show up and shut up

The yoga/Hindu wars started in the articles by Deepak Chopra and Aseem Shuklah that YogaDork posted here and here. I think the comments are longer than the articles themselves.

Now the fracas has spilled over to here and here over at elephantjournal even getting into the Aryan Invasion of India theory which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Yawn.

I’m here to bring it back.

I’m here to keep it real.

Like Brenda told me on my birthday, “keep kickin’ it and staying real…” So this one’s for you, Brenda.

This is the only yoga I care about: paz yoga. And I’ve been keeping it real for these women for a long time.

I can assure you that these women don’t care about the Gita, the Vedas, the Upanishads, whether a yogi is a Hindu or vice versa.

They could not care less about how Lululemon pants help your camel toe (some show up to my class wearing jeans) and they’ve never heard of any of your favorite show biz yoga rock stars. Ana who? John who? Shiva who?

And they certainly don’t care about any celeb-yogis. But they love it when I tell them to move their hips like Shakira.

Show up on your mat, shut up, and do your practice.

You do your yoga and I’ll do mine.

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20 thoughts on “show up and shut up

  1. Yes. Real People Yoga is by far my most favorite. And, as far as keeping it real goes, it doesn't get much realer than that. Jeans and Shakira–right on!

  2. I was just thinking about this last night. How, in the end, you can read all the books you want but you'll never learn how to meditate via reading. Only doing. And when you're having the experience of yoga or meditation, there's no label for that experience. It doesn't matter which tradition it supposedly comes from.
    You also can't learn from books what it feels like to have your heart chakra fully open either. You have to do the practice and keep doing the practice. Eventually, all the things you read about, you can experience. But not without (as you said) getting on the mat, shutting up and doing your practice…

  3. EXACTLY, svasti!

    I have enough books on yoga and Buddhism — even just got a new book on the Sutras, like I need another one! — to last me several lifetimes. but as you say, you can read all you want to, but it doesn't start until you get on the mat.

    I had dinner with a guy in India (an Indian) who loves reading all the ancient texts. I told him that he knew more about the texts and yoga history than most teachers I know, told him how impressed I was with his knowledge. He shook his head and said, no, I know nothing. he said “you have to DO YOGA TO GET YOGA.” the funny thing was is that I asked him, so why don't you do yoga? No time, he said!

    and as I tell my students, OK, now you're on the mat, now what? what's the practice doing for you? what difference does it make how much asana you do if you're still acting like a jerk? how are you living your life?

    my yoga practice now is more meditation…because I am in my 3rd stage of life….http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Three-Stages-Life-Developing/dp/0892818204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273794710&sr=1-1

  4. Hi, Linda.

    I agree completely that Yoga is ultimately more about how you act than what you read. But doing something on mat, as you well know, is only one of many legitimate Yoga things one can do.

    Why all the extreme judgment against the time honored tradition of Jnana Yoga–the Yoga of Understanding. Surely the study of ancient texts is as legitimate a Yoga activity as asana and meditation, right? (Most of us who like to read a lot also practice a lot, but not necessarily on a mat. I personally like to practice Yoga routinely in the way I live my life.)

    I agree if one is just reading and never practices the philosophy in one's life, then that's not good Yoga. But that's no different that someone who spends a lot of time on mat and is still a jerk.

    Why not embrace the diversity of Yoga practice instead of glorifying only one aspect–whatever goes on “on the mat”?

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  5. “Surely the study of ancient texts is as legitimate a Yoga activity as asana and meditation, right?”

    Bob, it has become exceedingly obvious to me that you have not been a regular reader of this blog when you make comments like that. I think you forget where and with whom I study. On my last trip to India I had one private class solely on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, not to mention my three previous trips to study with Desikachar and his senior teachers at KYM.

    In fact, if you truly knew me — which you can not and never will because you do not come to my classes — you would know that I incorporate not just asana in my classes, but also jnana and bhakti and the yoga of sound in my classes.

    “Why not embrace the diversity of Yoga practice instead of glorifying only one aspect” — that comment is not only ridiculous, it insults me. Again, it shows your avidya, and as someone who spends so much time reading the ancient texts, I am sure I won't have to explain to you what that means.

  6. Linda. I'm fully aware of your impressive background and knowledge. I can a assure that nothing I wrote above was meant as a personal attack on you. I admire you tremendously. I've said so over an over again in comments to your writing and on other blog sites. I've promoted your blogs and trips whenever I could. I donated money for your trip to Africa.

    I was simply reacting to what you wrote in this particular blog:

    “Show up on you mat, shut up, and do your practice.”

    and your first long comment:

    “I have enough books on yoga and Buddhism — even just got a new book on the Sutras, like I need another one! — to last me several lifetimes. but as you say, you can read all you want to, but it doesn't start until you get on the mat.”

    If you were using “the mat” as a metaphor for living Yoga as opposed to just reading about it, then we are in total agreement, nothing to argue about. But that wasn't obvious to me from what you wrote.

    But even if we were to disagree, don't you think I should be able to write a comment disagreeing, even strongly, with something you've written without getting a personal attack in response? I would have to stop writing in the blogosphere altogether if that were the case, because I'm just not interested in writing “Yeah that's so wonderful” all the time.

    I hope we can kiss and make up. I really didn't mean to offend you, only disagree with the whole “mat” thing.

    Thanks,

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  7. “in the end, you can read all the books you want but you'll never learn how to meditate via reading. Only doing. And when you're having the experience of yoga or meditation, there's no label for that experience. It doesn't matter which tradition it supposedly comes from.”

    what svasti said. and my “long comment” that you reference was in response to what she said.

    “If you were using “the mat” as a metaphor for living Yoga as opposed to just reading about it, then we are in total agreement, nothing to argue about. But that wasn't obvious to me from what you wrote.”

    bingo.

  8. Sorry I misunderstood. As a metaphor it makes perfect sense. One might as well be reading about tiddlywinks if it doesn't affect our lives and how we treat other people.

    Bob

  9. “I donated money for your trip to Africa.”

    I really have to correct you on that one, Bob.

    You did NOT donate money for my trip to Africa. You make it sound as if you helped pay for my trip in some way. You did not.

    You donated money to the Seva Foundation, not to me personally, for their eye clinic in Moshi, Tanzania.

    I thanked you and svasti for your donations in this post:

    http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/2009/12/donation-update-and-until-we-meet-again.html

    An acknowledgement from Seva for the $200 check was waiting for me when I returned from Africa.

  10. I knew that, Linda. No intent to mislead here. I didn't make a distinction between your trip and the causes you were supporting. I assumed they went hand-in-hand. But thanks for clarifying.

  11. My Guru has studied with many spiritual teachers from all over the world. One of those was an American Indian lady he called Grandma Kittyhawk. And he told us the story of how various “psuedo” spiritual types would come to see her and claim things like: “Grandma Kittyhawk, I have eagle medicine”.
    To which she would say: “Okay, show me your medicine. Call your eagle and bring him here now!”.
    The upshot was – no eagle. Then, she'd look into the sky and call her hawk which of course, turned up.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a yoga scholar. But there is a difference between talking about yoga and understanding the philosophy from an intellectual point of view and experiencing all of those ideas that were written about firsthand – and it's important to realise those Sutras weren't written BEFORE those rishis attained enlightenment (via their practice), but after.

    Personally, I do believe that to really get yoga, you have to start on the mat. You practice the asana and work to free your body and breath from physical limitations. This is a practice you need to keep up in order to maintain a flexible body, which leads to a flexible and open mind. Then you can find a way to meditate that is not a struggle. And ultimately, meditation is the path that leads to liberation.

    You can be a good person with a good heart, and donate to charity (and it's better if you do your donating without feeling the need to tell others about it because then you're just stroking your own ego) and be nice and caring towards others. This could be considered the very beginning basics of yoga, and there's nothing wrong with that. If that's all a person wants, then so be it. And if a person wants to add reading about yoga in books into the mix, then so be it. But this is really not practicing yoga as it was intended by the ancient rishis – afterall, it's a practice that is meant to help you strip away layers of delusion to see reality as it really is. It's not an easy task and it requires lots of hard work!

    The saying “taking your yoga off the mat” refers to insights gained through asana and meditation which have had a permanent effect on who you are, and how you conduct yourself in the world. This happens for every single person on the path, at their own rate, of course. It means that egotistic stories are slowly shredded, one by one. That we learn to see the folly in our own agendas and the bullshit we tell ourselves. We see how fake our actions are, even when we think we're being sincere. We learn through seeing and doing, who we really are (no one) and our true relationship to the universe (we are the universe).

    And we learn this through doing, not reading. The same way you learn to ride a horse – through getting on the horse and falling off a few times until we can stay upright. Then we learn to trot, then canter and gallop. Maybe eventually we learn horse jumping if that's our desire. There's no harm in understanding the basics of horseriding only, but for a beginner rider to read about horse jumping and lecture someone who actually jumps horses professionally… well that's just a little foolish, don't you think?

    It's all well and good to say your yoga practice is in the way you live your life, but you need to have actually done some of the work before you can claim that in any genuine sense.

    Hari Om!

  12. practice itself is the vehicle of enlightenment. there are those rare among us who instantly become self-realized, but for the rest, it takes work.

    I've heard the Dalai Lama say that westerners think too much, we are always lost in thought. a daily diet of words stirs up the mind, which in and of itself is not necessarily bad. but there is the risk that students will practice with their brains instead of their guts and thereby become enmeshed in the dharma instead of liberated by it.

  13. Bob, to be honest I prefer to write about yoga when and where I feel like doing so… no offense, I'm not so much into the whole feeling corralled into some kind of marketing effort.

  14. “they've never heard of any of your favorite show biz yoga rock stars. Ana who? John who? Shiva who?”

    Did they hear of YogaDawg…:)

    Sorry, I'm a little behind on my yoga blog reading.

  15. No problem, Svasti. It was just an invitation.

    Just out of sincere curiosity, who do you feel is being corralled and what do you think we're marketing?

    It's true I can get a little evangelical in spreading the good word about the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. The other day I wrote in a Tweet “OMG, I've become a Gita Thumper–quoting chapter and verse.”

    I love the Yoga Sutra, too. But it gets 95% of the attention even though to me it seems quite incomplete without the other two.

    (I don't know if you've been over to look, but I think the quality of the people and conversations at Gita Talk has been very high, matched only by some of the great conversations we've had on a few blogs like yours and Linda's here and “It's All Yoga, Baby.”)

  16. I'm very excited. Thanks to Svasti's and Linda's gentle persuasion above, my wife Jane and I signed up for Linda's Yin Yoga Workshop in Chicago on June 26th. We're really looking forward to it. I agree, I need more time on the mat!

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