What this period illustrates is that intellectuals and theologians – not practical yogis -owned the written yoga discourse. Hence we get little clarification of the use-value of the various yoga forms but instead many symbolic signals. We saw how yoga became enveloped in the monotheistic ideology of caste society and growing royal power as yoga forms spread among the upper classes. We saw how the status of theistic yoga gained heights never seen before as the ultimate god was revealed as a yogi who owed his power to yoga. As we moved into the early medieval period, this was turned upside down as we saw how the various Epics painted the yogi as a sinister fellow and how the bhakti movement chased away ascetic monks. We also saw how not only holy men, but the whole society became extremely strongly disciplined in rigid institutions. We wonder if the quest for after-life liberation’ had led to this-life prison’? If anything could be described as being Janus-faced it must be the yoga and the liberation discourses of which it was often part.
This chapter confirms the impressions gained in other chapters. If we as modern yoga sympathisers are looking for a vibrant tradition of yogi sages’ – living an austere life committed to yoga practice and liberation – to confirm that our dreams of our yoga practice have roots in antiquity, we look in vain. I have found no social groups or institutions who deemed it necessary to support such a hidden oral tradition of transmission. The written yoga tradition – if we can talk about such a thing – was a theological discourse emerging in various religious communities who found it opportune to align themselves with the yoga sign for various reasons.
Conversely, good alignment supports optimal functioning, which in many Yoga at home cases will relieve pain. The preparations for the poses, the alignment of the body in Yoga at home the pose, and the actions done while in the pose are every bit as important as its visual shape. The instructions in the book are fairly detailed for this reason. Another crucial element in the practice of yoga is one’s attitude, or intention. Some people may come to yoga to reduce pain, to relieve stress, to improve strength, balance, or flexibility, or to calm and elevate their consciousness. Some who do yoga have a certain radiance, a sense of peace despite the stresses and strains of life. To set an intention helps to infuse the practice with meaning, and ensures a deeper transformation on every level. We recommend that you give this some thought and formulate your own intention for your practice.