Maybe it's just me, but it appears that a wave of Ashtanga-bashing has recently been on the upsurge in the blogosphere. There is that article by Norman Blair (reproduced here in its entirety on Grimmly's blog; thanks Grimmly!). I recently wrote a post about it; basically, I think that although Mr. Blair does an admirable job of trying to maintain a balanced perspective, nothing that he says in that article is really new. The issues that he brings up (incidence of injuries among Ashtangis, focusing too much on the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual, the problem of an inflated ego, to name a few) have all being discussed ad nauseum in many discussions, both on and off-line.
Well, at least Mr. Blair tries to maintain a balanced perspective in his writing. Others do not seem to even possess this basic quality of literary decency. A couple of hours ago, I read this post on Elephant Journal by Peter Sklivas. Mr Sklivas's thesis, as I understand it, is that only naturally supple athletes can practice Ashtanga, whereas Bikram and other Hot Yoga styles are equally accessible to all, whether one is naturally athletic, or has a "plum-shaped body". In trying to support his position, Mr Sklivas makes all kinds of unsubstantiated (and quite likely unsubstantiable) claims about Ashtanga. Here's one that ranks lower (in my opinion) on the oh-my-god-this-is-so-bad-I-can't believe-that-somebody-actually-dares-to-publish-this scale:
"But I swear there’s way more genetic sorting going on with Ashtangis than Bikram yogis."
Hmm... is he saying that there is some secret genetic sorting/screening lab at KPJAYI (or at some other undisclosed location) that screens people for whether they have bodies/genes that are suitable to practice Ashtanga? Sounds like the kind of stuff that makes for juicy conspiracy theories... but the practice as I know it is not a conspiracy theory.
Whatever happened to honoring other people's practices (even if they do not happen to do the same yoga style/spiritual practice as you), and viewing them in a fair and balanced light? Whatever happened to ahimsa? Or maybe one doesn't need to observe the yamas if one practices Bikram or Hot Yoga? Interesting...
In any case, the rest of Mr Sklivas's brief article is so ludicrous that I am not even going to waste space (and time) reviewing it here. (I've probably wasted enough, as it is...) And maybe this is just me again, but it seems that Elephant Journal has been publishing a larger-than-usual number of this kind of articles lately; articles that are, at best, purely stream-of-consciousness and at worst, outright combative and inflammatory. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have also written my fair share of inflammatory posts, and I'm not proud of them. To me, the blogosphere is a place to engage in rational and balanced conversation about issues that concern us as spiritual practitioners and as human beings. We may not always agree with each other (actually, we usually don't), but I think the least we can do is to make an honest effort to portray our interlocutors in a light that is balanced and fair. This being the case, I really don't see what kind of contribution articles of this kind can make to such conversation, beyond stirring up outraged responses (such as this one).
Well, that was quite a rant I just made. As with all my posts, I am going to try to end this one on a somewhat more positive note. So I guess I'll end by pointing out a few obvious and hopefully useful things about us. Here goes:
1. Life is short.
2. Within this short life, different people find different things to do to make some sense and meaning of their lives.
3. Some people do yoga. Others meditate. Others find meaning and joy in establishing close relationships with people around them. Others eat only organic food, and try to encourage others to do likewise. Yet others smoke copious amounts of weed. Yet others smoke like chimneys and drink like fish. Yet others do all of the above.
4. Whatever it is one does, i.e. whatever rocks one's boat, one thing is certain: No matter what we do and how much and how assiduously we do it, we will all eventually grow old, get sick and die (hopefully not too painfully). Nothing is going to change this.
5. This being the case, it makes a lot of sense to do whatever rocks your boat to your heart's content. It makes very little sense to put down whatever it is that rocks other people's boats; unless, of course, it rocks your boat to put down whatever it is that rocks other people's boats. In which case I have nothing to say to (and hopefully nothing to do with) you.