Saturday, August 7, 2010

What next?

I was going to upload part 2 of my “Those Darn Philosophers” when it struck me that there is unfinished business. Judith Lasater wrote a letter of protest to Yoga Journal. As a prominent person in the field, she knew (or ought to have known) that her gambit would attract a great deal of attention. She didn’t think that the magazine editors would publish her letter. They did. She got a lot of positive feedback online. My question is: What next?

What should Judith do now? Does she have an Arjuna in her? Should she organize a letter-writing campaign? A protest march on the Yoga Journal offices? Or what? I am open to your input. Sure I have my own ideas, but I have the reputation of being something of a rebel and want to hold back for now. When we feel that something is wrong, should we take action? Or should yogis and yoginis be passive spectators? Please voice your opinion!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Those Darn Philosophers! (Part 1)

I was a thoughtful and troubled kid. Weighty thoughts occurred to me before my time, around the age of 13 or 14, before I was emotionally mature enough to deal with them. I was happy to have an uncle who was interested in my speculations. No one else particularly seemed to be. Naturally, I idolized the man.

But then my idol came crashing down, as idols are wont to do. One day, I proudly showed him a short essay I had written that raised all sorts of questions about God. The questions—but not my tentative answers—were bordering on atheism or at least agnosticism. My miniature essay was important to me, because I was having conceptual difficulties with Christianity and was fishing for answers.

When my uncle handed the essay back to me, all he said was: “It is important to believe in God” or words to that effect. I was utterly deflated. I had hoped for an intelligent conversation, but I realized I had touched on a subject that he could regard only through the lens of his personal beliefs. He did not have the ability to stand back and consider, as he had done on many other occasions.

Our relationship was never the same afterward. I learned two important lessons from this experience. First, don’t erect pedestals to anyone or anything. (Of course, in the course of my life I have forgotten this lesson a few times, but my recovery rate has greatly improved.) Second, don’t expect people to always understand you or agree with you. Working through my uncle’s emotional reaction and my own, I felt at the time that I was in the process of becoming a philosopher.

Philosophers are people who have ideas with which rarely anyone else agrees. Or so I figured. What was more important was to philosophize, to reflect on life. I wholeheartedly agreed with Socrates that the uninspected life is not worth living. It took me many years, however, before I understood what that might mean. In any case, in those early days I acquired a healthy respect for philosophers and the business of philosophy. Much later on, once I encountered the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, I learned that my respect entailed an element of idolization, which I had to jettison.

No philosophy—not even Yoga’s various thought constructions—can be final or complete. And that’s a thought construction too! The conceptual realm is makeshift. Either you go mad realizing this, as happened to Nietzsche, or you develop a whopping sense of humor. I thought it better to go for the latter option.

More to come . . .

Georg Feuerstein
(pronounced Geh-org Foyer-stine)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Death and Resurrection of Yoga

Several important events occurred during the last couple of weeks. First, Yoga teacher Judith Lasater, who launched Yoga Journal in 1975, sent a letter to the editor and protested (very politely) the increasing sexualization of the magazine’s content. I’d say It’s just the tip of a very large and insalubrious iceberg of problems.

Then there was also the really extensive and controversial article about Anusara Yoga creator John Friend in New York Times Magazine. John responded to it skillfully and measuredly on his own site (

This relates to Roseanne Harvey, the former editor of the now defunct Ascent magazine, boldly announcing “I think we can declare Yoga officially dead” on her popular blog in October of 2009 (

Wow! Given this public furore, I feel I have to come at least somewhat out of my semiretirement shell (since 2004) and participate. Who knows, the Western Yoga movement might be witnessing a turning point. I am not holding my breath, but these are interesting developments. Wouldn’t you like to see a change?

Many years ago, I was invited by Yoga Journal to be one of its contributing editors, and I hesitatingly agreed. When I realized that there was little intention to represent the non-posture side of Yoga, which is my forté, I resigned after a while. Actually, I started to feel uncomfortably self-conscious about being associated with the magazine. Many students were wondering why I was a contributing editor at all. They were right, of course.

I can’t imagine how Judith Lasater must feel to see her brainchild become so perverted. I had an opportunity to browse in early issues of Yoga Journal, and they were a very encouraging effort, which by rights should have been continued and developed.

There is nowadays no full-spectrum North American Yoga magazine out there. Even Yoga International (renamed: Yoga + Joyful Living) seems to be heading down a glitzy cul-de-sac. My worry is: When will commercialization begin to compromise content? Let me hear from you what you think about traditional Yoga and a Yoga magazine that has substance and also addresses contemporary issues.

Georg Feuerstein