Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cthulhu Yoga

There's been some talk lately around the blogosphere regarding the cultural appropriation of yoga by Western students. One of the issues involved is that what we think of today as "yoga" is not particularly ancient or Indian; rather, it is a combination of poses found in old Indian texts and European exercise techniques that first became popular about a hundred years ago.

The synthesis did happen largely because of the British occupation of India and so is related to the colonialism of the British Empire, but as it incorporates so many European elements it is not simply a case of Europeans hijacking an existing non-European tradition. Rather, it is a combination of European and Indian methods, and the current systems really only date back to about 1960.

A while back I wrote about schools teaching yoga classes as part of physical education, which prompted a lawsuit from Christian parents who were under the impression that the classes were teaching Hinduism or something. But the school had gone to great lengths to secularize their classes, going so far as to replace the official names of postures with nonsense like "crisscross applesauce."

Frankly, that's just dumb. If you want to teach yoga completely divorced from any possible religious context, why not combine it with a completely fictional mythology? Better still, why not a mythology in which every single entity in the pantheon wants to eat your sanity for breakfast? Now that's hardcore, and I didn't even have to make it up. Cthulhu Yoga is apparently a real thing!

Let’s say you want to combine fitness and darkness, but don’t have access to a gym with Bauhaus-blasting cycling classes. Never fear, online tutorials already exist! “Yoga Fhtagn” (from “Cthulhu fhtagn,” meaning “Cthulhu waits”), and combines a Lovecraftian horror (is Lovecraft goth?) with low-impact Sun Salutation—minus the sun. The class of the damned is actually led and narrated by no other than feminist writer/journalist and and Harvard Fellow, Laurie Penny—so you know the politics of Health Goth are soundly left (and also that quite a few of the people that admire the style have a sense of humor about how silly it is).

Billed as “the ultimate health goth workout,” Penny’s says her routine will help us “tone our bodies, while slowly losing our minds,” but the video cuts mysteriously short, most likely owing to cosmic monstrosities. Hey, no pain, no gain.

This is just plain hilarious, and it's the perfect remedy to the argument that modern yoga is somehow based on a religion practiced by real people, or that using poses that were never intended to be part of an exercise regimen in the context of Western fitness is somehow offensive. After all, if you're going to be criticized anyway, why not go all-out and align your teachings with the greatest of all possible evils?

I suppose if these first students start descending into madness or mutating into gibbering horrors or becoming obsessed with mysterious and entirely fictional grimoires held in the libraries of fictional universities the class may turn out to be a tragic failure. But for now, it strikes me as a fun way to keep Lovecraft fans engaged with fitness practices that help maintain their overall health.

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1 comment:

Melissa Lamb said...

Ashtanga Yoga means eight-limbed Yoga and Cthulhu has I'm assuming, eight limbs...


Maybe these sinister geeks know something we don't.