I do Iyengar yoga. Naming your yoga is a statement of identity. It situates you as part of a yoga denomination, with a very particular set of doctrines about the way yoga should be practiced. But none of that can be heard in the stolid silence of Iyengar classes. There you find no music, no dancing through a class with your individual flow.
When I challenge my body, quiet my mind, and pay attention to the state of things — this brings me a kind of joy.
But a spiritual joy? I liked it when we called that poetry. Or happiness.
I do Iyengar yoga, and as such I am part of a long genealogy. Yoga is a spiritual tradition, thousands of years old, with a complex history intertwined with the development of Indian religious traditions. Emerson and Thoreau both eagerly read as much as they could about Hinduism. Modern posture-based yoga, however, emerged alongside of the U. The YMCA was a global influence on the early development of this model of intense, individualized focus on athletic health for the masses. While Indians were embracing physical culture along the Western model, they were also embracing and reimagining yoga into a form of nationalist pride and anti-imperialist cultural production.
As we might imagine, there were competing schools and approaches, but most shared the sense that India needed to re-energize its ancient traditions with a vital awakening of the male body.
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At this point, several sages also began to export their own visions of the practice of yoga to the West. Some, like Vivekananda , taught breathing exercises along with philosophical lectures, while others introduced the few simple postures associated with hatha yoga in India. The Iyengar style of yoga comes from the teaching of B. Iyengar , one of the most influential yogis in the world.
He died in at the age of 95, and he was already an extraordinary practitioner in the s. Here is a practice video :. His innovation was to slow down the yoga practice, and to demand the most profound and particular attention to detail. Iyengar-style teachers will teach the poses deliberately, slowly.
There are blocks that extend the reach, and belts to tighten splaying body parts, and blankets and blocks and metal folding chairs, even ropes hanging from hooks in the walls. Iyengar was still a boy when modern hatha yoga began to become popular in India. Iyengar eventually went to teach in Pune, a provincial capital in Western India, quite distant from the elite and insulated culture of the Mysore Palace.
In Pune he taught students who were far removed from the young, flexible boys who had been the core of the Mysore tradition under Krishnamacharya. Working with non-adepts, Iyengar eventually started to slow down the practice, and to use the props for which he became famous. From here, there is a longer story that could be told about the embrace of yoga in the West, and the development of competing systems like that of Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga. He and Iyengar soon became global stars and serious rivals.
Iyengar was a much admired yoga teacher in India in the s, but he became the exemplar of modern yoga for the West when he published Light on Yoga in That book quickly became the standard reference, bringing yoga to a new generation of Americans and Europeans. In , Time declared Iyengar to be one of the most influential people in the world. Just as surely as it says something about what happens when I walk into class, this statement locates me firmly in the social order of the yoga world.
In that world, the Ashtanga yogis are the track stars and the class presidents. They glide through conferences, with shoulders sculpted by sun salutations, looking lithe and confident. The Bikram folks are purified by their steamy practice rooms. The Iyengar folks like to think of ourselves as more intellectual and precise. She was, however, an amazing teacher, and I knew it. Nonetheless, I developed slowly as a yoga student. It was a hit or miss relationship for a long while. I liked yoga — liked it well before Madonna or Gwyneth or Sting. Eventually, and for many reasons, I developed into a serious student with a daily yoga practice.
I began to pay attention to the things that happened on the mat: how my body worked in this pose or that. When my mind wandered. When I gave up, and why. I do Iyengar yoga and my teacher is John Schumacher.
John, however, is not my guru. What I do is listen and learn.
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And practice. And practice some more. And again the next day. John is a particular kind of teacher, one who says relatively little about yoga philosophy directly, channeling pretty much everything through the poses themselves. Funny, sardonic, a little bit reserved, he is brilliant at structuring a class sequence. Craig Keener, in his huge review of claims of miracles in a wide variety of cultures, concludes that routine rejection of the possibility of the supernatural represents an impulse that is deeply Eurocentric.
In the United States, blacks have the highest rate of religiosity. Surveys suggest most atheists are white men. A recent survey of 4, members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation found that 95 percent were white, and men comprised a majority. See also: Atheism and culture. Culture consists of the "language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organization, inherited artifacts, technical processes, and values. Atheism has not produced any outstanding cultural achievements and it has had a negative effect on cultures see: Atheism and culture and Atheism and its anti-civilizational effects and Atheism statistics.
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For example, relative to Christianity , which has a large collection of art, music and poetry associated it, atheism has a very small collection of art, music and poetry associated with it see: Atheist art and Atheist music and Atheist poetry. It is often said that atheism is boring, stale and difficult to believe see: Atheism and inspiration.
As noted above, research indicates that atheists are less open-minded see: Atheism and open-mindedness. See also: Atheism and diversity and Atheism and culture. Atheists as a percentage of the world's population have declined since and global atheism is expected to face long term decline.
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Demography is the study of human populations, and is a major specialty in the disciplines of sociology, economics, history, geography, statistics and epidemiology. See also: Atheism and international cooperation among atheists. In recent years, international cooperation among atheists has been low see: Atheism and international cooperation among atheists. See also: Views on atheists and Distrust of atheists and Atheism and social outcasts and Atheism and public relations and Atheophobia.
Sociological research indicates that atheists are widely distrusted in both religious cultures and nonreligious cultures. According to a study published in the International Journal for The Psychology of Religion : "anti-atheist prejudice is not confined either to dominantly religious countries or to religious individuals, but rather appears to be a robust judgment about atheists. Various atheists have attempted to change the public's perception of atheism and atheists, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful see: Attempts to positively rebrand atheism.
See also: Atheism and fertility rates. Michael Blume, a researcher at the University of Jena in Germany, wrote about the sub-replacement level of fertility among atheistic populations : "Most societies or communities that have espoused atheistic beliefs have not survived more than a century. On the other hand, the secular West and East Asia has very low fertility and a rapidly aging population In the coming decades, the developed world's demand for workers to pay its pensions and work in its service sector will soar alongside the booming supply of young people in the third world.
Ergo, we can expect significant immigration to the secular West which will import religious revival on the back of ethnic change. In addition, those with religious beliefs tend to have higher birth rates than the secular population, with fundamentalists having far larger families.