Indra Devi instructing a Hollywood actress
Devi wrote a book about hatha-yoga which stayed on the US best seller list for a year. This was the popular breakthrough of hatha-yoga as we conceive it today: a yoga form that was almost impossible to distinguish from many contemporary modernist female body regimes. Here Devi made significant promises in her title: Eternal Youth and eternal Health. Of course this must have been an interesting proposition especially among the female stars, who were increasingly beginning to feel the demands of extreme and perfect youth. Any female star celebrity who wanted to stay in the limelight had to look at this daring promise.” In the intense competitive culture of female stars and model celebrities, yoga among many other fitness regimes increasingly became their tool for youth, beauty and strength – their competitive edge. Yoga for them signified the maintenance of their power and social prestige – their symbolic capital – by delivering youth and female beauty. This I believe was the warning of a new symbolic meaning of yoga to come: practice could turn the adept into a powerful symbol of beauty. The technical meaning of yoga – its use-value – had become symbolic. The yoga discourse turned itself into a totem.
Ideals of beauty, youth, happiness and strength – maintained by fitness regiments – are external images, widespread norms and ideals of society we all are striving after. It is when external images – social ideals about appearance – populate our internal world – our psyche -and become crucial for our social and mental survival, that Lasch talks about cultural narcissism ‘. The notion comes from the myth of the Greek god Narcissus, who admired his own image mirrored in a lake so much that he fell into the water and drowned. So there is an inbuilt tragedy to narcissism. Female celebrity stars are clear examples of cultural narcissism. Their careers are created and destroyed by an image. They are utterly controlled by the processes of cultural narcissism – external ideals of beauty defined by society govern their psyche and life They are early warnings of what we have all become. Reading Lasch encourages yoga sympathisers to investigate how far such processes are penetrating our yogic self or psyche and to what degree we are caught in such self-destructive patterns. Thinking of Patanjali’s yoga dissecting the five kleshas of the mind, I find such enquiries very yogic!
Pull on the belt with your right hand to isolate the Dolphin Pose Yogastretch in your neck. Hold this for a few seconds, then return to center and Dolphin Pose Yogarepeat on the other side. For greater intensity, reach behind and catch the arm on the side to which your head is tilting, to keep the shoulders horizontal. Purpose: To improve traction and rotation of cervical spine, also to stretch the hips. Contraindication: Poor balance. Props: A yoga mat and possibly two blocks. Avoiding pitfalls: Widen your thighs as you bend your legs. The leg muscles stay active.