Not ‘No coffee, no prana’? What will we do?

Given our three-week trip to India, it has been a good month since I took a look at whether Guy Donahaye has posted anything new on his Mind Medicine blog.

He has, including one on Ashtanga and injury I should have included in my “experts” round-up on the subject. Here’s the opening of it:

The purpose of yoga is to overcome unnecessary pain – physical and psychological pain – and to become indifferent to it as it arises. Yoga is a means by which we learn to navigate our life and our bodies differently – so that we stop doing that which causes us to suffer. Whether these are mental patterns or physical symptoms – only we have the power to change them. Thankfully yoga provides us with many tools to achieve this.

But what really caught my attention was the latest one. One of Donahaye’s ongoing themes to his blog is the attempt to put what Guruji said in a fuller context. It’s often pretty useful, although I’m in no position to judge whether anyone else who knew Guruji well would quibble with his contextualization. (We all have our own way of seeing things, after all.) I tend to read Donahaye’s versions as better than just trying to extrapolate something Guruji said as if from a blank page, but also as not necessarily definitive. After all, what’s definitive in such cases?

Donahaye’s latest targets the Guruji quote nearest and dearest to us: “No coffee, no prana.” Here’s what Donahaye adds:

We can understand how, for many people, coffee would be supportive of such a practice. But ultimately coffee does not serve us at all on the path of yoga, it is only used to undo certain tamasic elements in our system – such as the inability to wake up in the morning – why do we have that problem? It would be better to undo the cause of that than to use a drug to counter other negative behaviors such as going to bed too late, consuming tamasic foods or indulging in tamasic activities such as watching tv late into the evening.

No coffee no Prana?

This was one of Gurui’s humorous quips. It is a joke and not meaningful, but unfortunately has been taken up as one of his catch phrases.

The horror!

Now, I don’t think for one minute that Donahaye had us in mind when he wrote this (given our quoting Guruji prominently here). And I’d hope that regular readers recognize that we are in on the joke. (Check the end to Bobbie’s post about pranayama and Tim Miller, which happens to have been one of our best-read posts of 2012. And we’ve thought about Ashtanga and irony a bit, too.)

We know coffee isn’t good for us; we know prana is something not truly driven by caffeine. But that doesn’t mean we won’t latch onto a quote from Guruji that supports one of our few vices.

What worries me, just a little, is whether we seem to be adding to this quote as a Guruji “catch phrase.” That’s not our intent, at all, except that we also appreciate that Guruji had a sense of humor and had a very deep and special relationship with his students, the senior ones in particular. We love getting glimpses of that relationship, and we treasure our relationships with our own yoga teachers and friends. And in many ways, this quote symbolizes that for us. (Tim Miller’s story about being offered coffee by Guruji’s wife, Amma, is another of our favorites for what it represents.)

As for dealing with our “coffee problem,” I think that’s a karma we will be working out in a future life.

Do check our Donahaye’s post, though. It also includes a very humanizing look at Guruji that is very much worth reading.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

4 thoughts on “Not ‘No coffee, no prana’? What will we do?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this very humanistic view or coffee indulgence. I sometimes wonder about my morning brew & it’s effects on my yogic development. I am mindful to complete my morning sadhana practice & meditation, before enjoying the flavor & warmth of coffee. Namaste’

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