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The Yoga News - September 2008 Issue
September 01, 2008

Yoga News - Sept08
International Yogalayam
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September 02, 2008
The Yoga News

Yoga News ...
Olympic Yoga
A growing number of yoga enthusiasts are pushing to elevate yoga to the Olympic podium. Is this illustrious event too big a stretch for yoga?
Yoga Feature ...
The Loss of Sanskrit in Yoga
Sanskrit is often not viewed with much importance in yoga today
. Does it really matter?
Yoga Festival ...
Ganesha Chaturthi
Celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesha this month.

Olympic Yoga

Is it too big a stretch?
By: Yogacharya

A few weeks before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics, I started to notice a buzz on several blogs about yoga as an Olympic sport.  The familiar topic of yoga sports competitions was also revived recently on the Rishiculture Yahoo Group that I belong to. From the discussions, it’s clear to me that emotions and opinions are strong on both sides, for and against.

Competition itself is not a foreign concept in yoga. In fact, intellectual debates between masters of various spiritual traditions were a vibrant part of ancient Indian culture. Can we, however, compare ancient competitions with the modern phenomena of competitive sports? Are the two similar or worlds apart?

For instance, today’s athlete often possesses an unwavering determination to win at all costs. This is quite apparent in the extremely high levels of training, along with the use and abuse of performance enhancing supplements and drugs in sports today. Modern sports stars also often seem willing to forego their academic education, and even neglect to engage in many other aspects of an evolving, well-balanced life; all in the name of winning.

As a result of this obsessive drive, even the most basic of human dignities, a humble respect and appreciation for one’s opponent, is often lost. The focus has become solely about the individual or the team, their achievements, and a very public recognition of their success.

As such, much of the modern sports culture does seem in conflict with the very core ideals of yoga: those of selflessness, compassion, dignity, balance, humility and respect.

Modern Yoga Sport
In India today, nearly every state holds some form of yoga sporting competition; events that have gained much interest since Swami Gitananda established the Pondicherry Yoga Association (PYA) and held its first state yoga championships in 1975.

Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, the current General Secretary of the PYA, says, however, that “many things have changed over the years, and though I support yoga sport for the children and youth, I may not say the same for the adult competitions… unless the theoretical aspect is taken into consideration, it will be only another gymnastic competition.”

Demonstrating this ideal, the PYA now uses yoga competitions to help create a broader interest in the art and science of yoga in today’s youth. Since 2000, it has organized the annual Swami Gitananda Best Yoga Youth Award competitions, which tests the young competitors not only in the physical asanas, or postures, but also in the theoretical and other elements of yoga too.

The PYA has also introduced yoga theory aspects into all its yogasana competitions, with the aim of exposing competitors to spiritual aspects of the great science of yoga in addition to developing their skills in asana.
Yoga Sport Today
Yoga Sport competitions are now seen across the globe. Though some event founders and even some competitors speak publicly about the spiritual and lifestyle aspects of yoga, it is not so apparent these elements and the comprehensive attitude of the PYA is being embraced by the majority who run or participate in these events.

The now famous Bikram Choudury began organizing his International Yoga Asana Championship in 2003, a spectacle that was highlighted in the controversial 2006 documentary Yoga Inc. Ashley Hooper, a former medal winner, says, "We don't feel we are competing with each other. We are competing with ourselves.

Yet the focus of these competitions remains physical. Competitors are only judged on the ‘perfection’ of the pose, its difficulty, their poise and composure, and the grace of movement both into and out of the position.

Other well-known yoga competitions include the annual World Yoga Championships, sponsored by the International Yoga Sports Federation, which was first held back in 1989. The European Yoga Alliance organizes the annual European Yoga Championships, while regional competitions happen throughout the United States and Canada as well. All of these focus primarily on the performance of asanas.

Is Yoga Headed for Gold?
Yogasiromani Gopalji, executive director of The World Yoga Council, is at the forefront of the push to get yoga into the Olympics, a movement that has much support as well as  much resistance. In a recent BBC interview, he rationalizes that “[yoga] has been a traditional sport in India since more than 1,200 years.

Esak Garcia, winner of the 2005 Bikram’s International Yoga Championship, also supports the elevation of yoga to the world sporting stage, saying that “once yoga is in the Olympics, it will legitimize yoga for many people all over the planet.

Many people, however, don’t feel that yoga needs legitimizing, and that yoga in the Olympics is counter to the very meaning and purpose of yoga. This was all too evident in the flurry of responses to a June posting about the subject on’s blog. “Making yoga an Olympic sport would only increase the already existing over-competiveness”, wrote one blogger. Another echoes the prevailing attitude that “making yoga competitive takes the essence right out of it.

Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanai, in his abstract entitled “A Brief History and Introduction to Yoga Sport” says, “To prevent yogasana competitions from falling into the trap of other sports, it is important that those in charge of these competitions stand firm on moral and ethical issues. Competitors should sign a statement that they are vegetarian, non-smoking, non-drinking and non-drug users. They must have a basic knowledge of yoga theory and marks should be allocated for yoga deportment and character... yogasana competitions, when put in this framework, can restore the competitions to their original purpose, which was to produce a healthy mind in a healthy body.

The International Yoga Federation (IYF) has echoed much of this sentiment in their Yoga Sports Rules and Regulations, outlining a system whereby competitors are judged on physical and mental performance, as well as given spiritual, social, ecological, cultural and philosophical evaluations. However, the question remains: how can one evaluate another on such a subjective level?

With the wide range of feelings about yoga as a competitive sport, is yoga right for the Olympics? David Wallechinsky, an author and Olympic expert doesn’t think so. In a recent BBC interview, he said, “at this point, the Olympics is looking more for the sort of sport where the first to cross the line wins. They are also going more and more for events that play well on television; [events] that are more action oriented. If you had combat yoga… maybe that would have a better chance of making it into the Olympics.”

That hasn’t deterred the IYF, which has already contacted the Olympic committee and plans to petition to have yoga included as an Olympic sport. The earliest that could happen is 2020. Coincidently, the Indian Olympic Association has also said that it plans a pitch for New Delhi to host the 2020 Olympics. If yoga does somehow find its way into this illustrious event, what the competition will include will most certainly continue to be a topic of much emotional debate.

About the Author:
Yogacharya is the director of
International Yogalayam,

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The Loss of Sanskrit in Yoga
A modern spiritual tragedy.
By: Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

Ignorance, or avidya, is not bliss for the yogi. According to Maharishi Patanjali, it is the mother klesha, the principle hindrance to spiritual growth, and the root of all evils. It gives birth to the other four kleshas: asmita, or ego; raga, attachment; dwesha, aversion; and abhinivesa, the incessant clinging to life.

The science of yoga is becoming devitalized by modern ignorance, characterized by superficial, materialistic living. This pollution of the high science of yoga is nowhere more evident than in the modern tendency to de-Sanskritize yogic terminology. Replacing the power-packed Sanskrit words with weak, inaccurate and Shakti-less (powerless) English terminology is the modern trend. In fact, there are places in the world today where the average person would even be surprised to learn that yoga itself is a Sanskrit word.

This trend started with the movement of yoga practice from the East to the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through pioneers such as Swami Vivekananda and Swami Yogananda. For instance, Swami Yogananda built a spiritual empire in the USA with his Self Realisation Fellowship, where his spiritual centres were known as ‘churches’ and his initiated teachers as ‘ministers’, both terms familiar to the Christian culture of the West, but completely foreign to the Eastern heritage of yoga.
The trend of replacing the Sanskrit terms with English words and familiar foreign concepts continued into the 1950's and 1960's as Yoga Masters from India flooded the West, seeking to establish their empires. Popularity of the asanas, or postures, led to the development of new names. Terms such as ’the dancer‘, ’the bow‘, ’the plough‘ and ’downward facing dog‘ were introduced into the yogic vocabulary. These English equivalents, however, miss the profound depth of meaning that are implicitly implied in their Sanskrit counterparts.

 Some examples of commonly used yoga terms and their Sanskrit counterparts:
English Name Sanskrit Name English Name Sanskrit Name
Tree Pose  
Triangle Pose 

Plough Pose

Bow Pose

Eagle Pose 
Vriksha Asana
Trikona Asana
Hala Asana
Dhanur Asana

Garuda Asana
Shoulder Stand
Dancer Pose
Cobra Pose
Fish Pose   
Lotus Pose
Sarvanga Asana
Nataraj Asana

Bhujanga Asana

Matsya Asana

Padma Asana
 Some yoga practices have also been tagged with wildly inaccurate English names.
 For example:

Modern Term Proper Sanskrit Name Loose Translation
Downward Facing Dog
Child’s pose

Cat Cow

Plank Pose

Side Plank Pose
Pyramid Pose
Sphinx pose
Upward Facing Dog
Meru Asana
Dharmika Asana

Vyaghrah Kriya

Chaturanga Danda Asana

Vashishta Tapasya
Prasaritottana Asana
Ardha Bhujanga Asana
Kokila Asana
The mountain pose
The devotional pose

The tiger action
The four-footed stick pose
Tapas pose of sage Vashishta

The side leg stretch

The half(incomplete) cobra pose
The cuckoo pose

Likewise, essential yogic concepts like dharma lost true significance in its translation as the rather unattractive and dull word ’duty‘. The vitality of the idea of abhyasa was diluted to that most despised word ’discipline‘, giving the impression that this profound, life-transforming concept was something that one does not wish to do but is forced to do. The list of examples like these in yoga today is endless.

In his classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In yoga, however, we understand that a name is a subtle, yet very real part of the thing that it is attached to; a subject that takes much study and awareness to really understand. With the loss of its Sanskrit terminology and vocabulary, the great science of yoga has been denuded of a vast part of its magnificent soul. That, in the end, is a real modern tragedy.

For more about Sanskrit, read the article by Yogacharya entitled,
"Sanskrit Words: an introduction to the ancient language of yoga"

About the Author:
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is the resident Acharya of Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also the Director of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER), the Director of Yoganjali Natyalayam, and Editor of Yoga Life, a publication of Ananda Ashram.
For more information, visit: Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani and Ananda Ashram

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Ganesha Chaturthi
The birth of Lord Ganesha

September 3rd marks the celebratation of Ganesha Chaturthi, the birth of the famed elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva.  Also called Ganapati, he is one of the most popular Gods in the Hindu pantheon. In fact, no matter what celebration or ceremony is taking place, Lord Ganesha must first and foremost be praised, which is why you will find the image and worship of Ganesha in nearly every home and at the commencement of every occasion in India.

About Ganesha
Lord Ganesha represents the call to spiritual power. Soon after his birth he acquired his famous elephant head when the god Saturn — symbol of obstacles, difficulties, and delays — came to salute the newborn child. Saturn's powerful, fatal glance immediately reduced the head of the baby Ganesh to ashes. At once Vishnu, God of Love, set forth to look for another head and returned with the head of Indra's elephant, Airavata.  From then on Ganesha came to be called Vighnesa, which means “one who removes fear from the minds”, or more simply, the "remover of obstacles", whose overriding purpose is to help worshippers surmount every difficulty.

Ganesha's four arms stand for his immense power to help humanity. With the goad, a farm tool in one hand, he can strike and repel all obstacles. Along with removing obstacles, he can also put them in our way to prevent us from going down the wrong path. This is all part and parcel of Ganesha’s seat within the mental plane, where he organizes and clears the mind so that greater awareness may flow into it. It is this clarity of vision and understanding, bestowed by Lord Ganesha, which leads to success and abundance in life.

In any murti, or statue, Lord Ganesh has only one tusk; this is because he tore the other one off to scribe the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. Thus he is also considered a patron of literature.

Ganapati also teaches us that knowledge and dharma, our inherent duty and purpose in life, are of the utmost importance, even worth sacrificing pride and material possessions to attain.

The vahana, or vehicle, of Ganesha is a tiny mouse, which he is always shown upon. It is said that the contradiction between the heaviness of the elephant and the lightness of the mouse is an illustration of Ganesha’s role as one who brings about unity, balance and harmony.

It is fitting that Ganesha Chaturthi also occurs at a time of year which, for many, is a time of transition and change. We now begin to move from summer into the decline of the seasons. Children are off to school and we're all moving from our active summer lifestyles back into work and a different daily routine. Ganesha Chaturthi signals the perfect time to embark upon new projects, to initiate new learning, to establish new relationships and to breathe new life into our current endeavours.

May Lord Ganesha remove obstacles, steer you onto the right path and guide you through this season to prosperity and success!

My Father, My Guru
By: Krista Ford

My father’s physical body is nearing its end. Some might say that he is dying, but I see that he is evolving, that his spirit is simply outgrowing his body. Plato said, “Death is nothing more than a migration of the soul from this place to another.”

As I looked into my father’s eyes, a man who has given much of himself to others, a man who has been and continues to be greatly honored because of his gentle ways, I knew that he, a man who has never practiced asanas, has been practicing yoga his entire life.

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease over ten years ago and now lives within the ending stages of it. During my most recent visit with him, he became my greatest yoga teacher. He was always graceful, leading a non-harming life to the best of his abilities. I can honestly say, anyone that has ever come into his presence leaves a better person. 

A man once in control of his body, he no longer waltzes smoothly across the dance floor. Over years, his deliberate gentle steps on earth gradually grew to a shuffle. He went from using a cane, to a walker, and then a wheelchair. Now he is confined to a hospital bed. He lives at a constant forty-five degree angle to prevent pneumonia from hugging his lungs. Bit by bit, his physical body sheds parts of itself, like layers unraveling from an onion, but his mind is filled with true importance. 

He embraces the disease with a quiet acceptance as his muscles continue to atrophy all around him, yet he still portrays utmost grace. He accepts the changes, what was given and what is taken and though there have been moments of aggravation and anger, he always returns to an infinite state of grace. He doesn’t coin it as such, but it’s a strong yoga practice, a state of grace that is reflective of the heart of yoga. 

As I massaged his feet, his eyes closed, I heard him release AUM with each touch.  He lives completely within the moment. As I kneaded my father beneath my hands, and needed him within my heart, I whispered, Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu, “may all beings be happy, peaceful and free from suffering.” I hugged him good-bye and all I could say was, “I love you. I’ll see you at home.”

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

About the Author:
Krista Ford is a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance.  She teaches Flow Yoga for The Zen Room in Cocoa Village, Florida, and for the YMCA in Cocoa.

Yoga instructor raises $2,500 to fund cleft palate surgeries in India

Yoga Instructor John Calabria recently led a yoga class in Framingham, Massachusetts to benefit SmileTrain, a charity focused solely on providing free cleft palate surgeries in developing nations.

SmileTrain helps children who were born both disfigured and into poverty. In many cases, these children are unable to talk, eat properly, or even attend school. Hidden away, they suffer in silence and isolation. The modern-day medical miracle of cleft repair surgery costs an average of only $250 in these developing countries and gives a desperate child not just a new smile, but a new life.

Mystic Fitness owner Amy Karibian donated the use of her Framingham studio for the event. The initial goal of the fundraiser was to fill the yoga studio and raise $500, enough for two surgeries. The donations started to trickle, then poured in. In the end, a total of $2,500 was raised, enough to help ten children smile for the first time. Calabria's SmileTrain benefit was such a great success, he plans to offer another this fall.

About the Author:
John Calabria is a yoga instructor in Maynard, Massachusetts.  He can be contacted through is website:

Got an opinion?  Send us Your Comments ...

Odd Spot:
Yoga nudie sparks police search

A UK man recently sparked a major police search after two sets of clothes were found abandoned on a beach. The hunt, which involved lifeboat crews, ended up costing UK taxpayers 10,000 pounds.

Before police divers joined the search, a man in his '40s from Margate, UK, turned up at a police station in his boxers and solved the mystery. He told officers that he had been practicing yoga on the beach and took two sets of clothes along with him, in case he lost the first.

Apparently, he went home without either set. It is not known whether this man will be participating in future studies of the effects of yoga on memory.

Source: ANI

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In This Issue
Olympic Yoga
De-sanskritized Yoga
Ganesha Chaturthi
My Father, My Guru
Seva for cleft pallette surgury
Yoga nudie sparks search
yoga classified ads
this month's poll
site news and updates

 The Yoga News
 your monthly yoga e-zine



Teresa Goff

Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani
Krista Ford
John Calabria




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