Thursday, June 3, 2010

The dark side of yoga

After each morning asana practice, we do chanting and philosophy. I really love the philosophy discussions and I’m trying so hard to love the chanting.

I began to appreciate it more after Richard explained what it means when we say “Shanti shanti shanti” (these come at the end of many chants). Shanti is translated as “Peace” and we say it three times because each shanti represents one of the 3 causes of suffering:
  1. Suffering from the self (our bodies and minds): Itching, headache, muscle aches, pain, being too hot/ too cold, tired.
  2. Suffering from other beings: Spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, mother/father, sister/brother, children, animals (i.e. mosquitos), germs, traffic.
  3. “Divine suffering” (meaning both things that we inherit in our genes and things in nature that are beyond our control): Deep tendencies such as pride, lust, greed, desire for power. Large weather patterns and catastrophes such as draught, wind, tornados, earthquakes. 
Ok, suffering I can identify with! This explanation made me much more engaged in the whole chanting practice.

Then we began a discussion of The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (written between 1350-1550 AD - “hot off the press” as far as scriptures go):

The purpose of this book is to teach the technology of Hatha yoga and to avoid the mistakes.

The mistakes are very common. Richard talked about the “dark side” of yoga – when people use the practice of yoga in order to gain something material.

The example he gave was a person is living a life of “normal mediocrity” who then begins practicing Ashtanga yoga. He gets really healthy and starts to feel strong. Then he walks down the street feeling strong, feeling superior, feeling powerful, and “knocking people over” just because they are not strong and they don’t do Ashtanga. This person then gets authorized to teach. His ego inflates and he makes the mistakes teenage boys make (like getting romantically entangled with students). He feels too powerful to follow yamas and niyamas (the ethical and moral disciplines), and things subtly begin to fall apart. Yoga takes a “sinister” turn without him even being aware of it.

And this is why you need a guru/teacher. The practice of yoga can cause a dangerous inflation of the ego, which actually ends up increasing our own suffering.


  1. Thanks for this post - interesting thought about the person who grows strong and arrogant. I'm a practicing yogini who's just starting out with the primary series. looking forward to more of your posts.

  2. Ujjayi breath sounds like Darth Vader.
    The dark side hummm...
    "If you only knew the power of the dark side."
    -Darth Vader
    Luke: "Vader... Is the dark side stronger?"
    Yoda: "No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive."

    thank you for continuing to share what learning bits

  3. Looking forward to your next post :)

  4. Loving these TT posts Christina, mine starts a week Monday. Were you sent a reading list before the course, haven't received a thing for mine, brushing up on pretty much everything anyway. Must fish out my Ka book, your picture reminded me. have you read his greek one, Cadamus and Psyche ? Was my all time favourite book for years.

  5. Hey Grimmly! Can't wait to hear how yours goes!! Yeah, we got a reading list beforehand with the list of all the optional/recommended books, but then they handed out all of the required texts on the first day. I haven't finished Ka yet (but am starting to really like it).. I'll have to check out his Greek one (thanks for the tip!)