Yoga Mala
The Seminal Guide to
Ashtanga Yoga by
The Living Master

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
(North Point Press)

This Yoga business is not for the faint of heart. First, you should stay away from certain fleshly delights: no messing around with the Vital Bodily Fluids. Know thyself, because if you don't, you'll have to come back for rebirth in what Jois calls "this sapless and despicable world."

Always tell the truth unless it is "unpleasant;" if it's not pleasant, shut up. Also, never "cheat someone with sweet words." And don't talk so much, because "speech related to mundane matters destroys the power of the tongue, and shortens our life spans."

So, instead of going around getting laid, and blabbing, especially about getting laid, practice Santosha. This is "keeping the mind focused in a single direction, always being happy, and never feeling regret for any reason."

It's OK to have sex with your wife, but only at night --- but know that night isn't what you imagine it to be:

    If during the night, the breath is felt to be moving through the surya nadi [the right nostril], then that is to be regarded as the daytime, and during that period, copulation and the like are not to occur.

Also, avoid hanging around with crumb-bums, what the author refers to as "undesirable or uncultured people."

Food? No veggies, because by eating vegetables, "diseases expand." So what can you put in your mouth? Wheat. Milk. Ginger. Mung beans. "Half-churned curds," whatever that is. And, gack, "snake gourd."

The practice of Yoga should be in a place that is "spotlessly clean and level, have windows, and be suitable for smearing with cow dung." I'm wondering, as I am reading this, what would my sweet Granny Eugenia, armed with Dutch Cleanser and Ammonia, say to this "cow dung" business. (In India, it is considered a cleaning agent for floors. Can you imagine packaging it in a box with a picture of a contented pooping cow, labeling it "Happy Cow Floor Dung-Flop Clean-Up?")

§     §     §

There are over sixty yoga positions described, complete with photographs. Included are such tongue-twisters as Pindasana, Padangushtasana, Paschimattanasana, and the baddest of them all, Baddha Padmasana. Surya Namaskara is good for curing "leprosy, epilepsy, and jaundice." Janu Shirshansana ameliorates burning while urinating, semen loss, and diabetes --- but one should be careful to avoid "excessive coffee drinking, indiscriminate movements [and] the sight of bad things."

Exact directions may fuddle the inexperienced. For Marichyasana C, one must sit "in the same position as Marichyasana B," then

    stretch the left leg out, press the right foot to the right buttock, as in Marichyasana A, straighten the chest, turn the waist toward the right, bring the left arm around the front of the right knee, twisting the left hand and arm around toward the back, bring the right arm around the back and grasp the left wrist with the right hand, straighten and turn the waist fully, doing rechaka and paraka as much as possible.

If you don't get it, don't sweat it. Just get a Guru. "Yoga should never be learned from reading books or looking at pictures, " says the author of Yoga Mala --- complete with its sixty-six photographs.

--- S. A. Lindblad

Go Up     Subscribe     Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH