To Hell with Electronic YogaWritten by Tomasz Goetel
If the word yoga means many things, it is because yoga is many things.
~ Mircea Eliade
Professor Eliade, whom I hold close to my heart, must be turning in his grave. So turn the Old Masters, and I don’t mean Goraksanath or Matsyendranātha because the holy ones aren’t lying in any grave and the fact that they haven’t stricken us all with lightning yet comes to me as a surprise. The Old Masters: Lahiri Mahasaya, Krishnamacharya, Yogananda, Sivananda, Iyengar, what would they think of us today? At the time when Mircea Eliade wrote that “yoga is many things”—the 1950s—hardly was he able to foresee that the yoga he had in mind was to become that many things as we see today. (More about that below.)
In 2017, I put teaching yoga programs aside. I intended to focus on my personal process. As a consequence of the hiatus, I seem to have had come to my senses, both through the personal contemplation of my past faults in teaching, language, and behaviour (which I now cherish as my very own epimetheia), as well as the realization of questions about what the Tree of Yoga has become, having put its roots into the soil of our materialistic, rationalistic, secular, technological society.
As far as I can see today, not only do the majority of yoga teachers in the West may be suffering from the saviour complex, but their approach to yoga has been almost completely indoctrinated by the hybrid of New-Agey, theosophical ideology, combined with a medically-infused propagandas of healthism and lifestylism.
I refuse to join the cultish circles formed by demagogues, charlatans, corrupt masters, tricksters, miracle workers, and messiahs. I keep away from the counterfeit teachers who pursue importing social or ecological “awareness” and “issues” into the teaching of yoga. I am appalled to see yogic teaching invaded by medical terminology and “scientific knowledge”.
As the genius philosopher said,
When the event is no longer attached to a specific location and can be reproduced virtually any number of times, it acquires the characteristics of an assembly-line product; and when we pay for having it delivered to our homes, it is a commodity. (Gunther Anders, The World as Phantom and as Matrix, 1956, here)
It bothers me that today’s relations between teacher and student continue to take on the dynamics of relations between a supplier and a consumer.
To me, it seems that today’s community consists itself of a greater number of online-based technicians obsessed with virtual reality, than flesh-and-bones yoga teachers. On one hand, I understand that any person might be content with the so-called “online yoga”, if he or she find it to be a fun thing to do and that it makes them happy; on the other hand, I find the electronic, online yoga hard to stomach.
The obvious, in the past, main pillars of yoga practice and teaching (e.g. the necessary asceticism (tāpas), meditative frame of mind (ekāgratā), physical presence of both teacher and student in body, breath, voice, gaze, and touch, just to name a few) are being perverted, corrupted, and most likely rendered sterile by the means of a wireless, electronic, computerized screen-and-speaker disembodied “connection”, “communication”, and/or “transmission”. I am not a fan of any kind of “connecting” and not a fan of any kind of yogic electronic ecstasy.
Therefore, I must distance myself from the yoga teacher community and, at the same time, continue with a further inquiry into my own present practice and future teaching. As much as I am intellectually and morally against electronic yoga, and physically I’m keeping myself away from it, in my heart I am at peace about it. Electronic yoga doesn’t make sense in the same way that looking at Renaissance masterpieces on my computer while eating a kebab or watching a theater play on a plasma TV in my sweatpants, alone, make no sense—all those half-life ghosts, they all rightly die.
I do feel a little sorry for online yoga teachers. I do understand that where they used to teach, those places have been closed as one of the results of the governmental sanitary terror. I do understand teachers might be teaching yoga electronically (so-called remotely—I despise that expression, it makes me think of being fed up and changing channels) because they need the income of the few dollars coming in or a sign from everyone out there that they are not yet completely unnecessary and forgotten. I feel sorry for them because teaching via any LCD screen and digital microphone must be so terribly, terribly boring.
Whenever, if ever, the gathering restrictions on Ibiza, are reversed, I hope to return to the teaching of yoga classes (through my new project called The Flying Fish Yoga), where we practice Hatha Yoga, the Advanced Class, and yogic relaxation in person, in small group sessions. This is where we strive to: 1. Move away from perceiving the body through images taken from a medical anatomy book, thus being able to establish an incarnated practice of yoga postures, breathing, and concentration, 2. Enable each practitioner to begin, as soon as possible, practicing on his own, independently of the teacher, in order to open the door to autonomous meditation.