A week or so ago, in an email exchange with (name drop) Eddie Stern, I told him that Guy Donahaye’s website is one I check out frequently, except that it had been quiet for quite some time.
The title is pretty simple: “Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga.” Here’s a few bits and pieces to convince you to read it all:
But setting aside the of question of age or origin, we notice that this debate has distracted us from a much more important question:
Is Ashtanga Yoga Hatha Yoga or is Patanjali Yoga something quite different?
Most of our vocabulary about yoga comes from the hatha yoga texts – nadis, chakras, kundalini – these are Hatha Yoga concepts. The hatha yogi is pursuing a tantric, ecstatic experience of his physical and subtle body through various practices including asanas, ultimately desiring to free himself from all attachments and merge with higher consciousness.
While the hatha yogins pursue ecstasy as the medium of their sadhana, the South Indian tradition which flourished with Krishnamacharya, was focused on an internally focused path towards stilling the mind. Asana in this context is viewed as therapy – preparation for sitting and the internal practices.
That is not even, really, the tip of the iceberg of the post. As the above snippets suggest, it makes a clear and strong distinction between Hatha and Ashtanga yogas — it goes into much greater detail, suggesting ways that Pattabhi Jois approached his Western students, among other topics.
Go check it out. It does make me realize I may have gotten on to the wrong path. I need to do some thinking… where’s this “tantric, ecstatic” stuff?
Posted by Steve