Book Review – Yoga Mythology by Devadutt Pattanaik

Yoga has a history that dates back to over 5000 years old and naturally has an influence on the religions that evolved after that. Devdutt Pattanaik explains elaborately some interesting stories about the connection of religion with the science of yoga. Co-authored by Metthew Rulli a registered yoga teacher based in USA, explores some of the mythological connections in yoga.

One of the interpretations classifies the asanas into 4 sections namely the Devi, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu and comprises of 84000 postures linked to 84000 living creatures known at that time. These are the four pillars of Hindu mythology.

Devi, the female form of the divine, is complemented by the three male forms of the divine; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In each part they not only explain Hinduism, but also the mythology of Buddhists and Jains. Although they are similar to each other, the story lines are slightly different.

It has become difficult to speak of yoga without plunging into acrimonious debates on whether it is simply a fitness regime or if there is anything spiritual (mystical or occult), religious (Hindu or Buddhist or Jain) or cultural (Indian) about it.

To avoid controversy, therefore and to ensure that the benefit of yoga reaches a wide audience, many yoga teachers dissociate yoga from its heritage and make it more about health than about wisdom; more about the body and less about the mind and even less about the spirit. As a result, very few who practice yoga around the world are aware of the underlying philosophy and even fewer are aware of yoga mythology: their stories, symbols and rituals that shaped the worldview in which yoga was nurtured for over 3000 years.

Flow of tales and language in the book hopes to fill this knowledge gap in a manner and tone that is playful, rather than pedantic; it presents ‘A Truth’ not ‘The Truth’.

The 64 asana that are currently preached and practiced has a history behind it. These stories explain how the asana were inspired by mythological characters and how their connection brings immense benefits to those who practice.

Yoga postures have been given different names of Indian origin, like – Veera asana, Manjara asana, Surya namaskar etc. some asana names can be translated in English but some are proper nouns and make sense only if you are familiar with Hindu mythology. This book aims to present those stories in a systematic way, so that readers can understand not just the stories but also understand the philosophy of yoga asana.

The book grips you with astonishing links that we hardly knew about. However, it tends to drag in the process of getting into deeper aspects of each pillars. Hence, I would give a very deserving 4/5 stars.

You can buy the book here

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are my own and does not represent the opinion of any entity whatsoever with which i have been, am now or will be affiliated. 

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