Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Anusara Yoga- an introduction of sorts

I play the bass in a rock and roll band, and have for years.

This may seem an odd introduction, as we are talking about Yoga after all, but bear with me for a moment.

I also write music reviews for a webzine. I always feel it necessary, having an elevated level of music snobbery, to air my prejudices early, and so why not here? I have perused the website of the studio I intend to start with, chosen only for its proximity to my abode. It is Yoga of the Anusara tradition, if you can call something developed in 1997 a tradition. I have concerns about this. In fact, I have concerns about the whole endeavor, and so will rant for a moment. If you are an all-positivity-all-the-time sort of person, you may do well to skip this post. If you’ve ever been a little wierded-out singing Sanskrit hymns in a language you don’t understand in a class led by Mahatajaranarayanan- né Clarance Bean from Omaha, Nebraska- then join me as I express some concerns.

CONCERN #1: Anusara and John Friend

Anusara doesn't seem a real word, insomuch as a google search only turns up hits relating to the school of Yoga. I'm assured by the website that it is a bonafide Sanskrit word meaning "following your heart" or something, but I'm also assured that Yoga Kula has "..teachers who are steeped in the spiritual traditions of ancient India", a little like teabags, I suppose. Still, it seems a little empty and contrived, a word chosen to sound Indian, solely for the purpose of making this new American school of Yoga legitimate. It was conceived by a man named John Friend, a moniker which seems similarly contrived, a bit too welcoming and New-Agey to be real.

CONCERN #2: Organic Energy.

I’m promised, via the website, the fundamentals of Opening to Grace, both Inner and Outer Spirals, and Organic Energy.

Organic Energy. This is a cop-out, description-wise.

First of all, I have been so conditioned that I feel the phrase might only be appropriate on the label of a Bark’n’Berries rectangular energy biscuit, compressed by force into an easily packagable foil wrapped-nugget, the Scooby Snack for New Age Hippies. It’s terrible, I know, this prejudice of mine, but come on now- how more generic can you be than ‘Organic Energy’?

Secondly, taken in a purely scientific perspective, how is anything that goes on in your body not organic? We don’t use any other sort of energy, and as a culture we have a much more succinct term for it that has served well enough for centuries. It’s called 'food'.
Yes, an argument could be made against spaghettio’s and that fake orange cheese sauce,as well as various metal skull plates and synthetic drugs, but still, I hardly expect Yoga to be run on batteries and gasoline. This is just advertising, not a pillar of yogic tradition since 1997.

CONCERN #3: I don’t want to chant.

I just don’t. The website sports both Indian and English ‘lyrics’, so to speak, and I’m assured we will have to sings the praises and give a little Om before we start class, in order to align our meta-physical floating alpha-chakras or some such notion. This is integral to Anusara Yoga, or so I’m told. I hate doing this. I speak, on average, 37 less Sanskrit words than your typical Yoga practitioner, but mine are more useful. If some asshole cuts you off in traffic in Calcutta, are you going to shout “ Weeping Lotus!” at him? No, you’re not. I know how to shriek both sisterfucker, and even grandmotherfucker, if I have to.

Still, it makes me feel odd not to know what these people are talking about, like I should for the obvious reason. I’m afraid of the Look, that flicker of uncertainty that crosses the teacher’s face, the one that says

“Umm…..shouldn’t you know this?”

And perhaps I deserve it. Not for being who I am, but perhaps for all my bleating and reverse-condescension. As much as I’d like to question whether the name ‘John Friend’ is real, I know for a fact it is, at least in one sense: My name, a proper Bengali name, means “good friend.” I am the John Friend of ethnicity, a smiling icon of India whether I like it or not, and Karma is biting me in the ass for being so snarky about it.

So let me say that there it is- simply concerns laid out on the table. I’ve aired them, they are out, you know where I am coming from. Time to do some yoga.

No comments: