Native Yoga Toddcast

Eric Shaw ~ The Sacred Thread of Yoga Philosophy

October 06, 2022 Todd Mclaughlin / Eric Shaw Season 1 Episode 84
Native Yoga Toddcast
Eric Shaw ~ The Sacred Thread of Yoga Philosophy
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Show Notes Transcript

Ever wonder if there is more to yoga than yoga postures? Join my guest Eric Shaw for a discussion around his new book called Sacred Thread: A Comprehensive Yoga Timeline: 2000 Events that Shaped Yoga History.  Eric’s teachings and passions have been influenced significantly by his teachers, in particular Shandor Remete and Rod Stryker. You can visit Eric on his website at prasanayoga.com and you can purchase a copy of Eric's new book on Amazon here.

During this conversation we discussed:

  • the history and philosophy of yoga
  • the timeline associated with modern yoga
  • the origins of yoga in relation to the archeological findings at Mohenjo-daro
  • Eric's experience with Iyengar yoga
  • What yoga was like on the West Coast of USA during its peak
  • Yoga as a global realization vs. a cultural specific identity

and quite a few more topics.

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LinkedIn: Todd McLaughlin

Todd McLaughlin:

Welcome to Native yoga Todd qcast. So happy well, thanks for tuning in. Real quick native Yoga Center is you are here. My goal with this channel is to bring located in beautiful Juno Beach, Florida, and online, wherever you are. Join me for practice, click the free live stream link in the show notes and get your practice growing. I am so excited to have the opportunity to join in conversation with Eric Shaw today. Please find him on his website, Prasanna yoga.com PRASAY lga.com. You can click the link in the description to easily access his work. He is the author of a book inspirational speakers to the mic in the field of yoga, called BKs Iyengar and the Making of Modern yoga. And he has also just released a new book called sacred thread. Comprehensive yoga timeline 2000 events that shaped yoga history. Yeah, yes. Thank you, Eric. And I'm so happy to have this chance to speak with you. I love yoga philosophy. And you've done a lot study. And on that note, can you fill me and listener in on? Are you have you gotten your doctorate in, in yoga studies? massage bodywork and beyond. Follow us native yoga, and check

Eric Shaw:

No, I I've done a lot of a lot of academic work. I started a doctoral program in 2004, finished my studies in 2011 pretty much got the knowledge base that I desired at that time, I was able to parlay that into Not for practical us out at Native yoga center.com. All right, let's begin purposes, it's kind of like it's I feel like it's something I want to do prior to sort of like a life name, you But yeah, I didn't get it done at that point in my life. And I could talk all day about that way it didn't happen. But I did get a master's degree out of it. And that, and I got a knowledge base. And it was it was quite useful for me for writing work and lecturing work in the yoga world.

Todd McLaughlin:

Nice. Well, when you you had to write a thesis for your masters, I'm guessing. Yes, yes. What did you base that on?

Eric Shaw:

I based it on the likes of bkF. Anger, did a very deep study of him. Partly because his followers were so prominent in the Bay Area where it was work in San Francisco. And because that system, according to my training was so alien to me. And so confronted. It's, as everyone knows, who studied it, it's arguably the most comprehensive yoga system out there. You know, unless you win win to some ancient system, perhaps as far as the modern systems go, its complexity. Its philosophy, its understanding the body and the way that it's set up structurally to function and function in yoga is very clear and vastly articulated. So in the people who teach it, have a pedagogy pedagogical, pedagogical style, a teaching style, which is strangely aggressive waste Say, and all those things were quite confronted to me when I arrived in the Bay Area in 2004. After training in Kripalu Yoga and other forms of yoga, which were much more meditative, much more I thought holistic based in prana Yama based based in spiritual aims. Here I was faced with this very physical culturalist yoga, which some people from that tradition might argue with me as characterizing it that way. But to me, it was so body centric and so awesomeness centric. And that I think it's that's kind of strange to say in the year 2022, because yoga has become more and more and more and more and more centric. I mean, it's been a processes happening for hundreds of years. But it seems like it's only been accelerated, it's come into the American context. But for me, that was difficult. And part of my working that out with to write this mono mono focal paper on my anger.

Todd McLaughlin:

Wow, did you well, actually, let me back up so I can get a timeline of your history of practice. When did you start practicing yoga? What was your first introduction to the yoga world?

Eric Shaw:

It's kind of an interesting, funny story, given my history. I, my parents were ministers. And they were very open minded liberal ministers. They come from the west coast. So it's very much different from the south where I'm living now. And so yeah, good. Yeah, yeah. Me talking about Christianity in this part of the world. But where I came from, and they were liberals, they were, you know, anti war protesters. They were raging leftist. So I did get a political orientation and my Christian experience, but it wasn't a right wing one, it was a radical left wing. So that was my background. And so there was a certain openness there to intellectuality at all levels. So when I told my parents I was an atheist, they didn't bat an eye. When I told my parents that I was into Eastern traditions and studying Buddhism and meditation, they didn't bat an eye, you know. So that became my practice very early on in my early 20s, and very much a life saving practice, because my mind was kind of out of control. And it may still sound that way. But meditation helped me control my life. And I dive right into Maine have maintained that practice to this very day. Nice. So like, I did some early investigation and Buddhist traditions. And it wasn't till the early 90s that I joined Siddha Yoga, which is the Hindu tradition, I actually did that in the midst of a time I was studying Christianity and a Religious Studies degree in many Minneapolis, Minnesota. But that kind of opened the Hindu world to me a little bit. And then when I started practicing Hatha Yoga in 2000, then I started to investigate Hinduism more properly and understand how different it was from the Buddhist tradition, how much richer how much more embracing of the human experience and all of its aspects and even culture in all of its aspects. And so it was incredibly compelling to me, given my background and I pretty much you know, it became a gestalt experience for me, I just dive right into it.

Todd McLaughlin:

Wow. You made mention of the appreciation for the ion guard tradition and ion guards guru being Krishna moratoria. Did you investigate indoor practice with any other teachers under that lineage?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I'm actually quite a few. I mean, the Bay Area, as I said, was a hotbed of strong Iyengar teachers. So it was easy to study with strong teachers who not only came to town to teach, but who were residents there. So my chief preceptors practice Tony Briggs and he had a relationship to Chanda Rehman Tae, who was my primary teacher, a teacher I'd met actually was still in Portland, Oregon and before 2004 started studying with Matt Hewish at the time, who was a primary follower of Shan Dora and Shandur. Strange to talk about Shandra in the Iyengar context, because few people even know that he studied with angry actually stayed with him for 20 years, extremely long time and he was actually the president of the anger yoga Federation in Australia. But he made a jump to the embrace of martial arts and Bharatnatyam yoga, or rather Indian dance and he integrated into practices that he claimed to have learned at the Chidambaram temple in India into a new form that he called Shadow yoga. He's continued to evolve his forms and change the names of them, but I learned from him and His teaching was profound and very vinyasa based very movement based. But he was an Iyengar teacher. And then Tony, Tony had work with Shand, or so that was my connection with Tony. But Tony was a classic, my inner teacher, I mean, he was gonna put you in a pose and hold you there and break it down into all its constituent parts in which muscles are engaged in released in yada yada, yada. So that training and other Ramadan Patel and other big names in the Bay Area helped me understand Asana run the alignment perspective, which I feel is, is very, very important. I mean, it's at so many levels. But then I also worked with Paul Grilley, who was into kind of destroying the whole line, that concept. So I got a lot of a lot of input around yogic philosophy and yoga practice in those years that are invaluable.

Todd McLaughlin:

Nice, just basing to touch upon what you just mentioned, I've enjoyed watching Paul Gillies work around anatomy and say in yoga, can you explain how Paul release philosophy does shatter that existing idea of alignment that you were studying? Can you give me what what? Tell me what that means? Or what that sounds like?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, yeah. And it's a good story. I think for anybody who wants to be a serious practitioner of yoga, I think it's important to understand alignment principles, particularly from the anger perspective, but it's also very important to understand their limits. And Paul has done the spade work, he's done the deep work in defining those limits. And I'm just shocked that so few people know his work, because it's, it's utterly revolutionary, even if you don't have anger as a conversation partner for it. So Paul Grilley, you know, he's ostensibly known for his work in yin yoga. And that's how I first understood him and met him in yoga was my actually my teaching practice early on, because he was one of the first major teachers I met in Portland, Oregon, I wrote a small profile for him for a local yoga magazine, and we got to be friends. And then he went, he started working with the parent of my front of IU, the front of my kind of my ethics exam, and it's a was an early video company making, you know, on yoga, you know, and when DVD still exists, yes, a group of people there in San Francisco, who I met and hanging out with, and then Paul was a part of that group, and he came down to do yoga videos there. And so he wrote, when I was there, in San Francisco, he recorded his yoga anatomy, DVD, which, in which he distills all of his knowledge around bony limits in the body. So it's the skeletal structure of the body, which determines which poses you can get and in which you can't. And that's, I know, that's a very black and white statement. But it's actually quite true that the soft tissue, of course, creates limits that we can push through in the attempt to attain any given Asana. And that's what i Yang or practices based on limitlessly. And that's the air limitlessly. What, what really determined and demonstrated directly in that DVD by comparing different human bodies, that the length of your bones, the orientation of the bones, in a given joint, the way it spirals out of that joint, the way it engages with the next joint in the chain determines whether or not any given poses even available. And that's for a yoga teacher, who is attempting to guide students of different shapes and sizes in proposes that knowledge is absolutely critical. And particularly if you've been trained in iyengar yoga, because it does not integrate that knowledge. In fact, it's kind of philosophically opposed to it.

Todd McLaughlin:

Yeah. Interesting. Because of the idea that say, there's a limitless potential, therefore, we're gonna ignore a bone on bone contact and still assume that I can just keep going deeper and deeper and deeper until infinity. Is that Is that how you see the basis of the ion gar philosophy?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, it's not only that, but it's also the idea. And I don't know if this is still current. I mean, as I preface you know, I've been out of the yoga world for about five years. So I'm here in Dallas and kind of a small little bubble of yoga practice and I'm not really tracking what's been going on carefully that used to be where I used to be Have My Fingers everywhere. But you know that what was held as kind of central tenet of iyengar yoga was that, and I'm saying this because I don't know if it's still current in your circles or even anywhere anymore, is that if you couldn't do a yoga pose, because you had a psychic block, it wasn't a physiological challenge. It was a psychic channels. And so it was an ethical challenge. It was like, in a way, the implication was there is a you're a bad person, if you can do you know, pinching my Eros. And it's, it's definitely there's a progression of practice in terms of putting effort and learning. But if there is a stuckness kind of block, that's because your karma is in the way.

Todd McLaughlin:

Great point. And so have you practice with batavi? Joyce?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, he came to San Francisco and I was able to study with him for about a week for I remember correctly. Yeah. So yeah, kind of touched the master, then that was nice.

Todd McLaughlin:

And respect to that there. When I had a chance to go to Mysore and practice with him, I, I came in contact with what you're talking about, about, you know, hitting a point of feeling like, Okay, this is about as far as I could, or maybe should go for healthy boundaries, that, then you know, it's a psychic block, or you're holding on to some baggage and or some karma from a previous life or something of that sort that's causing you to not be able to go further. And so then, with that being said that there obviously there's a similarity within the Ashtanga world in the yangarra Your world I in gar yoga world do you feel like with their guru that it must have stemmed from that tradition and Krishnamacharya is teachings?

Eric Shaw:

That's actually a good guess. I mean, I've never seen it in black and white. I've never seen it, and then the retiree is writing the quotes from him. But maybe it's an idea that floats around in the Indian tradition, or it's something that comes it could be coming directly from Krishna Acharya.

Todd McLaughlin:

Do you? Do you think that the work that Paul has done Paul Grilley in relation to observing the limitations of say, a bone on bone connection, or at least the skeletal system as and then studying each different body size and shape and bone length and like what you mentioned in terms of, you know, everyone's got this different, unique set of skeletal structure that they're, that's almost like a more secularization process that could have come out of, I guess, if I backtrack a little bit, if I read, say Paramahansa Yogananda, his book Autobiography of a Yogi, and you read about these really fantastic things that Yogi's were doing or can do in India, that can defy physics, you know, define our modern understanding of physics. Now, that may be in India, in the old days, there was a plaintiff, either they had the ability to defy physics, or they use the idea of the ability to defy physics to build up to Guru status. That was really do you think Lee hacking in on like, wait, wait, wait, you know, was that stuff true or real? And what is possible? What are your thoughts regarding that?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, and that's a fascinating interface, right? It's the subjective experience of the body, and in a sense of subjective power over the world. I mean, that's kind of a strange phrase. But we if we believe in miracles, if we believe that, and I don't think actually miracles are even miracles, I don't think that the metaphysical world kind of taps into video, I don't think the metaphysical world is as meta, I think there is a more subtle energy that vibrates within life forms, that has not yet been measured, I think it will be measured, it will be utilized, as fully as electromagnetism is now, all the forms of electromagnetism, you know, light and microwaves and et cetera, et cetera. But we just haven't scaled it back to that kind of increment in the spectrum. And that, at that, at that level, in the spectrum, use manipulate, manipulated by Will and intention. And if you look at the world in this, from this point of view, it all makes sense. It's there is no metaphysics. There is no spirituality, there is no miracle. Everything is either a manipulation of gross matter, or subtle matter. And, of course, in the Indian tradition, the stock and trade is too invest in the subtle control the subjective control of life force to to move behind gross reality behind the empirical reality behind what we've measured in western science, because it is arguably more powerful. And things can be done. from that vantage point from that leverage point, even look at Jesus, that cannot be done from a grocer leverage point might say, less informed leverage point a more ignorant, blunter place from a deeper, more subtle place, you can control more things. Wow. And so that that idea, because it's so prevalent in the Indian tradition, and frankly, from an objective point of view, because Indian bodies are thinner, they operate in a warm climate, they're less compounded by stress. They can do more of these flexible things, even from an objective standpoint, they aren't focused on a more empirical, physiological, Western, you know, medical allopathic model of medicine that makes us look at what the bones can and cannot do. So it's never been an integrated.

Todd McLaughlin:

Wow. That's fascinating.

Eric Shaw:

One way around.

Todd McLaughlin:

No, I like it. Thank you. I'm so Wow. All right. Well, your book with the new title 2000. Sorry, let me make sure I get this right. I'm gonna say just 2000 events? Did you literally write out 2000 different events? Or how's that title? Work into the way that you've tried to structure your study and telling of yoga history?

Eric Shaw:

Thank you for that question. Yeah, you kind of freed me to talk about how the book was formed. And the form it takes, which I think is very unique form. I mean, if I can be so bold, I think there's no book like it in the yoga universe. And it is a very comprehensive and well researched history. And it's easy, it makes it very easy to consume, because it's basically like 2000 tweets, it's there. Most of the entries are fairly short. Occasionally, there's a longer entry. But it allows you to kind of just, you know, you're like it, like you're eating potato chips, one little event after another. And so it's consumable, it's quite consumable. But the book started when I started my PhD program, because I'm my kind of organized reality historically, and culturally. And, you know, the way that cultural culture more formed form I needed, I see the world in terms of timelines very much, it's very much a way that I organize reality, I wanted to put it down on paper. So I, I started that way back in 2004. And as the years went on, and I continue to expand it very late in the game, about two, three years ago, I realized, I either had a dissertation on my hand, or I had a popular book. And I kind of held out on the dissertation piece I, I went to like sports and bitter British system universities, where you can just show up with a dissertation and get your PhD anthology, you know, I've already got the, the bedrock of this skeleton of this, I'll just write it out into a full yoga history. And I'll present that to a British style university in Australia or England, or UK and you're in there in the Commonwealth somewhere and get my PhD make it easy on myself, but I just that never happened. And I just let Eric just make this a popular book and publish it. So that's what I did, I spent probably about nine months tripling or quadrupling the size of it, until I got to over 200 pages, and researched all the topics that I hadn't focused on and left out, you know, things like yoga competitions, or the or the biography of a certain yoga master. Some of the things we don't are not readily familiar with in our American western context, things, things that were going on in China, where there's a huge view of the universe most of us are not even aware of where have I just tracked a lot of things that I hadn't tracked and kept kind of filling the, you know, the discussion between yoga and Christianity and yoga and Judaism. There's a lot of rich stuff there. stuff all over the map that I hadn't covered so I expanded it and rewrote it edited it made the introduction to a clearer and until it was it was a legitimate book and was able to put it out there so that's that's how I've attained its current form. Wow.

Todd McLaughlin:

That's amazing what a process he said since 2004 was kind of like the inception of of you starting this, this, this book.

Eric Shaw:

You Yeah, and at that point, the point that it reached about 40 pages, I actually put it up on my website is a saleable item. So earlier forms of it are kind of out there, people bought it. But yeah, so yeah, it's been a long time coming.

Todd McLaughlin:

almost 20 years in the making. That's amazing. I can't wait to read it. I apologize. I have not read it prior to this conversation. But what I will do is read it, and then come back with some more questions. But just in what you brought up. The first thing we said you have your competitions, I definitely want to ask you some stuff about that. But what also really piqued my interest is yoga and China. That's something I hadn't really thought about. Because, you know, obviously yoga has this. We want to give credit to India for being the birthplace of yoga. I would also I'm curious if, if we track back further than that, would we need to say that yoga was born if we believe that the first humans are from Africa? But we would need to say that yoga really is the birthplace? India is the birthplace of yoga. Do you agree with that?

Eric Shaw:

Well, that's also brings up a lot of interesting subtle questions. If we, how do we learn yoga, do we learn yoga? Well, there's all kinds of legitimate ways to lens yoga, it is a cultural construct, it is a cultural construct, that comes from the Indian tradition and can be sourced back 1000s of years in Indian tradition, we have texts, we have archaeological evidence, and we have the modern practices, which often retain and unchanging states have what we call ortho practice or support, or orthodox forms of doing things, we see that a text in the Indian tradition. Actually until recently, modernity has really touched it strongly and pushed it strongly but it's been a very stable and evolving culture, but it's kept true to its cultural forms. So, yoga can be oriented in yoga can be oriented as a world evolution as a world practice that is evolving at a global level in it, but it also can be lens as kundalini science, and the minute you lens it as kundalini Vidya Kundalini science, it becomes sort of what you suggested, it becomes merely something that is it logic is a logically encoded in the human form and therefore is timeless or it is eternal at the human body. And therefore you can say, oh, there was yoga in Africa. Because this is Stuart's busking frames that the Kundalini awakening process is a natural and inevitable process, or the karmic experience of an individual through various lifetimes. And therefore, it is, like an inevitable puberty. At some point, some of us or all of us will all experience if we keep returning and keep evolving. So in that respect, yoga is truly timeless. But to steer back around this specific question on your 120, China, the The interesting thing about the powerful, powerful culture and ancient culture of India, the powerful, powerful and ancient culture of China, um, they have some basic differences in their orientation. But the most interesting thing to me is how divided they have remained because of their particular geographies. The Himalayan mountain range in the jungles of Southeast Asia, have really separated these two cultures so that they've been able to develop separately, and the dialogue with that might naturally exist between two mass cultures that were so powerful and therefore, expected to be in conversation and mutual influence, have not happened anywhere near as much as we might suspect. There's been very, very, very much two different directions of evolution because of the geographical boundaries of those two countries. And in this day, because of the geopolitical boundaries, because they're, they're opposed to each other kind of physical, you know, psychically to go back to that term. I mean, there's a, there's very much a different sense of life and what it what it consists of in India as opposed to how it consists of life in China so they don't blend as readily. I mean, I might even argue that American Indian blend better than Indian

Todd McLaughlin:

interesting, but,

Eric Shaw:

but to steer back to my initial comments, That is not to say that because the modern world has valorized yoga and made it kind of the secular religion of a certain subset of our culture and a very powerful one that that hasn't been taken up by China, it's been taken up by China radically. I mean, as you know, when I was working in Asia, there was 30,000 yoga studios in China back, you know, like seven years ago, I mean, I know what it is now. It's massive, and they have stores, a lot of Indian teachers because they're close. And because you can pay lower wages to Indian teachers and China tend to tend to have a slower economy than ours. So it's definitely going to speed. So. And then, because of the indigenous traditions of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, and the easy overlap of those conceptual frameworks, the human body and life force, there's been a lot of syncretic evolution of yoga and the Chinese traditions that have become modernized. So yeah, yoga is blooming madly in China.

Todd McLaughlin:

Wow. On that note, then, what is your observation of yoga in American culture? Currently, I feel like you made mention, the time that you were able to practice in West Coast, San Francisco, and you mentioned in Seattle, that, I mean, I live in Florida. So I've always looked at what was happening on the West Coast of America is like there was a few years ahead. And in terms of yoga for sure. Like, when I finally got a chance to live in San Diego was like, I couldn't throw a rock and not hit a yoga studio. It was everywhere. And there was great teachers everywhere. There was amazing teachers on every corner. And so but around about I want to say like between 2002 1000 Ford and a little later, 2008, it seemed like it was just going crazy here in the States. Yeah, I don't know, if I'm making a correct assumption or observation that it seems like it's stabilized. I don't want to say it's gotten less popular, but it just feels like it. It's at a stable place. What what is your what do you think?

Eric Shaw:

You know, that's my perception, too. But I think just like you, I have to kind of draw that back a bit, because I'm not in living in San Francisco. But yeah, that's also my sense. And if we look at the kind of influx of Eastern traditions into the American context, and their kind of arc of popularity, and then kind of dwindling down into integration into society, maybe it's followed that pattern that you know, karate did and Kung Fu, you know, back in the 70s, you know, they came in strong. And now you can still I can drive around Dallas, and I can see karate studios, I can see, you know, I haven't seen kung fu in a while, but I definitely see martial art studios, almost everywhere. It's just become a part of the culture not wanted to celebrate it on the front of magazine covers anymore. But you're right, yeah, that's kind of like what you say is kind of my sense, too. It's like, there was just this frenzy in the early 2000s. And it continued for quite a while. And then it continued, you know, clear into 215 or so and but then it started to kind of just become part of the web of culture and not so much that we make something that we make a big deal out of anymore. It's not that you need more exotic, it's lost its exotic edge,

Todd McLaughlin:

which kind of seems like a necessary evolution, evolutionary track, almost like that's a natural, that seemed like a natural progression, like, nothing just constantly seems like the most new and fascinating thing ever, at some point. So I guess it could be to our benefit, that it's hitting some sort of stabilization and or integration mode, where it it's it's here, would you agree or what are your thoughts on the fact that I am the fact that I'm even aware of yoga? And I know there's these ideas that yoga we could say is based on your differentiation between Kundalini Yoga, which might be a human phenomenon, no matter what time space continuum beforehand versus you know, the study of it having some sort of origin or and or a lot of text coming out of India that we have access to that. It has like a history of 5000 years is that a number like that's the number we always hear like yoga is 5000 years old. Is that in your studies? What What would you how would you base that number? What do you think is an accurate way of explaining that or talking about it?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I mean, scholars differ on this. I mean that the key evidence is the evidence is that the Pashupati seals and the small terracotta sculptures from the Indus Saraswati civilization that goes back 3000 years before the birth of Christ. So if you, if you peg, the origins of yoga to those archaeological discoveries, yoga is 5000 years old. And I'm comfortable saying that, because I think that evidence is quite conclusive. And I can, I can talk a blue streak as to why I believe that to be true. A lot of scholars, you know, I feel nitpick, they, they resist seeing the forest for the trees, and they'll, they'll say, oh, that, you know, the posture. Potty seal is just the set of seals they find about these things are just, oh, it's just a king sitting on a throne or yada, yada. But if you pick apart the iconography of that image, in a careful way, there's just way too many things appointed to the practice for it to just be coincidence, or, or I think some other cultural forms. So and because of the stability of Indian culture, and because of what we know about the other kind of religious forms of the is culture or in Sarasvati culture, we can probably guess, that you're probably doing Yes. And and there's also evidence in the Vedas, they just go back, you know, 1200 years before the birth of Christ. And there's a lot of evidence in there that points to yoga practices that are not exclusively called Yoga. And it's not necessarily Kundalini Vidya. But there are groups of individuals, crotches and kesin, Moonies and whatnot that are doing a lot of things that look a lot like yoga.

Todd McLaughlin:

Nice, great answer. And I guess with that being said, I think that if we had this huge, you know, popularization here in our culture, and if there is some sort of, like stabilization and or like integration process happening where, you know, like you said, maybe it's not like the most, you know, cover of every single magazine that we're hearing about, do you think it's safe to say no, we're not trying to predict the future here that Yogo probably will be around forever and ever like, I don't think it's something that will be like a Jazzercise or physical fitness fad. A peloton bike. Nothing against peloton, but you know, like that it that it will be around forever.

Eric Shaw:

Yeah. Yeah, I think I agree with that perception. I think you're gonna be around forever, in relation and partly because of its history, you know, it has a lot of cultural momentum.

Todd McLaughlin:

Do you sometimes I have had a chance to take a course with Greg fairstein and he had a he has a 800 hour online distance course that took me a couple of years to get through that gave me a good really kind of put me to the study plan and, you know, reading and writing and focusing on trying to learn the history. And I'm curious if what your perception is of your readings of his work. Are you a fan? Do you have critique? What are your thoughts?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I mean, your steam was kind of the first popular yoga scholar. I mean, he did a lot of great work, you know, real early on publish some texts that, you know, still sellers today. He was kind of the best source at the time. But he's been pretty profoundly transcended by people in the hot yoga project, Tim Mallinson, Daniela Bella Cova, and Mark Singleton, the guy who got $4 million from the European Research Council to maybe it was 5,000,004 or 5 million, 4 million to you know, pull up all these ancient texts and and find the new recensions of them that hadn't been looked at before research all these old Indian libraries, visit sites in India, draw scholars together write new critical editions of all the Indian texts and figure out the very exact progression of Hatha Yoga history from about the year 1000 to the present day. So, I mean, that happens in every, you know, every scientific endeavor, you know, every every research areas transcended by the following generation that research so, Feuerstein was, you know, for his time he was unique, there was really nobody out there. There was no scholar in the popular sphere who is spreading the knowledge from deep study to everyday readers, but he did that work. But he says then transmitted by others.

Todd McLaughlin:

Can you give me an idea of maybe something that I would have learned from fairstein that's been transcended, like, something that the lights been shine on that that? Oh, wow, we didn't we didn't see that, or what is an example of that? Is there something that comes to mind?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I probably could have tracked that more carefully, like five years ago.

Todd McLaughlin:

I know it's a random question. needle in the haystack. With that, I know it's a very like needle in a haystack question specific, but I just or I guess, more, more broad. What? Yeah, what isn't a nice

Eric Shaw:

break with your scene has been made. But at that time, five or six years ago, there was some criticism of his work that was more specific that my mind is not grabbing hold of right now a problem. I think some of his suggestions around shamanism being the roots of yoga didn't have much grounding. In fact, there were more speculation. The first thing that comes to mind, there was a few other points that were a bit critical. But I'm having a hard time sourcing them right now.

Todd McLaughlin:

What are your thoughts with the connection of shamanism and yoga? Because that is an idea that I've always heard and thought, a logical progression? You know, what it? Where do you stand on that?

Eric Shaw:

Well, shamanism, per se, has a different geographical purview than yoga, it's more something that's been practiced in Northern Asia, it's something you find in Mongolia, it's something you find that I've actually been in those contexts and experienced it firsthand a little bit. And it's very much it's a nature religion, it's a little bit like the weekend traditions of Europe. It's, it's sourced in the middle bit like voodoo a little bit sourced in like, magical views of the world. And the manipulation of primal forces, a natural forces, animal spirits, and whatnot. And there's some of that in yoga, but yoga, and I know this is gonna sound a little contradictory to what I've seen, it really is, is much more scientific. It's really, it's really much more anthropomorphic, it's much more interested in looking at the body, and figuring out how to manipulate the body in very specific ways. And even though it might take the name of an animal for a given pose, that early on, in my study, I suspected that that came from some more animistic tradition, understanding of how the body works, but since then, I've kind of abandoned that idea. And that's, that would be a primary link to shamanism, is it? Like, you know, if we're trying to imitate the energy of an eagle and Eagle Pose, you know, that's a very shamanistic concept. But that's not really my sense, so much anymore, that that there was a animistic conversation going on in the Hindu tradition. It's really don't find it really don't find it in the kind of shamanistic worldview. I mean, partly because it was just more organized for people you had, you had more of a city culture. I mean, that's a strange thing. And people don't realize that the yoga, even though we claim it naturally grew out of a civic context, grew out of a dialogue in the MaHA jhana pod. And the early cities of the second urbanization in India, that were people were actually in contradistinction to the civilizing forces. It's not something that came up I mean, shamanism comes up in a, in a pastoral context, it comes up in an agrarian context, it doesn't grow up in a civic context. So that's partly the difference. And when you're in a civic context, it's much more intellectually driven. It's not so much you know, spiritual incantation or seance, you know, intuitional response to the world it's a much more intellectual response to the world, even though it's not our sense of modern.

Todd McLaughlin:

And you're saying Siddiq, Sid. Ha, ha. Chai? Civic sci fi. I'm so sorry. First, a city, like the cities, and that's why I wanted to differentiate in a civic culture makes more sense. I totally understand now. Thank you. Yeah. Yes. What is your idea? Like you mentioned, say, Eagle Pose. And when I first got into yoga, I figured, Well, someone probably looked at an eagle and they look, they made this posture and then they thought, yeah, let's name it an eagle like it. Maybe it looks like a beak or maybe it's like the wings coming up and wrapping around and And then obviously we have you know stories of Garuda and in relation to like maybe the Ramayana and or different folklore texts and or Mahabharata. Do you? What are your thoughts in relation to the connection of the stories such as Mahabharata, and the yoga posture names?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I think it's that simple. I think it's just a facsimile. It's just Yeah, cow face pose. It looks like a cow's face. Yeah, it's not. It's not that we're trying to take on the consciousness. Not that that's not a bad thing. That's not an expressed part of the yoga practice.

Todd McLaughlin:

Because the yoga history and philosophy world is Oh, enormous. I mean, just enormous. And I really can't wait to read your book, because you would kind of need 2000 tweets or statements to start to encompass it. And I love the fact that you made mention, like the way with your parents and your upbringing that when you said, now in this, they didn't flinch, you know, they're like, cool, you know, explore that. Where do you gravitate toward now when there's such rich diversity between you know, theistic traditions, atheistic traditions and the breadth of philosophy that comes out of India? Is there a specific branch and or book and or part of it that you're drawn to more than another?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah. I'm still a Christian. You know, I, I believe Jesus is Revelation is unique. If nothing else, it's unique to my cultural experience, you know, my Protestant, Euro American experience, even though comes from a different part of the world. In my culture is organized around it. I mean, it can, you know, it, definitely the secular culture, but the I can talk all day about how our secular values are rooted in a Christian tradition. I mean, if you look at it at all, close knit the parents, so, I mean, it's a bedrock source for our understanding of the world, the way we've shaped our understanding of the world in the West, and which is now pretty much become modern culture worldwide. So Christianity is important to me, both at a personal personal level and an objective level. But then Hinduism is too I mean, I feel it's pretentious to say it. But I do really feel like a Hindu Christian, I spent lots of time in India, obviously spent a lot of time studying the Hindu traditions, I, I find myself in those cultures often and feel very at home and the richness of the Hindu tradition, the way it embraces all things. And really, really, because it's knowledge base, integrates all things, it doesn't have an argument. With modern science, it doesn't really have an argument for any other religious system, because its worldview is so deep, and so inclusive, that it makes sense of other traditions. It really does. To me seeing like the power of zest for world culture, it is the root understanding. And it's not because everything came from India, but just because Indians did that subjective work. You've had these people for 1000s of years, sitting around in meditative, meditative states, figuring this stuff out. And what they learned is bedrock. I mean, the West I studied the Western tradition of philosophy for I encountered Hinduism. And it just seemed to jumble like, one guy says this one guy says that it doesn't make any sense. But if you understand the world, from the Hindu point of view, it does make sense, because they're all lenses, that deep reality from a kind of a colored point of view of view that's in the on the periphery. But if you look at the the, you know, the nature of reality from the Hindu worldview, it all makes sense. And I'm, you know, I'm an intellectual guy, it's got to make rational sense to me. So even Christianity, I pretty much explained in terms of Hinduism. I do I do explain it. Because it makes sense that way. That's the jump is it just a jumble of contradictory myths.

Todd McLaughlin:

If you were to attend a service, say near where you live in Texas, and or anywhere in the country and or world and you meet someone that also shares the same belief as you of Christianity and love for Christianity, and but then they get really upset that you are open to studying and, and learning about these other traditions. How do you navigate that in a way that you obviously Do you respect their space and aren't trying to push anything on them? Do you have a way of rationalizing and or discussing with them to help see the connection of all these different traditions as opposed to just the differences?

Eric Shaw:

Um, God knows I tried. Yeah. I live in Dallas, Texas, and I and I, and I meet people here that I've never met in my whole life types of people. I've never my whole life, I mean, devout Christians, who really hold on to that worldview, you know? What's the proper word for? They're really not curious. They're not intellectually curious. I mean, often, because they're good hearted people, they will all meet such people and will have a nice heart connection, and they'll want to learn about my worldview. But I can tell it makes them intensely uncomfortable. It particularly makes them intensely uncomfortable, because I've got it worked out rationally, so they really can oppose it on logical grounds. And these discussions will evolve openly first and then just end. And, you know, I respect Christianity deeply. I respect all of its form. I do believe in open mindedness, as well as open heartedness. And that in my path, I know that you can live within a more provincial worldview, and you're fine. You know, you don't, you don't have nobody has to travel the whole world and see everything. It's not people aren't disposed that way. They're content to be in their kind of tribal consciousness and they're happy. And sometimes, you know, those things, those tribal consciousness contribute an immense amount to the larger conversation. And I respect their devotion their their good works. And part of the way I explain it, I enjoy and explaining it from the from the modern yoga point of view is, you know, you study with photopic Joyce, and you know, probably that he said, one of his famous quotes is one guru is life to gurus is dead. Yeah. And these people have chosen Jesus as their only do. Yeah. And that's just fine. Yeah.

Todd McLaughlin:

Good point. And to help clarify for the listener, well, how can two gurus be death? Can you elaborate on the complications that can occur when you're listening to two different sources of information?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah. So it's a polarizing statement, obviously. I mean, one that doesn't embrace cosmopolitanism. In no way whatsoever. And the danger there is that you can explain any of your predilections and not make any progress. You can justify whatever your primal urges demand, not give up anything, not narrow your focus. Because if you embrace a number of worldviews, you can always find some justification for something that your ID or your libido or your ego wanted to do anyway.

Todd McLaughlin:

Yeah. Good answer. Perfect answer, Eric, that was awesome. On that note, ego and libido, what are your thoughts on the the rise in the fall, the a lot of these teachers had been put in a spotlight and have risen to Guru status, and then the realization that humanity is pervasive and everyone and therefore, they're human, we're human, we make a quote mistake and then you know, we fall does that seem like that's obviously this is on every culture tradition, whether I know we look at yoga and or religious traditions and we hold them on high because we think like that need to serve as an example. And therefore that's how we build our trust and faith and because they live by example, not just through their words, and then we have that like, realization that that's been you know, that crumbles. And it seems like in the last few years, there's been a lot of that. I don't know if it's just my perspective, if it's because of the internet and the amount of information I have access to. Maybe it's been this way and all along. Or maybe it was more because of say a me too movement or a raise elevation of consciousness in terms of equality male female race, color, creed, Did economics? But um, what are your thoughts regarding this idea? I don't know if I really pin down a specific question i Okay, let me make it more specific. Do you feel like there's been a rise of realization of all these different Yogi's and gurus who really just love to have sex with everybody and or take advantage of that? And now it's kind of coming to light? And was the tradition more open to that in the old days? And now we're in this very civic tradition that not siddik? Sorry, civic tradition where, you know, now that's not okay. You know, and what, what are your thoughts there?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I think all those things are true. I mean, yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean, there's just a few things we might add to it is that, you know, male gurus didn't teach female students in the pre modern era. And they weren't tempted. As interest, they were teaching other male, you know, and they weren't homosexual communities. Yeah. So you didn't have that, and you didn't have the abandonment of oversight. That came when an Indian guru was able to strike his stuff as an exotic figure, with his own set of rules in an American context, and therefore, he all of a sudden, was subjected to new temptations that he had never faced before. And it's usually a he, of course, and cope with and get under control, and there was no guidelines for him, we can think of any number of gurus to put in the name of that him from his traditional context, to help him in this news, in this new setting with new dangers interesting. And there is a bit of fail, there's been a fail in the interface at the guru level. Between that, again, I'm gonna use that fancy word pedagogy, that style of teaching in the Indian context where, you know, maybe it work, you know, we, we don't have the metoo movement to go back to that era, or, you know, the free press, or whatever it was, it's exposed to all these oversights, mistakes, abuses. My guess is it did work in that context. I could be wrong. But it doesn't work in this context. I mean, I think it's been proven. And I also think that the culture is moving forward, this new ways, new forms of personal growth, that are much more transparent, that are actually healthier, that we've learned in the past 50 years. And those guys were before that, before the curve. Yeah.

Todd McLaughlin:

Great insight. I like that perspective, that, that, that maintain some level of kind of humanity and understanding that things are changing and shifting and evolving, and that we can actually improve. Yeah, on that note, I, what you're doing in terms of creating your studying you've you've studied and are and are studying, you are, you know, do get really involved in yoga and have been for a long time, you've compiled your understanding into the form of a book and making it available for me and other listeners, and Yogi's and people to read. So you're contributing to the yoga evolution of yoga. What is your kind of dream? If you if you could define and or do you ever dream about what you'd like to see evolve in our culture? Like, I think what you're doing is really amazing, because you did make mention at the beginning of our conversation, that a lot of yoga that the yoga that we're aware of in our culture here in America has gotten increasingly more body orientated and maybe a little less fill philosophy and or interested in some of the subtler aspects. That is your dream goal to kind of bring this rich context of yoga out into the open more and make it more readily available. And or do you have anything to add to that? That's my vision of your that's my vision of your dream. I don't know if that's appropriate. Yeah. To lay it out like that. But what do you what do you think along those lines?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I think that always has been. I've always been really good I'm interested in enriching the world's understanding of yoga. I think I really set myself up as that, in that position. Really early on in my career, I wanted to be kind of the scholar who could translate the deep stuff to the popular awareness to the layman's awareness. Nice. And, you know, it does this made me to take yoga classes here in Dallas and see so much monoculture and see it so shallow. And I don't I don't know where that how that happened. It seemed like if anything, it would have gone in the other direction. And I don't know if that's just a function of the city I'm living in. But yeah,

Todd McLaughlin:

that's a good point. Yeah, because you would think, from natural evolutionary perspective that it would be around longer. So then more yoga practitioners would be more interested in the philosophy and therefore, there'd be more discourse about these traditions. And it would that and would enrich it. But yeah, the first thing you said, when you said monoculture, it makes me think of, say modern agriculture in terms of like a, just a monoculture of just plants, you know, we drive and we just see this one plant and we see 20 chemicals to make sure that nothing can get to that plant. So it grows. And as opposed to like a permaculture, or an organic garden where you know, everything is feeding something else and benefiting something else. And there's this really diverse environment created. So maybe it's just the maybe that's a reflection of our almost our agricultural systems, you know, and there's probably there's probably other things too, that are reflective of Yeah, of this, like just narrowing in on one thing, and then just just staying on that and not.

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, and I wonder how much it is a function of this new conformity, which is kind of settled in on American, you know, in American political conversations that you have to be in one camp or another, and you don't let your mind wander and go free and embrace opposing concepts. And maybe that's become a part of the yoga world, at least in Dallas. I mean, I can just go to so many classes, and I'm, no matter who the teacher is, it's saying the exact same thing. And they're doing the exact same pose sequences and employee, Jesus Christ. Do you have any idea how rich this culture isn't? You're gonna have me do this pose again. Like, I know that, you know, there's some animus in my boys and I, kind of personally it's like, Jesus Christ. I mean, I'm obviously kind of upset. So yes, it's kind of strange. And it is it a function of that part of our culture, you know, everybody's tribal lysing and opposing one another, and it's my way or the highway or my tribes way or the highway? i That's my best guess. Or it's just a lack of intellectual curiosity, or I don't know.

Todd McLaughlin:

Yeah. Great observation will, ah, I am so thankful to have this opportunity to talk to you, Eric, because I think these converse, like this conversation, for me personally is so interesting. And I love your viewpoint. And I love I loved I've enjoyed everything that you've had to say, I want to keep going longer. And I know we both budgeted about an hour to hang out and chat together. And I really want to continue this conversation. I want to read your book, and come back with some questions that are educated based off your what you've what you've compiled. I'm super curious now. So thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. And is there would you be open to doing this again in the future? That's my first question.

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, I really enjoyed talking to you, sir.

Todd McLaughlin:

Thank you. On that note, is there something that you would like to close with for us today in relation to anything else you would like to add?

Eric Shaw:

Yeah, just in light of our last comment, and I know I've said this before and in other points, so people who follow me, you know, don't be bored, but I just feel like the reason you study the deep tradition is to be creative. If you want to create something that has a lasting effect, study that each creation tradition, and then evolve it from a deep place that you enrich for the generation is that you offer something that's deeply sourced something that make sense make new sense of what's gone before. That's why we study the tradition. I mean, it's also fascinating and fun. And it's, it's cool to fill out the picture of the past and to hear stories and whatnot. But as far as a functional activity, for those of you out there who were actually teaching, they had tradition so that when, you know, you can start to trust your intuition in a deep way. And when you discover a new pose, or a new way of doing a pose, or a new way of doing a breathing technique that's related to a pose or itself, that it makes sense, because it's consistent with what's been learned before it goes beyond it. Wow, that's that we're all we're all the carrier with a living carriers of this tradition. And we have the potential to have as much knowledge as anybody has gone before us. And then we get the joy of creating something that will last. Nice.

Todd McLaughlin:

Oh, yeah. Thank you, Eric. Yeah, I'm inspired. Good. I'm ready. I need some new creativity.

Eric Shaw:

That's the fun part.

Todd McLaughlin:

Man, well, I'm so excited to get a chance to cross paths with you and I will do my homework. And I'm gonna call you back and we're gonna schedule. Hopefully we can schedule another time. And I really want to continue this conversation. So once again, thank you so much.

Eric Shaw:

I look forward to it. All right. Thank you. Bye bye everyday.

Todd McLaughlin:

Native yoga Todd cast is produced by myself. The theme music is dreamed up by Bryce Allen. If you liked this show, let me know if there's room for improvement. I want to hear that too. We are curious to know what you think and what you want more of what I can improve. And if you have ideas for future guests or topics, please send us your thoughts to info at Native yoga center. You can find us at Native yoga center.com. And hey, if you did like this episode, share it with your friends, rate it and review and join us next time