A brilliant article shedding new light on the origins of the multitude of asanas we practice today. Undeniably yoga is an Indian philosophy & science, and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are some proof that there was a lineage of teachers dating back to ancient times. However, I often wondered about the 200 plus poses or asanas in Iyengar's Light on Yoga, many of which were taught to me as a child by European gymnastic teachers. Your research into the background of the Mysore Tradition and Norman Sjoman’s “discoveries” go a long way to explain the modern proliferation of asanas. Krishnamarcharya, Jois and Iyengar contributed enormously to popularising yoga in both West and East. Their legacies manifest in many different teaching styles today. Some claim to be ‘traditionalists’ while others are brushed off as bhoga yogis. It appears, however, that the traditionalists of old were innovators in their time too. To argue about what is authentic and what isn’t, therefore seems misplaced. After all "what makes something yoga is not what is done, but how it is done".
Very good article and I strongly oppose some of the commentaries with their distorted facts and time-frames. This article doesn't take anything away from the yoga tradition, it just helps clarify it and show how its now popular branch of Hatha yoga has evolved.
Finally people are starting to talk about the elephant in the living-room!
Vijay from India
I am amazed at how much information you could 'Manufacture' on the Maharaja of Mysore and Krishnamacharya defaming Yoga and its roots by your short trip to a very few places in India - India is as big as a continent and Yoga is wide spread along its length and breadth - What Krishnamacharya did was to revive the already existing tradition and bringing together of all traditions under one universal band of Yoga. Your article seems to be just the same as the colonizers like British who sent Macauley to India for 2 years to frame the Education system to replace the 10,000+ years of traditional educational system for their own miscehvious deeds - your article seems to be a reminescent of the same colonial masters. A good try at deviating India's history - but truth remains unperturbed - Yoga is a living religion 10,000+ years in India - Surya Namaskara is done as an integral part of Indian worship everyday 3 times at the morning, afternoon and evening at the 3 positions of Sun. Any better try please - these are old world tricks.
Vijay from India
I did not even read a few lines, when I realized your intention - you have just gone through some internet sources and misguided by some Indian illiterates. Krishnamacharya was of 18th century, but he mentions himself that he learned Yoga from his guru, Sri Raam Mohan Bramhachari, whom he claims was 200 years old when he met him and was still hale and healthy thanks to Yoga - the Hata Yoga Pradeepika which is 1400 years old, holds the original poses mentioned in the long lineage of Yoga - Surya Namaskara, which is a part of Yoga is mentioned both in Mahabharatha which is more than 5000 years old and Ramayana which is more than 10,000 years old. There are evidences of Indus valley civilization coins depicting Yogic poses, these are more than 8000 years old. Your historic reasearch seems pretty much western oriented and not thoroughly done. Yoga, today is being distorted by bogus gurus, who have misinterpreted it to fit it to their western students for the sake of money - to understand the original yoga would mean joining in a continuous lineage of several million years of Yogis.
Chris Na Murti
Of course you don´t like tradition, you want a "TV-shop" version of yoga.By the way: Patthabi Jois had a hard time getting western students, then he saw some British soldiers doing gymnastic drills, Voilŕ, Ashtanga yoga was born.
Yoga was created to keep the mind absolutely pure. Then came the frauds and exploiters "if you do this you will awaken different centers", and the mind being so greedy wanting a better body, better this and that, fell into the trap and yoga was distorted.
Also this article makes it look like Krishnamacharya was the founder of asanas. As a matter of fact he was the one yogi who came in touch with the british showcasing his postures while there were thousands of other yogis who existed before and during his time who were equally good or better than him. This article is too narrowly focussed !
Seems like a lot of research went into this. But I disagree although I do not have proof to support my claim, my ancestors have been practicing yoga for years even during the time of krishnamacharya and we did not have hear about him. We were told they were practiced by brahmins and warriors for thousands of years.
I had taken an Ashtanga class several years ago... and been primarily an armchair yogi ever since - two children, a wife with epilepsy, a masters degree underway, and life in general have kept me busy, and I have just not made the time... I digress...
My spritual path seems now, having read this article, even more aligned with yogic "tradition" - raised christian, I read extensively in my undergrad years. I studied Tibetan, Mahayana, and Zen Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Norse, Greek, and Roman mythologies, Native American Spiritual and Shamanistic traditions, Wicca, Witta, and Druidism, and a bit of Hinduism and Yogic mythologies more recently. I call my path "a path without a name" because I still honor the aspects of each of these traditions that speak to me.
Namaste, and thank you for the article.
This is a wonderful article. I have been researching traditional yoga vs. modern yoga for awhile now and I absolutely loved this piece.
Well written. You know your stuff. :)