The book is Yoga Ph.D.: Integrating the Life of the Mind and the Wisdom of the Body. There is a strong start on page four with this statement::
"Yoga is a product of a particular place and time, constantly changing to fit cultural contexts. Yoga is a timeless method to escape the conditioning of history, a technology for accessing the alternative state of consciousnesses that are our birthright as human beings."
I have witnessed this myself in my own personal journey on the mat, how yoga has changed from classes that had to be sought out to an industry with studios in every town.
She poses the questions "is Yoga really 5000 years old?" and should we as modern yogis really care? Neither were answered in a concrete way, rather it's left open to the reader to decide what is important. Personally, I like the idea of being part of practice that has possibly spanned thousands of years. I don't imagine that the way I conduct myself is the same as the ancient yogis, but rather like all things worth keeping, it has evolved to suit me where I am in time.
Yoga being largely body based in today's culture was addressed. Horton talks about going beyond that and getting into Handstand Psychotherapy, or getting into the emotional exploration of the posture practice and creating release of old ways and changing our thought process. I think this is something all yogis go through at some point. That "ah ha" moment, when you realize your mind is what is stopping you from getting into a posture and then suddenly you can do it. For me it was bakasana. For ten years I could not do it. Then I got divorced and up I flew. I dumped the emotional baggage holding me down and got into a healthy relationship with myself, and my now husband. I rewrote my script, as Horton suggests.
After Handstand Psychotherapy, the book naturally unfolds in the discussion of the spirituality of yoga. Or as Horton aptly calls it, the "s" word; as the "word is culturally booby trapped". In the beginning of my practice, calling yoga spiritual felt awkward. I didn't want people to think I joined a cult or religion. What she discusses and I discovered, is that once I was able to get through my emotional mine field, I understood how my actions not only affect me but those around me. That yoga changed how I wanted to live day to day for myself and everyone. That is the spiritual experience of yoga.
From there, Horton addresses the need to balance the pure physical practice with the actual science of yoga that integrates the mind, body, and spirit. To begin to use "critical thinking" to examine what is presented, shedding the old ideas that no longer serve us, and groom new, productive ideas. How to live in awareness and how to make smart, intuitive choices.
Once of the ways she talks about critical thinking is by developing a home yoga practice. Studios are businesses that want you to come through the doors. I, as a teacher, want to see you on a mat in front of me. But, from my own experience, I agree that it is critical to unroll your mat at home. Sit quietly. Start to move. Feel your body and listen to the cues it gives you. Explore. Developing a home practice, as emphasized by Horton, will make your studio practice better, your life better, the world better.
This has been less review and more reflection on Carol Horton's book Yoga Ph.D., how it expressed many of the same viewpoints I have. It shares history and stories of yoga being born in America. Its not a how to, but more a why - a why we should explore this perhaps ancient practice for ourselves. A very worthy read, indeed.
Click here for an in depth bio of Carol Horton, Ph.D..