Yogic self-discipline as social control
Foucault adds to this analysis an interesting observation about how social power in this way flows into the individual and not only empowers but also controls the individual. We can confirm that his conclusions also seem applicable to much of contemporary yoga discourse. We can see, that the yoga self as the idealised image of power and beauty’ or the ethical self can only emerge through the application of discipline – self-mastery, the harnessing of body and mind through body postures, extended breathing or ethical self-scrutiny; the self, monitoring and conducting itself. This happens through a strict regiment – often driven to perfectionism by a modernist mind set – of regularisation, rationalisation and disciplining of body and mind. Diet, emotions, categories of thinking, movement, posture, attitude, hygiene, fitness, and relations: every aspect of the body-mind is surveyed, regulated and governed. We can with Foucault say that modernist postural yoga discourse has become a way of disciplining the body and the self.
“If you’re mentally strong, empowered and Hollywood actress in a yoga pose – mentally strong and empowered ‘
However Foucault makes the point that this self-discipline is not only about the self, disciplining itself. Of course this effort of self-mastering can be a liberating act, where the individual breaks many fetters and conditions of society. This is exactly what the yoga discourse is so busy discussing. Often it gets so busy praising its own use-value that it loses credibility. But leaving this aside there is little doubt for most modern yoga sympathisers, that yoga really has something useful to deliver – physical and mental benefits; meaning in life; values; and ethics. This book is not trying to deny this. But self-mastery can easily turn into a process, according to Foucault, where the individual internalises the discipline of society. How?
Inhale; lift up your spine and chest. Exhale and Corpse Pose Yogabend forward. Fold your torso between your legs. Rest your hands on the floor. Corpse Pose YogaHang your head straight down. Lightly retract your upper arms into the shoulders, then stretch your arms forward. Maintain that action as you continue to release your neck down. To exit the pose, extend your head and chest forward, support yourself with elbows on thighs, inhale, and swing up.