Saturday, August 13, 2011


An Ashtanga practitioner named Norman Blair has written a three-part op-ed on Ashtanga Vinyasa that's now on Elephant Journal. 

Two narrative strands run throughout the piece. The first is Blair's disenchantment with Ashtanga Vinyasa as a vehicle to get him where he thought it might take him, a presentation of the model of enlightenment to which he subscribes.

The second strand is Blair's criticism of Ashtanga Vinyasa both as a system and as the current lineage-holders, Sharath and Saraswati, are carrying it forth.

I was disappointed that his discussion of the latter are full of speculation, rumor, and the re-presentation of third- or fourth-hand quotes, stories, and oft-repeated Ashtanga Vinyasa cliches.

So while he introduces general quotes about the nature of practice from people like, for example, the Zen Buddhist Dogen and a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Blair's criticism of Ashtanga lacks the citation of any sources, the attribution of any direct quotes, and any of the statistics to support any of his more serious claims.

For example, a teacher of Ashtanga Vinyasa broke someone's femur? Really? Who, when, and how? The practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa breaks knees? How many, how frequently, and in comparison to what other systems of Yoga?

In effect, how do I know that any of the anonymous quotes or sentiments he uses were in fact made by real, valid, and most importantly, sane people? There's absolutely no context.

What's more, in any statements that might be taken as critical of Sharath and Saraswati, Blair engages in verbal distancing and does not directly mention them, the Mysore Jois Center, or the Jois Centers now opening worldwide.

The Box: Being Outside, Looking Inside: An Ashtanga Story