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The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace 2nd Edition
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Author: N. E. Sjoman
The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace has just come out in its second edition with some minor corrections and a new preface. It is an extraordinary book in the breadth of research that informs it. The book presents strikingly original conclusions on a subject where most insights have been doctored to fulfill the faith in its various forms or keep up with the advertising extravaganza.
The book traces not the history but the development of the yoga schools that have flowered with B. K. S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacariar. It goes back further into the history of yoga reclaiming the practise history as the main authority, as opposed to the academic history.
Sjoman examines the academic history from the point of view of the "practise history" which requires re-evaluating and reclaiming it from both Sanskrit commentators and Western academics. His interpretation of the sutra of Patanjali from the perspective of yoga practitioners is especially welcome.
This approach makes more sense than the academic interpretations. The story elaborated here is supplemented by philosophical and textual arguments by Indian scholars and pandits too often neglected in Western scholastics, and by unique insights into those traditions that could only be given by someone immersed in the tradition.
The history of the Mysore Palace School gives us an insight into how the yoga system which is foremost in the whole world today has come into being. The history reveals not just the "material moments" as such, but the ideas that were part of what went into the formation of modern yoga today. The book examines how contemporary yoga practise is shaping yoga, and the vital factors that give it social context.
The core of the book is a translation of a text from the 1800s from the private library of the Mysore palace which is the only textual documentation of an extended asana practise - asanas being the yoga positions that form the core of yoga practise today.
The translation of this text from Sanskrit in Kannada script is supplemented with notes and appendices relating the asanas to earlier references and later practise. This text is helpful in establishing a dynamic tradition of how the groups of asanas came about.
The book is written with a rare scholarly acumen and humor. It is not a "how to" or "save the world" book but a deeper and more sustained insight into the transition of the practises of yoga from a spiritual discipline carried on by ascetics in solitude to a modern world mass marketing phenomenon. The learning and research that has gone into this book is not generally accessible. The insight it provides should be welcome to any serious student of yoga. A complex and learned assessment of the whole yoga tradition, this book will claim its rightful place on the shelves of scholars all over the world as the first actual history of yoga. ======================================
The great value of this book is that it includes an English translation of the Sritattvanidhi text from Mysore palace, with photographs of 121 asanas from the manuscript. It is attributed to Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868 A.D). The Maharaja authored about 60 artistic works, and the Wodeyar royal family has been patrons and participants of arts.
The author has included short sections on the Mysore palace gymnastics and wrestling traditions, with a few black and white illustrations and photographs in Appendices 7 and 8. Appendix 9 is an alphabetical list of the Sanskrit names of asanas from Sritattvanidhi, with their page numbers in this work. Many rare names are there. There is also a lengthy bibliography and an 8-page alphabetical Index of asanas.
The Introduction section candidly speaks of the author's background and philosophy of learning. He has intense training in the Mysore system and deep interest in spiritual disciplines.
Students interested in the asana traditions can greatly improve their understanding from this book.