We will now move on from this general model of Shamanism to some specific aspects of the ideas and practices of Shamanism. What was the labour of the Shaman’ – how did he or she accumulate symbolic capital? In order to make contact with the spirits, the Shaman had a range of technologies of transformation of consciousness’ at his disposal. The Shaman often used austere practices like solitude, fasting, holding breath or sleep deprivation as preparation for his performance (Walsh 1993). Together with his tribe the Shaman – now already in an ascetic induced trance – would then commence the ritual of accessing the spiritual world. Here ecstatic techniques like dancing, drumming and mumbling of syllables were employed carrying the Shaman into states of trance.130 Even drugs could be used. So we can see from a range of anthropological studies that ascetic and ecstatic technologies and discourses were central to the Shaman and his power – his cultural or symbolic capital.
In the view of many scholars the North Indian societies preceding yoga were variants of such Asian non-centralised societies organised in small tribes and clans. Many of these Aryan and non-Aryan communities were strongly influenced by the Shamanic culture presented above. However, the Vedic communities in the process of becoming settled agriculturalists had probably evolved into societies where ritual practice – strictly prescribed and controlled formal procedures – had to a large extent replaced spontaneous Shamanic practices. But that does not exclude the possibility that Vedic rituals and discourse carried on with practices, interpretations and worldviews from the Shaman culture (Deeg 1993). In other words some of the code and habitus of the Shaman had settled in the unconscious mental habits of society. So our first observation is that even if the cultural field of the Shaman had been replaced by that of the Brahmin, some of the underlying code and habitus – associating the religious specialist with supernatural powers – still persisted in the general cultural DNA.
Props: A yoga mat and a blanket placed under your Yoga stretches knees if desired. Avoiding pitfalls: Extend and lift up both sides of the body even Yoga stretches though the stretch will be on one side at a time. On your hands and knees, using a blanket to pad your knees, sit back on your haunches. Creep to the right with your hands, curving your torso sideways. Maintain your legs in their original position. Bend your right arm and place the forearm on the floor to provide a resting place for your head. Stretch your left arm along the floor near your head. Curve it to your right.