Today is the new moon.

The Ashtangis will not practice yoga today because the new moon pulls us downward.  On the other hand the full moon pulls us upward.

When my yoga teacher said this, I had to object. At nine in the morning (as it then was), the new moon was well above above the horizon, somewhere near the sun in fact. The new moon pulls us upward during the day time. The full moon, on the other hand is below the horizon during the day and pulls us down. Not only that but the new moon is right near the sun, so the pull of both combines, whereas when the full the moon and the sun pull in opposite directions. The upshot being that we get a stronger upward pull during the new moon than at any other time. Exactly the opposite of what she said.

My teacher tried to talk about tides and fluids, which is completely irrelevant to whether the moon is pulling up or not. Eventually she settled on prana. Which might mean breath, and might mean spirit (yes, I know that spirit used to have the same double meaning). Well, the air molecules in my breath are moving so fast from ambient  heat that the pull of the moon exherts such a slight force that it will not be observable. And anyway it will still be upward during the day at the new moon.

As for my spirit… Personally I’m feeling fairly up-beat. My injury is fading, it isn’t raining, I’m more cheerful than I’ve been in a month. The moon is totally invisible today, but then I don’t see the moon most days. Why is it’s invisibility supposed to affect me?

To me, it just sounds like a lie.

Yoga comes with this huge superstructure of completely made up concepts with, as far as I can tell, no reality outside the imaginations of yogis. What are the nadhis? Can you dissect a body and find a chakra? No.

The night before last a different yoga teacher informed us that our problems are rooted inside ourselves, and if we can transform ourselves we can solve our problems. I could not help wondering what self-transformation could solve global warming.

I love yoga poses. I love striving to find the perfect instantiation of each pose in each moment. I love moving. But I hate the philosophy that comes with it.


2 Responses to “Yoga”

  1. Adger Says:

    I remember a similar discussion I had with a T’ai chi instructor. He said that ancient masters of the art had experimented with lead, mercury, and some other substances that I forget now. He then asked us what these substances all had in common. I pointed out that they were all poisons, and thus, not terribly useful for health promotion. I think this relegated me to the ranks of the “scoffers”. I also enjoyed that physical discipline, but had a hard time with the air and moonshine that went with it.

  2. Jim K Says:

    I think there are a few threads. One is the imposition of order and regularity on a non-linear, indifferent world. It shares a root with science–it IS possible to understand, it is possible to alter behavior to fit better with the world as it is. Our evolved brains really don’t like effects without describable, attributable causes. A second root is post-facto rationalization (which is what I sometimes thing human language is for). Interacting with other humans is the main thing we do once we’ve eaten and slept–so since we can’t change what we did, and we can’t anticipate all the different reactions people might have, we change our behavior retroactively through our words. Because neurologically it currently appears that recalling is actually re-plasticizing the memory, we ‘adjust’ the past by telling it the way we’d prefer it to have been, and that becomes real for us. Finally, I expect there is some substance mushed in with the woo-woo. How does the placebo effect work? There are certainly degrees of adjustment and sensitivity within and to our bodies/minds that long and intensive practice open up–some of the woo-woo is just imprecise reporting of real phenomena.

    Or maybe not. Hard to say.

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