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Yoga in Practice (Princeton Readings in Religions) Paperback – November 20, 2011
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"For upper level undergraduates, graduate students, and intellectual practitioners desiring to engage the true variety of yoga, this dense and disparate collection is indispensable."---Lloyd W. Pflueger, Religious Studies Review
"Yoga in Practice deals with a topic of great academic significance and broad popular appeal, and the contributors are solid scholars who know their material inside out. Yoga is a global phenomenon, and this collection provides clarification of key points and careful contextualization of the history of ideas that has produced yoga. There are really no other books comparable in range, presentation, or quality."―Joseph S. Alter, University of Pittsburgh
"This anthology makes available a wide variety of translations of primary sources on yoga, especially texts focused on practice, and places each in the broader context of the Indian traditions of yoga. The volume breaks new ground by including little-known texts and offering new perspectives on more familiar ones. Many of these texts are unavailable in translation elsewhere."―David Carpenter, Saint Joseph's University
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It appears to have it all. The practice and evolution of yoga has an ancient yet complicated history. It can apparently be traced to the Vedas and can be found in every major Vedic scripture and also appears in portions of every major religious belief system. Putting this system into a consistent, unified belief system is challenging, because as explained in the outstanding introduction from David Gordon White, the editor for this book, yoga means different things to different people and beliefs. White so brilliantly summarizes the beliefs and purposes of yoga, that the price of the book is worth having it available.
Each chapter is preceded by an introductioon from the translator, and each introduction contains a short bibliography for further reading and study. This is an invaluable resource book. It contains translations of landmark yogic texts, and other lesser known texts, many times translated for the first time in English. Some pieces are relatively rare and have been infrequently translated. This anthology of this kind is the ideal manner to present these texts, as most are less than fifteen pages and would not ordinarily be available in a separate book. The texts translated contain many insights not easily found in other anthologies. One such gem is a Fourteenth Century account from Persia concerning pranayama, Amritakunda, or the Pool of Nectar, discussing breath control and meditation. Most selections have been translated earlier into English. The book contains representative passages from the Yoga Upanishads, a collection of Upanishads which are not easily found, but provide the philosophical foundation for what is known as Yoga.
After reading this book you will find how yogic practices have varied but maintained a core set of beliefs and practices. There are yoga tradition, of course for the Vedic traditions, but also for Jain, Buddhist, Zen, Sufi, Tibetan and trantric -- Vedic and Buddhist -- traditions. There are yogic traditions in Nepal, Bengal and Tibet. There are subgroups within these traditions. For example, yogic traditions exist which venerate Krishna and Radha, and there is more than one tradition within Jainism. Esoteric cults of Tantric yogis and siddhis are also explained and their representative works translated.
The book contains three entire chapters exclusively on the Nath Yogis. The Nath Yogi cult can be considered the turning point to modern Hatha Yoga and represent the heart and soul of what most consider to be a yogi or what constitutes Yoga. The opening chapter contains a translation of the Goraksasataka, a seminal yogic text. The translator, James Mallinson, incorrectly states that this is the first time this text has been translated into English. The last and only time this text was translated was in 1938, in a book about the Natha Yogis entitled Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis, by George Weston Briggs. But that translation is stilted and inaccurate. Mallinson's translation is fresh, clear and engaging.
It is clear that this is not just a history of yoga. Historical elements exist, certainly. But for every variation in the schools of Yoga, the introductory essay fully explains and summarizes the intricacies and nuances of that school, distinguishes the tenants from other schools, and harmonizes those tenants with other schools of yoga.
The concluding chapters of the book offer important information into the introduction of yoga to the modern 20th Century world. There have been other recent books that have documented the evolution to modern yoga. This book touches on schools of yoga and proponents of the practice not dealt with in these other books.
The translations of the texts and explanatory materials provide many valuable insights that even seasoned practitioner of yoga will appreciate and incorporate into his or her individual practice. It is highly recommended.
1. Chariots were hitched up in war time only and therefore yoga is associated with war than peace and the claim that dying in a war being ‘celestial yoga’.
2. His questioning whether the Indus valley seals with yogic postures had anything to do with yoga while the later iconography (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain) show a visible continuity of the tradition that one sees until the present time.
3. His statement that yogis in the eighteenth century were criminal frauds and Indian society was saved from these criminals by the British.
4. Referring to Swami Vivekananda as a “shrewd cultural broker”. He is a revered person among the contemporary Indian discourse. .
5. Claim that Krishnamacharya’s asana postures as having been copied from “British military calisthenics”.
I am sorry to see Dr. Don Lopez saw it fit to choose a person with such negative attitude to be the editor of the book.
My other regret that has nothing to do with the editors and publishers is that twenty-four out of the twenty-six contributors are outsiders to Indian tradition. I honestly believe that the outsiders cannot see the soul of the tradition though they can write great treatises on the visible aspects of the Hindu-Buddhist-Jain tradition.
This book brings considerable light to the multifaceted world of yoga practices and lays bare the myth of one yoga. The various writings reveal both the discontinuities and cross-fertilizations across the long span of yoga's historical evolution while suggesting that amidst such "work of disorientation" we can also discover certain continuities, even as they appear in richly diverse ways.
This book also helps us to better appreciate that the yogas we experience today are expressions of so many yoga innovators, just as today are participating in the ongoing evolution of yoga as we show up on our mat, share an insight, or teach a class.
Here White has brought together deeply insightful writings on the foundational texts and practices of yoga, the influence of different of India's major religions in shaping yoga's ongoing development, the emergence of physical forms of yoga that shape Hatha yoga today as well as more modern innovations.
This book is highly recommended for al serious students of yoga and for any teacher who wants to offer his or her students a more informed reply to basic questions such as, what is yoga and where did it come from?