of the lineages of yoga today come from Krishnamacharya,” says Luce adding that Krishnamacharya had three disciples; B.K.S. Iyengar of Iyengar yoga, Pattabhi Jois, who developed Ashtanga yoga and Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar who developed a lineage called Viniyoga.

There’s not too much there, I’ll grant you. But the story does end on a teasing note; this is probably what the story should be, although I guess it is a better topic for a yoga-focused publication:

Luce says there is a debate raging in the yoga community now between classical thinking and tantric ideas. Most of Western yoga, like Hatha, Kundalini or Ashtang [sic], adheres to the classical approach in which the goal is to transcend the body.

But newer lineages have emerged in the last 20 years such as Anusara, which takes a tantric approach embracing the body as part of the sacred whole.

“It is coming to the surface, the texts are being understood and there is a new take on it now,” says Luce.

Ah, Anusara. When I was at Tim Miller’s Tulum retreat earlier this year, the resort was filled mostly with an Anusara training group. From what I heard, they thought all of us Ashtangis were up-tight and humorless. From my perspective, I thought their slow, precise meditative walking on the beach was a little silly. And their cheering and clapping from the bigger of the two yoga studios was in sharp contrast to the vibe with Timji.  (That’s just me, though, and I admit up front I don’t know much about Anusara.)

All that said, I’d love to see some of these newly translated Tantric books. Richard Freeman’s Mirror of Yoga does a great job of describing Tantra, and it certainly piqued my interest.

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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