Opposed to this dynamic creativity is the elite yoga religion of the academic world, which today as in pre-modern India still plays its traditional role of philosophical sophistication, cool lines of argument, methodological adherence, textual rigorousness, linguistic expertise, educational institutionalisation, and sense of normative superiority – to mention a few. Throughout Indian history we witness how the upper strata – often urban intellectuals or Brahmin priests – typically frame their written yoga discourse in such a context of elite superiority. We observe how this elite religion tends to lack dynamism and innovation. Change came to it from outside – in fact change was largely forced upon it.
Innovations like Tantra and hatha (before it became a yoga) grew out of folk religions and were then adapted and shaped by the elites. They often gave the new ideas inferior status as they included these folk discourses in their existing yoga universe. Under modernity we saw new vigorous folk yoga discourses surface beneath the banner of hybridisation. They were frequently embraced and tamed by the elites of modernity – often scholars and orientalists, at other times ignored or their existence denied. But a few of the folk yoga forms managed to maintain some of their independence and hence their dynamic. We saw under modernity how elite and folk yoga religion separated and then slowly drifted apart and today have lost sight of each other.
Sociologists like Durkheim (Wikipedia link) have since long pointed out that religion in pre-modern societies were a kind of storehouse. Here society stored, legitimised and institutionalised values, customs, habits, beliefs, norms, memories. Religion functioned as DNA, a system of information shaping the social body. Hence religion was a significant institution giving people social identity, community, values and meaning. We have seen how this holds true for pre-modern elite yoga’. Similarly we have seen how this also holds true for modernist folk yoga’ – in colonial India as well as in the West: yoga, as a totem or sign, radiating power, status, and social identity.
Turn your palm up. Use a belt if necessary. Yoga zen Turn your left ribs up and back as the right side comes forward to twist the spine Yoga zen. Sweep your left hand out, up overhead, and to Yoga zen the right to grasp the right toes if possible. If not, reach up and over Yoga zen with the left arm to stretch your left side. 1Let your breath and your intention for healing lead you into this deep side stretch. 1When you are ready to come up, root down through the pelvis and legs and inhale strongly as you rise. Repeat on the second side.