Proprioception over Dogma
Sources of Authority and Standards of Orthopraxy in Iyengar Yoga
Keywords:āsana, embodied meaning, Iyengar Yoga, kinaesthesia, modern postural yoga, orthopraxy, ritual, sensorimotor experience
The purpose of the article is to discuss the factors influencing the ongoing developments in Iyengar Yoga (IY) asana practice. The hypothesis is that within IY the power of authority, rather than being associated with the guru and his lineage (parampara), is located within the body and associated with individual proprioceptive experience. Despite its apparent dogmatism, manifesting in rigorous focus on minute detail and strong notions of orthopraxy, Iyengar's system has undergone major changes ever since the publication of Light of Yoga in 1966. Since Iyengar's death in 2014, the need for constant innovation seems to have increased. The author argues, that the plasticity of the method is inherent in its very foundations. Treating asanani--and sequences thereof--as higher-order structures built of repetitive minimal units (singular motor patterns and body-part configurations) allows for considerable freedom in asana practice without jeopardizing orthoperformance. The stress lain on the detailed proprioceptive experience during practice results in locating authority in the experience itself, and in frequent modifications of asana variations based on this authority. The discussion is based on in-depth analysis of the structure of IY practice and of textual material.
Byrne, Jean. 2014. '"Authorized by Sri Pattabhi Jois": The Role of Parampara and Lineage in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.' In Singleton and Goldberg 2014: 107-20.
Ciolkosz, Matylda. 2014. 'The Quasi-Linguistic Structure of Iyengar Yoga Asana Practice: An Analysis from the Perspective of Cognitive Grammar.' Studia Religiologica 47 (4): 263-73.
Carpenter, David. 2003. 'Practice Makes Perfect: The Role of Practice (abhyasa) in Patanjala Yoga.' In Ian Whicher and David Carpenter (eds.), Yoga: The Indian Tradition: 25-50. London and New York: Routledge Curzon.
Chomsky, Noam. 2002 . Syntactic Structures. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Damasio, Antonio. 2010. Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. New York: Pantheon Books.
De Michelis, Elizabeth. 2004. A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism. London and New York: Continuum Books.
--2008. 'Modern Yoga: History and Forms.' In Singleton and Byrne 2008: 17-35.
Glenberg, Arthur M. 2008. 'Toward the Integration of Bodily States, Language, and Action.' In Gun R. Semin and Eliot R. Smith (eds.), Embodied Grounding: Social, Cognitive, Affective, and Neuroscientific Approaches: 43-70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hutto, Daniel D., and Erik Myin. 2013. Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Iyengar, B. K. S. 1979 . Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika. New York: Schocken Books.
--1988. Yoga Vrksa: The Tree of Yoga. Oxford: Fine Line Books.
--1993. Light on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. London: Thorsons.
--2005. Light of Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom. Vancouver: Raincoast Books.
--2013. Core of the Yoga Sutras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga. London: Harper Thorsons.
Johnson, Mark. 1987. The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.
--2007. The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jois, Sri K. Pattabhi. 2010 . Yoga Mala. New York: North Point Press.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Langacker, Ronald W. 2008. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Maas, Philipp. 2013. 'A Concise Historiography of Classical Yoga Philosophy.' In Eli Franco (ed.), Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy: 53-90. Vienna: Sammlung de Nobili, Institut fur Sudasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde der Universitat Wien.
Monier-Williams, Monier. 1899. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Newcombe, Suzanne. 2014. 'The Institutionalization of the Yoga Tradition--"Gurus" B. K. S. Iyengar and Yogini Sunita in Britain.' In Singleton and Goldberg 2014: 147-67.
Nevrin, Klas. 2008. 'Empowerment and Using the Body in Modern Postural Yoga.' In Singleton and Byrne 2008: 119-39.
Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 1999. The Primacy of Movement: Expanded Second Edition. Amsterdam and Philadelpia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Singleton, Mark, and Jean Byrne (eds.). 2008. Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge.
Singleton, Mark. 2008a. 'The Classical Reveries of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Constructive Orientalism.' In Singleton and Byrne 2008: 77-99.
Singleton, Mark, and Ellen Goldberg (eds.). 2014. Gurus of Modern Yoga. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Smith, Benjamin R. 2008. '"With Heat Even Iron Will Bend": Discipline and Authority in Ashtanga Yoga.' In Singleton and Byrne 2008: 140-60.
Staal, Frits. 1979. 'The Meaninglessness of Ritual.' Numen 26 (1): 2-22. https://doi.org/10.1163/156852779X00244
--1996. Ritual and Mantras: Rules without Meaning. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
Steinberg, Lois. 2006. Geeta Iyengar's Guide to a Woman's Yoga Practice, Vol. 1. Urbana, IL: Iyengar Yoga Champaign-Urbana.
Van Gennep, Arnold. 1960 . Rites of Passage. Trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. London, Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Varela, Francisco J., Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch. 1993. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Vivekananda, Swami. 2003 . Raja Yoga. Leeds: Celephais Press.
Iyengar, Geeta S. 2015. Yoganusasanam December 2015: Asana. Pranayama. Dhyana. Pune: Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.
Iyengar, Prashant. 1981. Viparita Chakrana Cycles. Pune: Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. https://tinyurl.com/8292013841 (accessed 28 August 2016).
Steinberg, Lois. 2016. 'Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana'. https://www.facebook.com/loisbuenosaires2015/videos/679177848888985/ (accessed 25 August 2016).
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.