Posted by: eveyoga | June 23, 2011

Clear Thinking

Saffron Attitude

Yoga practitioners and teachers are not always known for questioning dogma and beliefs. For instance, as a new yogi, you might take in unreservedly all that your teacher says in class, even though it may be somewhat esoteric to you. A commonly repeated phrase is “do your poses with effortless effort”. What can that possibly mean to someone who has spend their youth vying for high test scores and in adulthood competing for jobs and promotions?

Or, how about when your teacher bandies around Sanskrit concepts, like aparigraha or vairagrya, in class? Not to mention, when you’re in a pose, describing minute movements of skin, muscles, or even internal organs that you should be connecting with.

My husband has been happily attending classes with me for 19 years. Since he tends towards skepticism, I try to be as unmystical as possible in how I teach, while still interpreting the spiritual heart of yoga. No mean achievement.

I guess I have trained myself over the years to be more of a critical thinker and by now some of the fun of magical thinking is absent for me. I can even get offended by things that read or sound like claptrap, or what I lovingly call “oogie-boogie”.

What prompted this post was coming across a long list of “news bites” featured on a website (it shall go nameless) that had to do with recent studies. Titles of articles like this:

Doctors advised to avoid information from pharmaceutical companies

Women who take a daily multivitamin may be at a reduced risk of heart attacks, according to new research

GM food disrupting organ function

Antidepressants linked with significant risk of stroke and fracture

There may be merit in the articles. I only scanned them. But, my approach now, dare I say it, is more skeptical than before. I think Google is responsible for a lot of good and a lot of bad information that can be readily accessed by anyone. One thing you can do is find a skeptical website – – is one, and key in what you’re trying to suss out, for a deeper and perhaps a more balanced view.

At the same time, speaking of balance, I wouldn’t want skepticism to become a filter over being open and receptive. Receptivity is a way for a yogi to be in the world and still enjoy life’s mysteries.

Martin Luther King says it well ( and perhaps he was operating out of some skepticism):

The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.



  1. No offense to Daniel but I listen to science before skeptics any day. Especially when it comes to health and medicine. But I do apply a skeptical view of my own when Im reading the science. Evidence based medicine is the only kind that interests me. All the examples you gave related to health. I think a skeptical attitude (which I always interpret as open minded not negative) is helpful in all endeavors. I always take everything those skeptics say with a pinch of salt, but that might be because I have low blood pressure 🙂

    Though when it comes to philosophy or spirituality I find that MLK evokes no skepticism in me whatsoever 🙂

    Im back in Oz August Sept and some of Oct. Would love to see you both!

    • Hi Penny,
      Good to hear your views.
      I hope we coincide in australia.
      We leave for US Aug 9 & return Sept 15.
      Come visit us!
      XO E

  2. Yes. I must admit to having a pretty strong “shit detector” (as my PhD supervisor put it). Surprisingly it got me into trouble a bit at uni (of all places!) because I refused to play along with the “Emperor’s new clothes” kinds of games.

  3. Hi Pen,

    “Those skeptics”? Which ones?
    Hope we get to see you in Oz, but the timing doesn’t sound good.


  4. Daniel, I mean you 🙂 Ever since that big conversation at Maarit and Collyns about homoeopathy and I take everything *you* say with a grain of salt :-p

    Anam Rinpoche gave me a New Years teaching “dont believe your mind” (ie discursive thought. I extend that to all of our minds. Im skeptical too 🙂

    love pen

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