Friday, February 12, 2010

Yoga Demystified...(Beyond Buns and Bhakti)


...one thing we’ve always tried to be clear about here at Yoga for Cynics is that this isn’t one of those elitist blogs...aimed at “highbrow” “educated” types who, y’know, “read” “books”...and, certainly, we wouldn’t think about posting anything as snooty as a “book review”...at least, not for any book longer than 87 pages...including pictures...with some pages that don’t have a whole lotta words on them...and which can be downloaded for free...like our friend* Bob Weisenberg’s Yoga Demystified...(which also has a sub-title, but, since Bob ignored our brilliant suggestion, From Hot Buns to Bhakti, it won’t be mentioned here)...

...Bob’s goal in this book is to demystify yoga........okay, that was lame...on the level of Britney Spears describing I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman as about not being a girl but not being a woman, either.....I’ll start again...

...Bob’s book unpacks yoga philosophy in a non-dogmatic way...pointing out that what really counts is not esoteric language, mythical symbology, religious trappings, one armed handstands, perfect abs, those really expensive Lululemon pants your friends all wear to the Saturday morning vinyasa class, or going to India and getting all ecstatic when some old dude in a sheet steps on your head....(so...maybe Beyond Hot Buns and Bhakti would be better...)...

... basically, Bob wants to get past the confounding and complicated details to the heart of things...which I couldn’t agree with more....but what's with the commas outside quotation marks?...or periods inside parentheses?!....where was I?....oh yeah, it’s all about the deeper essence....but fantastical?...what, exactly, does the al suffix add that we don’t already get from the word fantastic?!....ahem...like I said, essence...

...which is to be found as much in a paper clip as any sacred text...as much in sitting at your computer cringing at some blogger’s cheap attempts at humor as levitating in a cave in India five thousand years ago...though, at the same time, without romanticizing distant theres and thens, Yoga Demystified does a nice job of pointing out the value of those sacred texts from ancient India in getting at the value of yoga in the here and now...

...ultimately, Bob’s saying, with verve and humor, that what he's found in the yoga tradition has far more to do with opening to the wonder in everything than cramming one’s self and universe into some exotic set of definitions or beliefs...giving, along with its brevity and easy-going style, the crustiest of yoga cynics very little to get indignant about...(though, of course, any crusty yoga cynic worthy of the title can always find something to get indignant about)....as well as providing a lot to tickle the chakras of the more seasoned yogi, regardless of ability to read Sanskrit or perform hanumanasana****...

...what I particularly like about Yoga Demystified, though, is its openness and generosity of spirit...freely and refreshingly acknowledging that what’s provided isn’t the last word or one true version but the branches of yoga that appeal to me*****...while playfully interweaving texts, techniques, jokes, science, music, poems, tennis, and hot dog vendors...emphasizing connections in a way that makes me think about just how much I could’ve used such a concise, good-humored introduction when first getting into the yoga thing.....thus, making it perfect for that friend or family member you think could benefit from yoga but who’s currently getting way too much enjoyment out of making fun of it...as if the two were mutually exclusive...




* Bob being our friend does not, of course, in any way shape or form, bias this review...nor has any money changed hands between him and the management, writing staff, or corporate partners of this blog**

** which is not to say we’d turn down a tax-deductible*** contribution to Dr. Jay's Totally Legit Non-profit Foundation for Enlightened Yoga Cynicism...just write out the check to Dr. Jay...he’ll make sure it gets to the right place...

*** okay, maybe not “tax deductible” in the “technical” sense of “the IRS considers it tax deductible”....at this blog, we’re poets...mystics...rebels...mavericks...and not about to let some materialistic government agency define our terms for us...

**** full disclosure: we at this blog couldn’t order lunch in Sanskrit, but we're doing our best to keep positive about managing something vaguely resembling hanumanasana at some point in the next decade or two...

***** unlike this blog post which, as it turns out, actually
is the final and absolute word on its subject...we'd chisel it into a stone if they weren't all covered in snow just now...

12 comments:

berenice said...

oh Dr. Jay, what a brilliant post! you make sound Yoga Demystified a delight, and yet with your post seems to be more than enough on the subject.

words fail me 'cause it's late... but i am still laughing at the asterisk disclaimers... a pleasure to read you

and yes, yoga is everywhere, or it should, in the 'union' sense of it

like tonight, a The Smiths song sentence sounded pretty embraceable to me, in that tradition you say of opening and acceptance...

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind

ah, who knew? Morrissey's a yogi too!

Eco Yogini said...

Fantastical!!!

I also really liked Bob's book, I felt that it was so joyful and like you said, accessible.

same feelings, wish I had read this a while ago :)

also- i loved that he made it available for FREE and pdf form (very green!). :)

WR said...

Okay, I'm sitting in the almost dark of an early Northwest morning and "LOL" while reading Yoga Cynic.

I'm saying 'UNCLE' ~ I'll read the book already!

As for tax deductible gifts...nice try! :)

Sorry about the snow but another week of time, as we reckon it, has slipped away and you are that much closer to an island escape.

Lana Gramlich said...

Finding such a treasure is always a good thing...better late than never!

earthtoholly said...

Sounds good, drjay, whether or not I do get off my duff and partake. It was the "free," "jokes" and "hot dog vendors" that really grabbed my attention!

Misplaced punctuation and "...old dude in a sheet..."...haaa!

I will need to take a look now...it really does sound interesting.

Brooks Hall said...

I appreciate Bob's enthusiasm, and enjoy his presence. Thanks to Bob!

What is a bit off for me is that the title claims to "demystify" yoga. Does it serve yoga to attempt to take away the mystery? (...for a Yoga Cynic, generally speaking, the answer might be yes. Hmmm...) I know that the e-book goes on to talk about awe, wonder and so on. Can we have wonder and awe without mystery? It confuses me.

What I like about yoga is that the pursuit of it seems endless (always more to discover), and there are countless revelations along the way. This is my experience so far, and also my belief. There is no end to the mystery and wonder in the yogic process.

The book is a joyful look into one man's yoga journey, and a good peek into how he views himself in his relationship with his yoga. It is worthwhile as a blog-style offering; I just get hung up on what the title apparently claims.

YogaforCynics said...

Thanks everybody for stopping by and commenting (and even stopping by and not commenting).

Brooks: I read the word "mystify" a bit differently than you do. You're reading it, I think, in the sense of "mystery" in the macrocosmic or spiritual sense, or "mystical," (and, etymologically, that's probably correct) (sorry, it's the English professor in me). By that definition, "demystify" would mean to de-mysticize or kill the mystery, which might involve laying down some rigid fundamentalist dogma, or, at the opposite extreme, the hardcore cynic's response of saying it's all crap. I don't think that's how Bob's using it, though (or, at least, it's not how I'm reading it).

I take "mystify" more in the pedestrian sense of "confuse," which might seem like kind of a vague distinction. But, the way I see it, in this case, "demystifying" is almost the opposite of "de-mysticizing." For example, when I was first getting seriously into the yoga thing, I was badly confused about a number of things--not a good, mystical kind of confusion, but more a "I don't know if this is cool or not" kind. Probably my biggest issue was wondering I'd have to buy into a whole lot of religious dogma to be a "real yogi" (and if these nice yoga people were gonna suddenly get a lot less friendly when they found out I wasn't into bowing down to Hindu gods or whatever). As such, if I could've read your comment here, describing yoga as an endless pursuit full of mystery and revalations all along the way, then, I would have found it (along with all the good stuff you write in your blog) "demystifying" in the best sense, as you would've helped clear up my confusion, letting me know that yoga was, for some yogis, at least, about opening to endless discovery rather than being closed in by temple walls (and, thus, by my sense of the word "cool"). So, basically, for me, at least, "demystifying yoga" means opening it up to mystery rather than killing mystery. And that's how I took Bob's use of it, though of course I can't speak for him.

Anyway, thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

Brooks Hall said...

Thank you, Jay! It’s always great to be “heard” by you. I see what you’re saying about the word “demystified”. You’re demystifying “demystified”.

This is where the trouble is: I don’t want someone to tell me what yoga is. I want the freedom to discover it myself, and I think that’s the only way to do it, every day again and again, always new, always changing. The words confuse the issue when it comes to yoga. And that’s gotta be strange coming from a yoga talker like myself, but I think that the best teaching offers thoughts without claiming to have “it”. You can’t make yoga easy, but you might be able to make it seem more approachable, and if Bob’s e-book does that for some people then it’s a blessing.

Rhiannon said...

Well, I don't know now...what you wrote in this post sounds pretty intellectual, knowledgeable..and even mystical (oh I like mystical stuff) to me..which is also okay by me. Have you ever tried Tai Chi? Just kidding...

Dropping by to wish you Happy Valentines Day, Happy Tiger Chinese Year Day, and also Happy New Moon Day..all on the same day today. Seems pretty interesting to me...anything could happen!

Rhiannon

Shane at Environmental Health-Wellness-Beauty,LLC said...

Very funny today. Hope all is well with you. Happy Valentine's Day.

Amanda said...

I was going to make some witty, smart-arse comment about one-armed handstands, Lululemon clothes, and skinny, breathy-voices vegan biodynamic chickybabes...

... and then I glanced down at the bottom of your blog and shock horror!! saw an ad for the yoga school where I was turned off yoga for months and mentally damaged...

...and decided to shut up!

Bob Weisenberg said...

Thanks for this warm sensitive and very funny review. At your suggestion I'll reconsider the subtitle "From Hot Buns to Bhakti."

I really enjoyed reading all the comments as well. Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.

Bob Weisenberg
http://YogaDemystified.com