- Empathy, emotion, and socio-economic class: Researchers at Berkeley’s Science of a Meaningful Life, recently published a study that indicates that members of the upper-class are worse than their peers at identifying the emotions of others. Below is an hour-long interview explaining those results, and other studies on the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being.
- Art of Faith: I”m currently watching this documentary and have enjoyed the parts I’ve seen so far. I think it was brilliant that the producers used local residents to present details about each of the structures.
- Generosity and Greed: A Tricycle feature that includes Gelek Rinpoche, Gil Fronsdal, Kobo Daishi, Bernie Glassman, and Noah Levine.
- Healing Yoga comes to America: I just stumbled upon this Oct/2007 Yoga International profile of Kate Holcombe, founder of the Healing Yoga Foundation. Reading A.G. Mohan’s book on Krishnamcharya has gotten me inspired to re-read Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga
… This is how Holcombe teaches yoga—meeting the student where he is. It’s how she learned from legendary teacher T.K.V. Desikachar and why for many years she balked at being called a yoga teacher. The yoga she discovered in India 16 years ago bore little resemblance to the fitness phenomenon labeled yoga in the United States. “I used to call it the ‘y’ word,” she says. “It took me a long time to be comfortable saying that what I was doing was yoga because what I was studying and learning and seeing and doing in India felt so completely different from what I saw people calling yoga here.”
What Holcombe saw in India was yoga as practiced at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM), the school Desikachar founded in 1976 to honor his father, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya, who died in 1989 at the age of 100, is the reason a discipline of sages in caves is today practiced by celebrities in spandex. His famous stunts (stopping his heartbeat) and students (B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi among them) turned the masses on to yoga, even as Krishnamacharya stressed that yoga’s healing powers reside in the one-on-one relationship between teacher and student.
Desikachar’s school is in Chennai, a muggy, conservative city formerly known as Madras. The Mandiram functions less like a yoga studio than a health clinic. There’s a waiting area lined with chairs. There’s a blue file on each student. The 50 teachers see students one at a time in small rooms with walls of braided palm fronds. An exception is made for couples having trouble conceiving.
Many of the students have no prior yoga experience. They learn movements, breathing techniques, chants, meditative practices, and habits to ease their pains and strengthen their psyches. Everybody gets a unique practice. A depressed student might be asked to snap photos of beautiful things. Another might be encouraged to eat papaya.
The Desikachars emphasize that yoga is a complement to medical care, not a replacement. About half of the Mandiram’s students are referred by a doctor or other health professional. The head of neurophysiology at Chennai’s largest hospital sends his son to the Mandiram for a neurophysiological problem. When Holcombe began teaching a decade ago, she worked in the office of a family practitioner who’d been a longtime Desikachar pupil. She has since taught at physicians’ retreats and conferences, and word of mouth has brought her so many students that until this year, she’d never printed a business card.
… Yoga as the Desikachars see it is a toolbox for conscious change. Ancient yoga texts proffer myriad tools—from cleansing rituals to candle gazing to arm balances that evoke Cirque du Soleil. Many yoga therapists, Kausthub says, reach into the toolbox and pull out hammer and nails: asana and pranayama. The rest of the tools go largely unused.
“Most yoga therapy in the West addresses yoga therapy through the body—asanas. Sometimes they include some breathing techniques, but nothing else,” he says. “Here, we are including every tool in yoga practice, whether it is asana or pranayama or meditation or chants and visualizations.
“Yoga has been presented in the classical teachings as a holistic discipline. Yoga has not been presented for the body, through the body, by the body.”