The NY Times finally gets to the Smithsonian yoga art exhibit

And I’d say the writer liked it:

The fact is, yoga was always rational, and more so in its old, extremist forms than in its present domesticated version. How else would you characterize a spiritual discipline that directly and boldly addressed life’s most intractable problem, the persistence of suffering, and took practical, but radical steps to do something about it? To alter the rules of the existential game, it redefined the possible. What’s great about the Sackler show, apart from the pleasures of its images, is that it not only lets us see the history of that practice in action, but understand how radical it was — and is — and take that seriously.

That’s the final paragraph. The full story is at this link.

Via the NY Times

We’ve covered the exhibit quite a few times. This piece by the Times is, I think by a pretty wide margin, the best, although it doesn’t exactly review the exhibit in terms of whether you should go see it. Instead, it traces yoga’s history pretty succinctly:

The origins of the ideas and actions we call yoga are obscure, and the visual history all but unstudied. The Sackler show is the first major art survey in the United States to tackle the subject. There is evidence that religious ascetics were wandering North India as early as the fifth century B.C., practicing meditation and breath control in pursuit of mind-over-matter transcendence. By the second century A.D. their methods had long since been absorbed into Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, and were codified in the Yoga Sutras, a philosophical treatise that doubled as a user’s manual and is attributed to a sage named Patanjali.

Patanjali was a pragmatist, not a mystic. He gives step-by-step instructions — sit still, keep clean, stay celibate, study scripture — on how to free the soul from the aching and twitchy body. He also implied that yoga could have other attractive benefits. If you got good at it, you might be able to read people’s minds, revisit the past, learn how to fly.

I like the description of Patanjali as a pragmatist. In a lot of ways, that sums up Ashtanga as Guruji presents it — and as “Patanjali yoga.” To the point yoga.

Perhaps my favorite snippet is this: “packs of dangerous goddesses called yoginis.” (Any modern-day yoginis care to comment? Or, perhaps more bravely, any yogis want to comment?)

For me, though, the biggest news is this (and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before): According to the Times, it will be at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco from Feb. 21 to May 25. I guess there’s an SF trip to follow our New York one.

UPDATE, Jan. 5: CBS News got to the exhibit, too.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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