Double my blogging pleasure with non-practicing days, which gives me a chance to focus (or at least write about) some of the reading we’ve been assigned to read as part of the good200 syllabus. To date, we’ve read texts by Pattabhi Jois (Yoga Mala) & A.G. Mohan (Krishnamacharya: His Life & Teachings) & have now been assigned Iyengar’s Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika. Three renowned teachers, all students of Krishnamacharya, & yet such different content in each book! For me, the only similarities are the asanas themselves & more technical aspects of pranayama. I wonder to what extent each authors’ distinct individuality colors perceived differences of * personality.
* Note that by personality, I mean the persona that’s presented in these texts. Obviously I have not met or studied with any of these men so my impressions are limited to what’s directly/textually in front of me.
Additionally, each student studied with Krishnamacharya at different times in both his life & their lives. Pattabhi Jois met him when he was a young boy & was subjected to the rigorous, gymnastic-like ashtanga vinyasa sequence developed by Krishnamacharya with active youth in mind at the Yogashala in Mysore. Iyengar also studied with Krishnamacharya in Mysore & was able to overcome childhood weakness that had been plaguing him. It’s no coincidence then that Yoga Mala & Yoga Dipika share many similarities—particularly the emphasis on bodily discipline (& the mind too. After all, it is Raja Yoga no matter how ya spin it). There was also weird mention of the type of person who should practice yoga. Jois went on about the Bhagavad Gita, proclaiming that only by practice in its previous life will an individual come to practice of Yoga in this life. I’m not really sure what Iyengar’s deal is, as Light on Yoga reads like SparkNotes of Raja Yoga & is too anal-retentive even for me (& I have honest-to-goodness OCD). I’m not exactly sure where that comes from.
A.G. was with Krishnamacharya in his final years though, & I believe that accounts the greatest for some of the more glaring disparities between Mohan & team crazy pants. Yes, I just called two of the Western world’s biggest Gurujis crazy pants, but only based on their writing alone, the tapas is crushing. Who knows what they’re like when teaching in person (jk, Amy knows). Maybe they work out all of their 8 limbs equally. The emphasis on the yamas & niyamas though, particularly Pattabhi Jois’ in-depth guide to practicing brahmacharya as a householder, reminded me exactly of celibacy discussions as a pre-teen in Catechism (check out comparative religious masturbation!)
Mohan was a pleasure to read though. It seems as though Krishnamacharya hugely emphasized that each practitioner is entirely unique. What is appropriate for one body does not apply to everybody. Plus Krishnamacharya was quoted by Mohan as saying his vedic beliefs are not applicable to all students. I agree! I often use Catholic prayers as mantras & I bet Krishnamacharya wouldn’t have any problems. Iyengar certainly doesn’t (“The sacred books of the world are for all to read. They are not meant for the members of one particular faith alone. As bees savour the nectar in various flowers, so the sadhaka absorbs things in other faiths which will enable him to appreciate his own faith better.”) Good thing, as there are some choice Biblical verses lurking underneath the more unpleasant parts (slavery, homophobia, misogyny, etc.).