Prior to the 20th c. Yoga Was a Way to Dissociate from the Body

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Adam Davidson, podcast host: “The key thing here is that yoga is not a specific thing in itself, it’s more like a vague category of things. It’s a word like music or exercise: it means very different things to different people at different times and places.

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Wendy wrote a book called ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History,’ it was actually RECALLED in India. The publisher had to pulp the copies. It’s effectively censored because of charges that it violated a law offending people’s religious sensibilities. And that’s all because she did something that’s pretty common in scholarship these days. She reexamined history through different points of view, in this case the history of Hinduism through the view of women through the view of outcastes and there’s a bunch of people in India who did not like that. It became a huge scandal. So Wendy brought up what is considered the ‘foundational’ text of yoga, the Patanjali yoga sutras….”

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Wendy Doniger religion professor at the University of Chicago: “Yoga is a basic word, it’s actually connected with our word yoke and junction. It means to join together. As in to yoke horses together or to yoke a horse to a chariot. And it comes to mean in India to draw together your mental and spiritual powers in meditation. So that’s the real first meaning of yoga.

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There are different philosophical systems which teach forms of meditation and the famous Patanjali yoga sutras, probably second century BCE...the only thing Patanjali says in that whole book about the physical body is you should sit in a comfortable way. End of discussion.

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In India prior to the turn of the century and advent of physical culture in response to colonialism) They were struggling with human misery. And the solution was to realize that it wasn’t real and that you were not your body, so all of the meditation systems of Ancient India really are designed to pull you out as if you were floating above your body in some way.”

Erin Jade