Will the Real Yoga Please Stand Up?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Lawrie Cate

There is a raging yoga debate happening on LinkedIn’s Yoga Instructors & Practitioners group. Apparently there are some staunch Patanjalistas out there in Yogi Land.

It all got started innocently enough when a new yoga teacher asked for opinions on playing music during class. Among over 250 comments to date, one group member claims that the issue is a moot point. He affirms that if music is being played during class, then what is being taught is not yoga at all. Why? Because Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras make it crystal clear that yoga is about focusing on one thing only, with no distractions, including music. In fact, he is adamant that a class is not yoga if it is not by the book Yoga Sutras.

Music can only be incorporated into Yoga if the music is the focus, but if asana is the focus then music is a distraction. If you think Yoga is something other than this then I am sorry but you are wrong. Anything that is not in the Yoga Sutras is not Yoga. You either use the sutras, or you do not use the sutras and therefore are not practicing or teaching Yoga, as simple as that.

Music a distraction from “real yoga?”  For some of us, real yoga is simply a direct link to inner awareness. In a recent post here at Yoga Modern, DJ Sukha asked readers to consider how music affects their practice. Music, she says, is a powerful force that…

…draws energy and thoughts out of us and others, elevating and exposing emotions to another level of consciousness. It is an all-reaching connection of culture & spirituality through genuine expression and ultimately passion and love.

Tantric Hatha Yoga tradition holds that, “if it works, do it,” with or without texts, music, or whatever your technique may be. I know a yoga teacher who swears off all yoga texts, feeling that all she needs for her practice is within. For those who do find the ancient scriptures (many of which preceded Patanjali) are relevant to our practice, why is it that the Sutras are considered the authority above the rest? Why are the Sutras considered the bible of yoga, more so than other sacred texts?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Crystl

While you write your response, here’s some musical food for thought from Todd Rundgren’s Eastern Intrigue.

“Buy the new Bhagavad Gita, do the pranayama ‘til your spine gets sore.”

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- who has written 41 posts on Yoga Modern.

Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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