As much as I personally have avoided learning all things history throughout my life, Yoga history as been my one shining gem of curiosity.
As part of my 500 hour YTT, I was given the option of several books to complete the required readings. I chose “Yoga: The Technology of Ecstacy” by Georg Feurtenstein and was horrified to discover it was mostly a history book. Woomp woomp...AND when I found myself knocking out the chapters with ease, I was equally horrified at myself...how did I become to fascinated by history?!
And while there’s no simple answer to this complete 180 of opinions, I am aware of the necessity of learning history...in order not to repeat past mistakes, to understand where we’ve been, and to learn to appreciate, not appropriate cultures.
I used to teach Tantra Masterclasses, quite often, and the more I’ve learned about this topic (particularly in the last 2 years), the more I’ve realized that my previous understanding of this broad umbrella was grossly inaccurate. And no, this isn’t the blog about Tantra, I PROMISE it truly is coming soon, not at ALL like the promise I made this time last year, and probably the year before that too. :)
Backing up, and beginning with a question for my Yoga teacher (and students) who are reading:
Do you know your Yoga lineage? Or rather, your own personal history of styles passed down?
Sure, Yoga has a 5000+ years of history, but do you know your direct pathway, backwards?
If unsure, it’s research time! Look up your favorite teachers, or those you’ve trained with, and see what their website says, or you can always ask them directly.
My YTT website lists Tantra, Ayurveda, and Yoga as the 3 main influences, but tbh I don’t say much more. While having this discussion in weekend 1 of YTT, I thought it was time to write this down, and start the conversation.
Here’s the graphic I share with my students:
As complicated as the above chart looks, it’s still only a snippet of a much larger Yoga tree.
The style of Yoga I study comes from both the Himalayan and Sri Vidya traditions. The Himalayan tradition is an unbroken chain that extends for thousands of years, a living tradition that still exists today, undisturbed by the passage of time. The Sri Vidya is a practice of Tantra that provides the framework for experiencing worldly pleasures and spiritual freedom.
While Tantra has an even more convoluted story than Yoga (seriously, I WILL work on writing this down), it’s been eloquently explained to me as a system of technologies that through practice will enable us to evolve (spoiler: not really about sex-stuff).
Vidya = knowledge/learning
Shri (sri) = resplendence, prosperity, auspiciousness
Within the teachings of Sri Vidya, there is an underlying acceptance that the world is inherently beautiful.
The world is beautiful, because it is a manifestation of the most beautiful one.
Life is a gift from the divine.
I am a part of the divine.
The world is an endless ocean of ambrosia (nectar of the divine), my body is but an island.
All that happens is waves rising and falling, these waves are simply that...nothing inauspicious or meaningful.
While this doesn’t always mean that life is perfect, in fact there are many atrocities happening currently that certainly don’t appear to be beautiful, or in harmony with a bigger purpose. The jump to acceptance happens through practice(s).
Respect the world as beautiful and love it. Seeing the world as an interconnected web.
Love yourself, no matter what.
Respect yourself, no mater what.
Love your physical self, focus on what you LOVE not what you hate.
Cultivate and have trust in yourself, your will and your determination.
Learn to be a living example to yourself.
Woven through these practice is a strong sense of compassion for oneself, as these simple sentences are far from easy to apply, and even more challenging to stick to when life gets weird.
Similar to the Yamas & Niyamas, each one is a complete practice and introspection within itself. One could spend a lifetime with any of these lessons as a guiding light, or sticky note of the bathroom mirror, as the case may be.
From Sri Rama Mohana Brahmacharya, to Swami Rama, to Pandit Rajmani Tiganait to ME (and also through the lens of many more of my teachers who spent time at the Himalayean Institute in PA - see the flow chart).
Sitting with this knowing...I have so much more to learn, and even more to (un)learn. And I’m so grateful for this school called LIFE...it truly is beautiful to fall apart so often to only come back together.