Yoga and Ayurveda

YOGA IS NOT A SEX CULT

How Mr. Broad Can Wreck Yoga
By Ann Wagoner

Why is Mr. Broad trying to destroy yoga with yet another “science” article? His latest one, “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here,” (Feb. 28, NYT) claims: “Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the disciple began as a sex cult.” Really? References please? Or is this another promotional piece for his new book?

When Mr. Broad says that “Hatha yoga … began as a branch of Tantra,” he is misleading. The philosophy of yoga, the Yoga Sutras, were first written by Patanjali around 5,000 years ago. Tantra, a later philosophy, emerged around 500 CE. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is from the 15th century CE. The Yoga Sutras predate Tantra as the most influential yoga text. And if sects of Buddhism and Hinduism were influenced by Tantra as well, would that make them sex cults too?

Does the fact that powerful men in the yoga community have had inappropriate sexual relations prove that yoga is a sex cult? By that logic, one could argue that U.S. politics is really a sex cult when we examine the behavior of Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy. And then representing the fundamentalist Christians we have Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts and Billy Graham. What about the behavior of Catholic priests? Businessmen? Hollywood stars?

Is Mr. Broad aware that he is strengthening the views of religious fundamentalists who claim that yoga is a cult and a band of satan-worshipers? I can just hear it now, “The evils of yoga have been reported in the New York Times science section. Yoga is a sex cult that promotes heavy breathing, undress, arousal and increases blood flow to the genitals.” Next thing you know, we yoginis will be flying with Harry Potter on broomsticks. Southern Baptists have banned yoga in churches, the Vatican called yoga a sin, and this “science” article feeds the flame of the crusade against yoga.

Finally, Mr. Broad’s limited experience with yoga reveals itself with the Breath. Mr. Broad says that “sweating and heavy breathing” are a part of yoga since the baby boomers. Not so! Not for yoga therapists, restorative yogis and not for people who don’t injure themselves. One should NOT be holding a yoga pose with fast breathing. Besides trapping the Kundalini energy in the lower regions, it is not how one should be practicing yoga.

Rama Jyoti Vernon, who has been teaching for 45 years in the U.S. and India says, “The essence of all Yoga is to ‘still the waves of the mind.’ If we practice asana rapidly without breath, we create more restlessness, the opposite of Yoga. The breath is the gage as to when it is time to come out of the pose.”

To be fair, there are other Swamis that have been womanizers and wildmen who Mr. Broad has not mentioned in this article. That doesn’t make yoga a sex cult. Rama sums her view: “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

***

Ann has studied yoga extensively with Rama Jyoti Vernon. Rama is the founder of the California Yoga Teachers Association, original publisher of  ‘Yoga Journal”, founder of the B.K.S Iyengar Association of Northern California and founder of Unity in Yoga, a non-profit organization now known as the Yoga Alliance. Rama has trained Yoga teachers in continuing studies for 45 years in the U.S. and India.

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