Amrtasiddhi – the oldest text on yoga

It’s great to be able to Google and get important answers, like “Who is Bruno Latour?” or “What’s the beef between Elon Musk and Xandão?”, especially when you’re in a group and a curiosity comes up, someone pulls out the powerful weapon from their bag, unlocks it, types avidly “which is more caloric, honey or molasses?” and thus winners are made: those who guessed a hunch before the oracle even confirmed the answer, those who dared to say they know.

None of this is possible when you’re camping for 3 days straight without a signal. Many questions are born already dead, I’ve been experiencing this a lot on the trip. Usually, the doubts go to the limbo of unanswered questions where our ancestors lived.

Offline fun – hard to compete with screen dopamine

Every now and then I do a search when I return to the clouds of information data, but believe it or not, it’s still hard to find some answers on the internet.

If you Google about the origins of yoga, for example, you come across the “yoga sutra of patanjali”, a booklet of phrases (sutras) with hidden meanings like “The yoga posture should be firm and comfortable” or “Yoga is the cessation of the vicissitudes of the mind”. To really understand, it has to be read with separate comments (bhāṣya) or with the accompaniment of a teacher.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is a very beautiful compilation that is worth being read and reread, but it does not specify the earlier schools that gave rise to these lines of deep thought. It describes more the mental and moral aspects of yoga and only mentions seated postures (asanas), it does not go into sequences, cleansings, breaths…

Hatha Yoga as we practice it today is best known for:

  • Asanas (body postures)
  • Pranayamas (breathing exercises)
  • Bandhas (internal physical locks)
  • Mudras (techniques to “seal” the body)

All to control and increase our mental and physical health or, as it was said a few centuries ago, to preserve the elixir of life, that is, to protect bindu or to elevate kundalini at the base of the spine.

It may seem like a bunch of random techniques with a weird name that anyone can put together and teach a class, but, surprisingly, there is a theory. It’s just not easy to find on Google, but it exists.

Texts of Modern Hatha Yoga

Yoga is ancient, ascetics passed on teachings orally – and still do – long before they were written or even called “yoga”.

Over time they were gradually incorporated into a variety of philosophical lines and, eventually, systematized into works that are today fundamental in the formation of academics and yoga teachers such as the “Gheranda Samhita” and the famous “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” of the 15th century.

However, there is a little-known and even older scripture that is a reference for these texts and so many others as Yogacintamani, Hathapradipikajyotsna, Amaraughaprabodha, Goraksasataka, Goraksayogasastra, Vivekamärtanda, Amaraughaprabodha. The Sivasambitä, for example, took 34 verses from it.

This base text came about 500 years before all of these and is called Amrtasiddhi. The only English translation was published in 2021 (remember we talked about the complexity of these Sanskrit translations in the text on the Bhagavad Ghita?) and there is a module of yogic studies where the author of the book does a reading with analyses and comments, he is a bit wordy, but the text is very interesting.

I’m going to give you a summary of this today – if you’re into yoga, you’re going to make several links in your mind, it’s going to be cool.

The Amrtasiddhi

The text incorporates concepts from Buddhism, Tantra, and Alchemy, much of its teaching is framed in alchemical metaphors, processes used to change substances such as calcination, assimilation, coagulation, etc. always mirroring the alchemical processes of the world within the body.

For example, Bandha is an alchemical samskara that is equivalent to the process in which mercury is stabilized and becomes more resistant to heat. In the practice of mahabandha, the breath is sealed within the body by performing two constrictions, one at the perineum and the other at the throat, and thus the body becomes like a samputa.

In Sanskrit texts on alchemy, there are several types of putas, vessels similar to bowls for performing alchemical operations. A samputa is two putas put together to form a sealed crucible for heating reagents without evaporation.

Beyond these “scientific” references, there are also religious ones.

Another day I was talking about this, remember? Sometimes the speeches are talking about the same thing, but with different terminologies – a shoutout to the Vienna circle.

The important thing is to try to increase our capacity for intelligibility about natural processes to manipulate them in our favor or protect ourselves from those we cannot change – be it a volcano or cancer.

Anyway, the text invokes the goddess Chinnamasta with her symbols, such as the form of an inverted triangle, related to the letter “A” from the ancient Devanagari texts.

Chinnamasta was a Buddhist figure at the time and this representation of the goddess brings the conception that the human body is seen as a vehicle for spiritual realization and union with the divine.

That is, warning and validating through a line of religious thought that comes in this text are bodily practices and not something that denies the body.

Text Structure

Formed by 292 verses divided into 35 vivekas, it was written around the 11th century in a Vajrayana Buddhist environment and the text never ever mentions the word yoga – by the way, out of curiosity, it was most likely the Dattätreyayogasästra, the first to teach similar practices under the name of hatha yoga.

Body Components

The first ten vivekas teach the components of the yogic body, there is a focus on internal sounds (nada) and voids, with references to tantric Buddhist terminology.

There is also a connection between mind and breath, a description that already existed in the upanissads, but here bindu control is added.

It is an innovation of the Amrtasiddhi to use the word bindu for enjoyment and to say that it is like “the amrta dripping from the moon”.

The idea of a moon in the skull dripping amrta is found in many earlier tantric works, but the idea of the sun in the stomach consuming it is new – used to explain why it is necessary to protect enjoyment.

“The sphere of the sun is at the base of the Central Canal, complete with twelve digits, shining with its rays. The lord of creatures (Prajapati), of intense appearance, travels upward to the right. Remaining in the paths in the spaces (akasapatha) in the channels, he permeates the entire body. The sun consumes the lunar secretion, wanders in the sphere of the wind, and burns all bodily constituents in all bodies.”

Other novelties are these principles of a “solar mind” at the base of the central channel of the body, the “lunar mind” at the top of this channel, and the use of fire as a symbol.

Scholars believe in a possible influence of Taoism and the Chinese practices of “Neidan” which is a set of energetic and alchemical practices that seek spiritual and physical immortality, as well as the realization of divine or transcendent nature.

There are also other terms more common to other contemporary texts to explain the functioning of the body, something that today we understand as Ayurveda, such as the manifestation of the material world (Prakrti) being through three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) and in the body there are 3 doshas (pitta, kapha and vata).

Mind Control Techniques

At the time, the practice of visualization and mantra chanting related to the god of each energy center (chakra) of the body was common, in the hope of awakening the spiritual and psychological aspects associated with that energy center – transcending the duality between the practitioner and the divinity, achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The Amrthasiddhi criticizes this practice and any other that does not result in the destruction of the three gunas, says that trying to master the mind in this way is useless, comparable to chewing a stone and trying to drink the sky.

It is based on the premise that you cannot be master of your mind through the mind itself and moves on to techniques of breath and body manipulation.

Vivekas 11-13 teach three methods (well known still today) of manipulation of body components:

Mahamudrä (the Great Seal)

Mahäbandha (the Great Block)

Mahāvedha (the Great Perforation)

In the viveka of body description (above) it also includes elements such as the three knots (granthi), Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra (Shiva), which are situated along the central channel of the body and must be perforated by the mahavedha.

To get to this practice, he instructs a clear step-by-step, first Mahamudra (term that is widely used in tantric Buddhism), he describes very clearly a mechanical step-by-step: “press the perineum with the left heel, extend the right foot and hold the breath…”. Then comes Mahadandra: “With legs crossed, do the chin lock and contract the perineum…” and finally Mahavedha…

Viveka 14 teaches the final practice (abbyāsa), that is, how the three methods should be used together. The internal processes provoked by its methods, in particular the movement of the breaths, are described in an unparalleled level of detail in other texts.

Without gurus

Vivekas 15-18 teach the four degrees of practitioners. The text advocates for a self-established (Svadhisthana*) practice, that is, individual, without the need for a guru or master for direct guidance.

It emphasizes the practitioner’s ability to adopt and practice spiritual techniques on their own, using their own determination and internal effort, assuming direct responsibility for their spiritual progress through texts and seeking a deeper understanding of spiritual truths on their own.

This condition is more common in certain tantric Buddhist texts and was not widely disseminated in the lines of hatha yoga, today it is more common for the guidance of an experienced master to be considered essential for spiritual progression.

  • Curiously, in texts that came after Amrthasiddhi, the term Svadhisthana is more commonly used to name the second chakra.

Finally, the Vivekas 19-33 talk about the four states (avasthäs) arambha, ghata, paricaya, nispanna/nispatti. And the Vivekas 34-35 about the final transformation of the body that leads to nirvana.


For current generations, it may not be a surprise that the internet is not exactly the best place to find complete and true information, but for people who, like me, saw Google being born and believed that all books would be easily on our screens, it is still a grief to see this melting of the web.

We no longer need to go to the library files, but it is still necessary to dig deep to find richer and more interesting textual sources. The discovery of Amrita Siddhi was very cool for me and I wanted to bring here in Portuguese a summary.

Until what was found today, there were no physical practices related to the manipulation of the subtle energies of the body before it, neither in scriptures nor in statues – but there are always news from the past and history is always being rewritten, who knows if new scriptures do not emerge about the origins of yoga?

The beginning of globalized yoga

I wanted to live traveling, but I also love comfort, so I got into IT, to be able to travel earning relatively well and without too much hassle. I studied, made a career transition, minimally established myself to take flights, then came covid. No travel. How many plans we have changed because of the pandemic, right?

Before that, I taught yoga and even traveled a lot doing this, it was cool. Today I’m going to tell stories about traveling yogis, but nobody I know, but the story of the first nomadic yoga teachers in the United States.

They lived 100 years ago, also had to adapt life plans due to greater forces and totally changed careers to make some change.

They were just Indian traders and students living normally in the USA, when Uncle Sam’s jurists raised an issue that changed everything:

Are people from Asia, black or white?

Since only white people could have American citizenship, overnight, these neither-black-nor-white Indians lost all rights in the country.

Worse, to become American it was necessary to give up the previous citizenship then, when this happened, they no longer had Indian nationality.

On paper, they were stateless people.

It was between the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 and the liberal reforms of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, that our modern yoga messengers were born.

Traveling teaching yoga

The solution was to move between states until politics took concrete form and some settled on yoga as a profession. The problem is that the legal impasse lasted for a few years and the curious thing is that none of them had taught yoga before.

For example, below you see a news story about a famous entrepreneur in the tea import business for American housewives.

On the right, the same man, after the denaturalization process, started to advertise yoga classes, prana, vibrations and occultism:

philosopher, teacher, a kind of guru.

It might seem like a completely nonsensical and irrelevant story, but these guys were indispensable for yoga to become the international practice it is today.

Nobody knew what yoga was

At that time, if you asked someone what “yoga” was, chances are the person had never even heard that word. How did these guys think it was a good idea to survive by selling this?

There was already a conversation between different cultures and religions in the United States:

  • I told the other day about when Vivekananda went to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 – he wanted to disseminate Hindu knowledge and for this, he created the Vedanta Society, teaching Raja Yoga in “western” language.
  • The Theosophical Society was also on the rise, founded in New York in 1875 with the purpose of bringing people together in the comparative study of philosophies and sciences.

Our story today begins in the 1920s, that is, the market for Mystical Societies was already consolidated.

Courses were popular on universal energy, positive thinking, manipulating the power of the mind, obtaining healing, happiness, or money. Nothing too strange, we still have the “pro-life” and other similar groups that teach these things that author Catherine Albanese coins as American metaphysical religion.

Taking advantage of the hype, our businessmen went out teaching yoga concepts with this American metaphysics – they were merchants, so they used top-notch marketing, mixed logos and impact phrases, a super rebranding.

Sales Tactics

There was no way to do ads, filter target audience, or upload ebook on hotmart, to reach people the scheme was to advertise in the largest medium of communication: the newspaper.

The academic Philip Deslippe delved into piles and piles of newspapers to know where these nomadic yogis passed and what they taught. He ventured into the collections of the whole country, read hundreds of ads and organized all to find patterns among the classes.

Phillip discovered that these neo yogis were doing clickbait to get people to come to their courses: they promised solutions to loneliness, happy marriages, or gave theoretical classes on how Jesus had been a yogi in India.

The professors used more or less the same tactics: they would arrive in a new city where they would stay for weeks or months, find hotels, rent lobbies or auditoriums, and promote their classes in newspapers.

It worked so well that there are people who still talk about these things on YouTube.

There was no Instagram advertising, but the prospecting method was similar to what we have today: open live streams to reach as many people as possible and closed mentoring for those who want to know more.

They would give 3-4 free public lectures to attract the curious and from there, with luck, a small group of more interested students would enter the paid groups which cost between 100-120 dollars per class, usually the students were middle or upper class.

the mysterious gaze there in the middle

Phillip argues that it was thanks to these itinerant men who changed their personas and styles with each state they passed through, that yoga became popular.

The teachers knew each other personally or at a distance and openly shared or secretly stole teaching materials, students, and other resources as they marketed themselves to the American metaphysical public – it was the “only” means of subsistence and profession.

Yoga and occultism

Philosophy, meditation, psychology, self-improvement… Yoga has always walked this tightrope, between pragmatism and occultism, it is important to point out here that the bias of mystical yoga has always existed and that we have other modern cases, it was not a novelty of the nomadic teachers, we have as an example the emblematic Alex Crowley:

The British writer, poet, mage, and philosopher published in 1939 “Eight Lectures on Yoga” where he talks about postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation, but also puts his infamous magical theory in the middle.

At first people were afraid of these groups and theories, there were rumors that women went crazy and left their families to follow the gurus/swamis.

Over time the discourse changed, they sold it as an ancient knowledge that was brought to help the Americans. One who used this more modern tactic a lot was one of the most famous itinerant teachers and perhaps the first posture teacher in the West, Rish Singh Gerwal.

Yoga and physical postures

Gerwal was keeping an eye on the trends in India, there was all that movement of conversation between yoga and bodybuilding which I mentioned the other day.

One of the big names there was Kuvalayanada, from whom Gerwal shamelessly copies the books, publishes them in his name and tells private students that he learned everything in the Himalayas.

the famous book Yoga Mimansa of Kuvalayananda

Already in the 1930s, at the end of the second war, the cult of the body in general increases, yoga follows this trend and Gerwal has been surfing this wave for a long time, he creates “yoga teacher trainings”, encouraged students to travel and disseminate hatha yoga in the world.

A second wave of nomadic teachers emerges, now with a completely different proposal and needs, the masters encouraged the students to go to India, to get certificates… the organization increases.

Not that there were not already serious certificates in 1904

Here, under a new guise, history repeats itself, and this fascinates me a lot. I’ll be back to tell more in future editions, both about the globalized postural yoga of the last 50 years, and about the medieval one from hundreds of years ago. If you want to continue navigating through yogas of different times and have fun with coincidences, stay.


After 4 years, I will return to the plan of traveling while working, working while traveling. I’m getting things ready, but if before the plan was only one way, today it’s not quite like that – I renovated, set up my little corner, times have changed, I have aged. I still want to travel, but having a place to return to now seems more inviting than before.

Existence is like that, isn’t it. Significant events renew our way of seeing the world, we discover different things, we combine them with what we already had, we create something new, more or less as it was before, only different.

When I went to India, I constantly tried to understand the difference and similarity between things so exotic for me in that whole cultural shock, and more often than I would like people would shake their heads in that Indian way and respond

same, same, but different“.

I find this answer perfect for whether “yoga is this or that”. I have no pretension to clarify anything here in the “mystic healing ritual“, but I want to bring interesting stories that blend spirituality from a more general aspect of the world – between politics, music, movies…

I love this story of the Swami Circuit (the name that Phillip gives to this group of nomadic teachers) because it brings a dimension that yoga is inserted in a larger reality – sometimes governed by racist politics, for example – it also reminds me that everyone at some point, even 100 years ago, seeks miraculous ways to solve things, to the point of indulging in ridiculous things, which yield good stories later, at least.

In addition, note that no suburban American knew very well what yoga was, people accepted anything and a groundwork of misinformation was done that still persists – not only persists, it is our new reality: yoga in 2024 is indeed a mix of American metaphysics, with 20’s bodybuilding and also medieval Indian philosophy.

Yoga has always been a vibrant thing, and I dare say that photographs on social networks and other more recent elements have also shaped this practice. With time, we will be able to understand it better, from afar.

For now, today’s text was just about the beginning of global yoga.

I think it’s cool for us to identify that the marketing of current spiritual practices is so similar to that of the past. Hopefully, I can save someone from spending a fortune on magical cures that – I also wished they worked as advertised!!! – are a rip-off, at best a good experience to meet people who are in the same boat as you.

Moreover, be aware of secretive groups or teachers who deliberately and covertly assume the disguise of a moralistic yogi to make money – that thing, every day a fool and a smart person leave home. The guy may not even do it out of malice, but who knows.

And just to finish, if you’ve made it this far, it’s worth spreading the end of romantic yoga (since the topic out there is romantic love kk), which considers more traditional and true that passed by pure Indians – in other words, marketing with assumptions about race, religious ancestry, geographic origins, and artificially sharp distinctions between the East and the West.

If you enjoyed the conversation and want to see some old newspaper ads, take a read at one of Phillip’s articles!

See you later 🙂

a brief introduction to Bhagavad Ghita

I recommend reading this text while listening to this song.

The first thing I do in the morning is drink water, I turn on the tap for zuzu to drink as well, both of us half drowsy there, washing our bodies from the inside. Zuzu is my mom’s kitten, she’s been living with me for over 6 months, because my grandmother had to go live with my mother and cinzinha, my grandmother’s cat, went along.

The two detest each other, zuzu and cinzinha, that’s why one of them ended up here at my house. I was even happy, but for me the ideal would be that they lived together and licked each other in peace just like the internet kittens. Just the other day I realized: Who guarantees that these same kittens don’t fight at other times? That’s right.

Just when you think they hate each other - Imgflip

It seems that permanent peace is just an ideal or a probability that varies according to time, intensity, and the scope of relationships. It’s annoying, but it’s the reality. Instead of dragging Christian guilt for moments of discord, it’s better to accept that it is inevitable in all lives.

The myth of “non-violence”

Better than peace, is peace achieved without violence. This was the discourse of Gandhi, one of the main Indian socio-political activists in his anti-colonial struggle. Founder of the satyagraha movement, Gandhi incorporated principles of non-violence (ahimsa) and truth (satyagraha) as the basis of his “passive resistance” to British imperialism.

Ahimsa and Satyagraha are concepts rich in bibliography, millennial precepts that are in texts such as Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, in the Jaina Sutras and is also part of the general Buddhist philosophical framework.

Dalai Lama, reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara and therefore spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, followed a similar line to Gandhi in Tibetan resistance against China’s takeover, but it’s all nonsense. None of them stood for non-violence in practice, under all contexts.

Gandhi celebrated Japan’s victory over Russia, said Stalin was a great man and also corroborated in situations of war with England, such as the conflict in South Africa.

Dalai Lama even went so far as to play word chess and justify the use of violence, separating “method” from “motivation”. The method may involve killing, as long as the motivation is compassion – just like a snippet from the Bhagavad Gita.

But it’s not just in India that pacifist discourse grows that apparently is unsustainable, as shown by Domenico Losurdo, an Italian historian and philosopher, in his book “Non-Violence: A History Beyond the Myth” in which he raises the contradictions of the most famous and influential pro non-violence movements in history around the globe.

In the text he talks about the anti-colonial movements, but also relates Gandhi and Tolstoy, Gandhi and the socialist movement, goes through Lenin’s party, touches Christian abolitionism, pacifism in the United States and even has the audacity to bring up Martin Luther King’s record and nickname him “Black Gandhi”, pointing to an American Afro-Radicalism.

It’s a delicate topic. Losurdo must not have been content that people swallow any peace discourse when everything around us involves power struggles. It’s almost like believing in the Chinese party’s propaganda of abundance during the time of the great famine.

In the end, Losurdo says that the “Color Revolutions” are a big game and brings a more realistic “proposal” of non-violence for the reality of the time – of imminent nuclear attack. It’s worth reading, but mind you, it’s a very unpleasant subject.

I only brought up this issue of the complexity between peace and war; and the discrepancy between discourse and practice of non-violence, because it was the best way I thought to start addressing the Baghavad Ghita.

So let’s get there soon, today I want to talk about some technical details of its publications and translations, to say that, as I said above, in addition to using its concepts to defend non-violence groups, people also manage to use the same narrative to cover up Nazi atrocities.

How so? We’ll see. We won’t draw any conclusion and after we finish the text we will wish for peace, peacefully. Good Vibes. Be Happy. 🤝

Baghavad Ghita

In the text, there is a battle and the most common cut that is made from the story is as follows:

On one side, the good guys from the family, on the other, the folks who stole the throne out of ambition. One of the good guys (his name is Arjuna) questions: “Despite being politically right, how can I kill my own uncles, grandparents, and cousins?” Complicated. Family is family, right?

To make matters worse, his mission, his life’s work, was to be a warrior. And work is work, right? It’s almost like a policeman today having to kill his own cousin. Follow the morality of the individual mission or the morality of the family lineage?

The whole book is Krishna giving advice to Arjuna:

Man, we are born in this physical body and the way to do things in this world is material, this life is action. Go ahead, do your job, dying doesn’t matter, we are all playing roles here in this life, the soul is immortal.

overly attached hare krishna meme - Google Search | Krishna, Bhagavad gita,  Hindu

Okay, the book is a bit more complex than that, but did you notice the distance from the violent act that this cutout has? That a narrative of something bigger is used to justify violence? Hold on, I’ll get back to this.

In other texts, I will talk more (and better) about Ghita, Uppanishad, Amrtasiddhi and other things from the yogi universe that I love so much and want to navigate beyond the circles of young mystics and eccentric academics.

I will mix it with stories from my life, quote supposedly intelligent people, give a touch of current social issues and hopefully some reference will make sense.

If you want to see me slip and sound like a lunatic at some point, stay, give a like, send it to someone, it costs nothing:

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When it was written

Although the exact dating of the composition of the Bhagavad Gita is uncertain, for many Hindus, especially those who follow the Vaishnava tradition (devotees of Vishnu, Krishna or Rama), the Bhagavad Gita is a “Shruti” scripture (literally, that which was heard), a song revealed by Krishna, timeless and divine.

This is articulated within the text itself, as if when it was sung for the first time, it was already eternal. We can say that it is a kind of scriptural authentication that the text gives to itself: a mode of transmission from the divine to the human world. And, if you didn’t click on the song at the beginning of the text, here’s another chance to hear this divine chant:

The Gita is a song that, over time, became a genre, a type of literature in Sanskrit. With success, came many different Gitas, various different songs. But the Original Gita is part of the Mahabharata, one of the most extensive epic texts in the world, composed of 18 books, known as Parvans. To give you an idea, the whole text is larger than the Greek Odyssey and Iliad, combined.

You can imagine that, instead of watching Game of Thrones at the end of the day, people used to gather to listen to these fantastic stories and dramas, first as a song, then in text and it is still reinterpreted today. It is part of the repertoire of the more than billion people that make up the Indian people and sympathizers.

Originally the story was passed on through oral traditions, like bards, sung, recited, performed, and traveled from place to place for thousands of years, but at some point, about 2,000 years ago, it began to be written and copied as a manuscript, still with regional variations and different textual traditions.

A Herculean effort was made to gather scriptures throughout the Indian territory and assemble the most accurate edition possible. A team of Sanskrit scholars at the Bhandarka Oriental Research Institute in Pune, took about 5 decades to complete the critical edition of the Mahabharata in 1966, compiled after the analysis of 1,259 manuscripts of Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Bhagavad Gita - Wikipedia

Despite the Mahabharata being ancient and the chapter of the Bhagavad Gita being disseminated throughout the world, the text is so relevant and alive that, even today, there is a real academic dispute about whether the Gita is or is not part of the Mahabharatha 🤯

Some scholars, like G.S. Kier, suggest that the Gita was composed in different stages by various authors. Chapters 1 and 2 may represent the original layer, while others were added later.

Others, like R.C. Zaner, defend the doctrinal unity of the Gita, considering it a cohesive text with a clear emphasis on the message of mysticism and divinity of Krishna. However, there are people like Angelica Malinar, who seeks a balance and suggests that, despite layers of development, the Gita was indeed codified as an integral part of the Mahabharata.

Global dissemination

Aside from the disputes over the origins of the original text, we also have to consider the fidelity of the translations. The Gita is the most translated book in the world and occupies an important place in the backdrop of intellectual, philosophical, and political history, not only in India.

Oppenheimer refers to it when he says “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”; Huxley in “The Doors of Perception” says”The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the greatest spiritual works ever written.“; Thoreau wrote in Walden:

In the morning, I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.

The first English version was made by British Orientalist Charles Wilkins in 1785. And, about 100 years later, another very influential English language publication appeared, Sir Edwin Arnold’s “The Song Celestial**”**, which, interestingly, was the first copy of the Bhagavad Gita that Mahatma Gandhi read, when he was studying to become a lawyer in London.

Yes, Gandhi, in fact, did not discover the Gita in India.

Charles Wilkins - Wikipedia
thanks, Charles

From there, the text has passed through many hands, has been translated in more than 75 countries and many of the versions are not based on the work of the Bhandarka academics. Therefore, when you see a political leader using loose concepts or when you find a free translation from any guru, be suspicious.

Political Uses

The Gita gives sense to things that make no sense, justifies things that have no justification, so I agree with Thoreau, everything else seems petty and trivial in front of it. The Gita is a romanticization. The Gita is a beautiful book.

But not for Zizek. He doesn’t emphasize the use of the Gita for the noble pro “non-violence” groups, the Stalinist provokes by bringing a controversial theme, he tells that when they confronted Hitler “we are doing horrible things, killing young Jews, mothers, how can we do this without becoming beasts?” he used this pseudo-oriental discourse of distancing from materiality supposedly contained in the Gita to justify the massacre.

On the other hand, Zizek argues that, in profound crises, radical measures are necessary, this done under a greater pretext of social justice and transformation of power structures. He uses the Marxist discourse and not the Gita to justify violence, but it is similar, the line is thin, so Losurdo crosses these fronts in his text.

If you are living in the same world as me in 2024, we know that the other side turns the table and says that this kind of social justice agenda is what is discriminatory with their group – the total death of truth (satyagraha?), it is worth reading this book by Michiko Kakutani. It’s a relief.

That is, the concepts of the Gita are timeless, truth – lula or bolsonaro, violence – gaza or israel, everything is sewn together and it is not from today, it is not only from the Gita, many other classics from various cultures work on these themes.

It happens that the Gita is the most used and, in a way, everything that could be said about it has already been said. There have been many readers, commentators, translators from different times and cultures, yet these concepts – and all the others – are still the subject of dispute.

Philosophical Context

Its teachings are current because the internal experience of being a human being, the body, the mind, the desires, the fears, all of this is still very similar. At another moment I bring these other beautiful parts of the Gita here, but continuing the line of reasoning, not to do the Hitler and distort the whole text, it is good to remember that there is a very specific historical and cultural context in which the Gita is speaking.

It emerged as a unified text at a time when Buddhism and Jainism were already established. It occurs in the context of the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where war is imminent and Krishna’s dialogue with Arjuna addresses concepts that can be understood in relation to ideas present in these traditions, such as the nature of existence and the tension between liberation (moksha) and mundane life (samsara).

The text investigates the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment while fulfilling responsibilities in the material world. In addition, it shares philosophical affinities with the Upanishads, which form the spiritual basis of the Vedas and deepens concepts such as the nature of the soul (atman) and the pursuit of unity with the divine (Brahman). It also touches on the caste system, was the basis for various legal texts and goes through ritualistic and devotional practices.

It is a very difficult operation to try to understand the Gita, unlike the more ascetic models of classical Yoga, such as, for example, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which suggests that the Yogi should withdraw from the world, – withdraw from society, as a renunciant, as sannyasin, – the universal message of the Gita promotes a social ethic of engaging in the world through disciplined yoga practice, transforming all activities into a service and humble devotion of yoga.

Religious Uses

Just as the political use of the text is very problematic, the religious one is also. As you can see, our current philosophical struggle is not the same as above, the text was not written to dialogue with Christianity, Islam and other monotheisms in general.

Yes, the concepts fit like a glove for many things, for that reason, and thinking about the difficulty of formation, interpretation and translations, it is also important not to fall into any religious use that current gurus can make.

Many leaders claim to be from oral lineages supposedly much more authentic than any academic text, grow on top of this and, curiously, later at some point their ideologies merge with the world of (big) business, as shown by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation, Baba Ramdev with his Ayurvedic products, the infamous Osho and his Rajneeshpuram community, among others.

Including Mr. Goenka, from the silence retreat I spoke about, in his lecture-recordings with Buddhist tales (without exact theoretical source) tells that he was a rich Burmese businessman. Of course, dedicating oneself to spirituality requires free time and the dissemination of ideologies on a global scale requires financial resources, as well as political influence.

Estado da Birmânia – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre
I spent 10 days on retreat listening to Goenka talk about Burma without being able to research exactly where this little place was, I make a point of leaving it here for you.

As I said that “be happy” and “peace among all religions” are not neutral discourses, here I say that “non-violence” is not either.

I brought Losurdo to give me a hand showing that “non-violence” is a game of interests in all cultures, I also dared to put the eccentric Zizek to point out that the same text from where Gandhi draws concepts for his peaceful struggle, is also the text that Hitler quotes to justify his massacres – how confusing!

“Non-violence” is a beautiful ideal, I also want it! but it is above all simplified talk to guide the masses, it has never been realized for long periods of time. Violence has many facets, just like peace. The truth is in constant dispute.

I don’t quite know how to close all of this. If this text did not make you understand anything about Ghita beyond its origins, but made it clearer how her excerpts are present in our history in controversial ways, great 🙂


Sometimes I take zuzu to my mother and, if at first she and the little gray one bristled all over and made horrible noises. Now they stare at each other for hours, with some apathy for being in that forced coexistence situation, but they don’t quarrel anymore. We can say that it is a conflict without violence most of the time.

These days my mother came to the conclusion that, despite the rivalry, this is the friendship they can have, so I think she sees the situation more from the perspective of peace. She was talking about the gray one and zuzu, I think. Despite it being natural to take care of the elderly, it is also difficult to live with parents after a certain age, maybe she was talking about her relationship with my grandmother, I don’t know – we continue with the paradoxes of living.

some critics about vipassana retreat

At the edge of the sidewalk, beer in hand on a Sunday night, bum shaking back and forth, “pé na areia caipirinha gua de coco cervejinha“, on a mission to catch a guy’s eye two tables away while my friend talked something about Zappa… life is too good.

Even though I’m from the dry team, almost zero alcohol, doing this full cosplay of Brazilian happiness makes me feel very good. Warm and light days, my brother from Floripa was here, he is also a programmer, we spent long hours each in front of our laptops between functions, laughs, commits, confessions…

Various little strolls, 24-hour company, good connection. I like being happy, but it’s unsustainable to be happy all the time. There are things that can only be done with intense solitude, a certain sobriety of emotions, a dash of pessimism and maybe a bit of despair. It’s natural in life to be unhappy from time to time.

Remember when I went on a 10-day meditation retreat? So, as it is totally silent in the place, there are several signs indicating the rules and schedules so we don’t have to ask, and on all of them, there’s a little message at the end: “be happy” – this bothers me a lot.

Yes 🥁 we’ve arrived at the edition where I return to the subject of the first edition, as I promised in the second edition.

honey, remember I told ya

Yesterday, I explained why I chose to submit myself to experience this retreat called Vipassana, a meditation method/system that has existed for decades and can be done in almost any country, for free, always following the same standard.

Despite being very fond of this institution, today I am going to make some criticisms in a kind of “end young mystic” vibe. If you leave before the end, I want you to take away one message: despite everything, go to a Vipassana retreat, it’s very good for the mind, really.

I’m going to criticize and those who are over 30 will understand well, we can even really like something, but always notice a detail here and there. Aging is to become very critical or not give a damn, regardless of the position, we learn to deal with the coexistence of paradoxical ideas.

For example, I like the quiet and organized space of Vipassana to retreat, I think it clears the mind and I admire the institution’s capacity for expansion and maintenance.

On the other hand, I find the dissemination of concepts in the retreat somewhat alienating, mainly because Mr. Goenka says that his technique is universal and desires all people to be happy. Of course, compared to other talks that happen at retreats, this is the least problematic, but this neutrality talk bothers me.

Today I’m going to question whether being happy is a universal desire, whether desiring peace among religions is a universal desire, whether wanting to be detached is a universal desire, and whether feeling samkaras for our karmas is universal.

Criticism 1: Be happy

At the end of the retreat, when we could talk to each other, a gray-haired, skinny guy, turtle glasses, professor’s face, told me this (imagine with a Rio accent):

  • The last day was the best for me, when he tells us to imagine the vibe of meditation expanding to all beings, wishing Metta for all people, I felt a lot of love…

There, he was caught by the discourse.

We spend 10 days there experiencing a complexity of emotions, and on the last day, they teach us to wish good vibes to the world?! Ok, it’s beautiful, I participate, but I don’t totally accept it.

If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know: sometimes it’s agonizing, boring, it’s not a vibe – precisely, meditating is important because it teaches you to live with these nuances of reality and it doesn’t always make you happy in the end.

And if it doesn’t feel good, did I meditate wrong? No. Mr. Goenka says there’s nothing wrong. Just observe: if you’re in good vibes at the end of meditation, wish that to the world, if you’re not, don’t vibrate your energy to anyone. In my case, sometimes a narrator in my mind would say:

“While people are being bombed between the Gaza Strip, Rocinha and Ukraine, about 50 people in the middle of the Atlantic forest meditate in love, wishing freedom and happiness to all human beings – super effective.”

Would only a very unbearable person argue that “being happy” is not a universal wish? Maybe. I’ve been softening you up, since the first edition I showed myself a pain I said I don’t believe in full happiness, nor in world peace: they are utopias, fictions, political training speeches.

Alex Castro

Why do so many companies want you to want to be happy?

I know you want to be happy. But think with me: The biggest companies in the world are spending billions of dollars so that some of the best minds on the planet convince you to put your own individual happiness as the ultimate goal of your life…

Read more

Even the most miserable people have moments of happiness. Why tie a meditation technique to such a generic desire?

Thousands of years ago it was believed that we live this life over and over again in a wheel of samsara, the final desire of meditation was, therefore, not to reincarnate anymore (I won’t jump into that hole now, but if you want, you can take a breath here to reflect on the caste system).

Why is the purpose of meditation not enlightenment, but happiness today? If before the scheme was to get out of the wheel, why do we want to be happy spinning here today?

Critique 2: Peace among religions

On this same last day of the retreat where we learn to expand happiness, we are guided to a room with a television. The first screen we see in days, they play a video of Mr. Goenka talking about universal peace and acceptance of all religions at a UN conference:

“Wow. This retreat is serious, this teacher is recognized worldwide”. Showing this kind of video at the end of the course is a very strong social proof technique.

Perhaps with a bit of critical sense, one might find strange this strong emphasis on the West-East dichotomy, the “East”, India, as a great bearer of the pacifying discourse. For those not very versed in the history of Indian gurus in the “West”, it may all seem unique when, in fact, this talk is quite old:

Over 100 years ago, Vivekananda also spoke of peace in a very similar speech: “We believe not only in universal tolerance, but accept all religions as true.” (You can listen to the original here.)

Vivekananda at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893

This speech is not so famous outside the yoga universe, perhaps you thought more of others such as Ghandi or Dalai Lama, it’s along those lines. I will talk more about peace and non-violence in other editions, so if you are enjoying it, give a like, send it to someone and stay:

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Anyway, there are several other materials that they could show on the last day, for example the documentary about vipassana applied in prisons, which is great.

But no, the choice went another way, as everything in the retreat is meticulously organized, this end marketing technique is too:

Showing this speech removes any doubt you had about having thrown yourself into a difficult 10-day experience and puts you in a place – you were part of something bigger, come back, call other people, come volunteer at the retreat, let’s expand and achieve world peace.

Well, I don’t agree that these things about being happy and peace among all religions are universal, but they are, perhaps, secondary concepts of the retreat. The central idea is to sit and pay attention to the sensations of the body without feeling attachment or aversion, it is to detach.

Difficult, even more so for so many days and hours: the body hurts, the head starts to freak out in a thousand things – come back, come back here! Pay attention to the right shoulder, what’s there? Nothing? Ok, let’s go to the elbow…

Critique 3: Being detached

It takes self-control not to get up in the middle of the fifth day of meditation and shout “guys, we’re self-flagellating here!! let’s go for a hike!! there’s a waterfall nearby, let’s go!!”.

10 days is a lot. Besides being on a thin line between being elitist or anti-capitalist, doing nothing for so long is also boring as hell.

On the other hand, there is a common imagination that believes in “doing boring things leads to good results“, that “consistency and discipline take you further“. People look at you a bit differently because you can meditate.

It is only a superpower to meditate for so long because we live the exact opposite of this: under an economy based on melting our minds and bodies with pleasure.

Everyone is afraid of losing control, of spending too much and not being able to pay the rent, of eating too much and dying of a heart attack, of sleeping around and dying alone… Therefore, each person has their own fetishization of discipline for some area of life.

Vipassana meditation messes with this imagination, it is a hard exercise, a shock treatment for you to learn not to feel attachment or aversion, it makes you a more resilient person and able to apply this skill in other areas of life.

Beautiful, but it is not “natural” for all cultures to admire a disciplined person, with total control of the body and mind, who does not have excessive desires. Self-control is not natural, not universal, and not a higher moral value.

I don’t want to know about elevation, it’s at sea level, at ground level that my worldly love exists and insists / attachment and freedom (even if partial and temporary), do not need to be a contradiction.

In some indigenous communities, for example, the acceptance and integration of desires is an intrinsic part of the human experience and not something to be purged or dominated.

Why did we invent to eradicate desires? One of the reasons is, for sure, because they distract us from social and financial obligations, which with each passing year of capitalism can only be minimally fulfilled if we maintain a stoic lifestyle, with the consistency of an atomic clock.

Of course, it’s not all capitalism’s fault, other cultures embrace this ideal – I would venture to say that always the most hierarchical ones – for example, another strong reference to discipline that we have is from martial arts or from the time of Japanese shogunate.

But speaking about the now and capitalism itself, it bothers me that the obsession for emotional, rational and financial self-control exists at the same intensity as we put botox in our forehead. It’s against nature this thing of trying to avoid at most the movements of the mind and body.

“And therefore I do not regret my attachments, the times I felt the desire to remain, to be, to be in all the linking verbs with other beings.”

Is it really necessary to strive and suffer to achieve a stability of difficult maintenance? Being detached at all costs does not seem to me a universal concept.

Critique 4: Introduction to catechizing concepts – karma, samkaras…

Finally, I want to talk about the philosophical explanations that Goenka gives to such physical sensations that we feel when we sit for so many hours.

Everyone who goes feels them to some extent and it’s not just about back pain, there are also good sensations, butterflies in the stomach, an open chest… it’s a long time to feel a lot.

Do the sensations come along with the thoughts? Oops, but I thought I wasn’t thinking about anything, just scanning the sensations of the body…

Mr. Goenka has an explanation for all of this. He calls the sensations Samkaras, says they are related to karmas.

He tells several Buddhist stories throughout the course, emphasizes that it doesn’t matter how badly you messed up in the past or in other lives. You can, from now on, meditate and change your conduct, stop accumulating more samkaras, achieve freedom from the ties of the mind and body, spread peace around.

That is, the past has consequences, but there is no direct punishment, as in Christianity. The pains do not come as punishment because you have committed sins, but they do have some relation to your past life.

Anyway, Mr. Goenka says that in this technique it doesn’t matter if the person feels good or bad things, the important thing is your ability to maintain equanimity, to stay firm sitting, still, meditating, without judging the Samkaras, getting rid of them by letting them pass through you without reacting.

Very beautiful and compassionate, but it’s a fic. We have no explanation for the origin of the variation of sensations in the body and we don’t need to believe in Samkaras, nor in Sins, nor in Synapses to want to meditate or think about changing old life patterns. (I’m not anti-current science, I believe in synapses, but in the future we might call it something else, who knows.)

There are things that can only be experienced, you can’t touch them, you can’t put them into words – and you don’t need to. You can see that, the more we sit there meditating using the Vipassana technique, the more we expand our perception of the body and, in a way, we master the mind’s desire to do other things.

This can be said in many ways, but they are not universal concepts, as Mr. Goenka puts it. Proust, a guy who we know was not very happy, said “We only heal from a suffering after we have endured it to the end.”

I hope you go to Vipassana

Despite Mr. Goenka’s end-of-day recordings telling his Buddhist stories and trying to catechize us to rid ourselves of supposed samkaras, all the other hours of the day are in silence, you with yourself, without having to worry about basic survival things like cooking or paying for accommodation.

Where else can you find this?

Sitting for 10 days in Vipassana will not solve “all the problems of humanity”, nor yours, but it is very beautiful to think and act as if it would.

Leaving the retreat, I asked the people who were returning our phones if they worked there permanently or were volunteers. Both told me they had been volunteers for years, but unfortunately had other obligations and couldn’t stay there permanently.

Of course, they wanted to stay there all the time, in the masturbation of cleansing their sins, exercising self-discipline, and radiating happiness to the world. What a noble life mission, guys. Catechism successfully completed.

Ironies aside, there is no place where we are not subjected to some ideology, whether in the shopping center, in the company, or in the meditation center… as David Foster Wallace said, some are so present that they seem like air around us, just as water is obvious to a fish in a tank.

It is up to each one to develop a deeper consciousness of how to better interpret the social constructs in which we are trapped inserted. With Vipassana it’s no different, you go on a retreat and Mr. Goenka says all the time that it is a universal technique, like a journalist saying that their opinion is impartial.

The retreat exists within a larger political and cultural context, it is up to each participant to look deeper into where this applies to their life. Vipassana is not apolitical or secular, for example, in England there is a retreat that is only for executives.

Vipassana corporate luxury center – Dhamma Padhana

It’s natural that this happens, it’s a lot of time and money to maintain this global structure. It’s not an a-cultural environment nor a universal technique. Quite the contrary, it’s a retreat towards a very specific belief: with practice we can be happy. Happy for what?

“Perhaps clinging to detachment is one of the less healthy attachments”

The highlighted excerpts are all from this beautiful text “Detachment is not the only path to freedom” by Geni, a Guarani psychologist. Go check it out.

origins of the sun salutation – surya namaskar

Without the slightest basis in reality, I’m excited for 2024. I’m of the team who loves the fiction new year, new life. Rethinking the whole existence, as if it were possible to start from a blank sheet – when in fact you can see the mark of the pen on the back, there was (a lot of) stuff before.

You can’t reset life, but when the year turns, I have some rituals to mark a knot symbolising that time has passed – we are in a new cycle. There are two activities that shape the turn, each has its own time and intensity: they cannot be accelerated, they are narrative processes that unite past and future in a present.

I know that the New Year’s celebration would already be a rite to mark this turn and it’s not that I have any distaste for New Year’s Eve, I’m not like Tati Bernardi, who has an aversion to celebrating on crowded beaches, but these are more introspective rituals, precisely because I don’t have a preference for this date.

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phases and phases

In some years I spend the night dancing crazy with MD – in others I go to bed early, alone, before midnight, in peace, happy with life. Since my disposition can vary, I created two little rituals that can be maintained in any situation: doing 108 sun salutations and writing some plans in the planner.

Ritual 1: Dance according to the music

Putting “plan the year” as a personal little ritual is almost a cruel joke. As Marília Morchovich speaks very well in this text, having to plan is a symptom of the accumulation of functions that capitalism dumps on our shoulders and makes self-organization almost a question of survival – every man for himself.

It is no coincidence that productivity methods and resources like bullet journals, planners, and pomodoro become increasingly popular. With precarious working conditions, more tasks are required from workers than it is humanly possible to accomplish. Thus, working time not only needs to be extended, but also optimized.

Despite understanding that the overload is systemic and unfair, it does not help to keep struggling against it.

No one is going to break the system by distributing anticap leaflets on the train, nor are they going to win the system if they have a stroke before 50 in exchange for making 6 digits a year.

Time management and monthly-annual budgeting are some of the best rituals that have been built for us in these times and it’s not worth throwing the carpe diem only to stuff myself hidden with rivotril later.

not always hidden

The middle way is Cicero’s planner.

Wednesday: day that the manager goes face-to-face, stays 12 hours in the office to make an average.

Friday: home office day, go to Republic Square at the act against the privatization of corner beds

Reminder: wash the MST cap.

Some people may not like to plan, they think it is paving the way for anxiety or plastering day to day.

Planners, calendars, lists, and scapulars

If the focus of the planning is to answer “Exactly where do I want to go”, “Exactly how much do I want to earn”, it really becomes heavier, these metric mental masturbations are an easy path to frustration, especially if you are prone to believe in fictions and expect everything to come out 100% as expected.

I am a devotee of Thais Godinho, she was an outperformer, one of those we suspect live a 30-hour day, so she created the organized life blog (a bible). At some point, Thais stumbled upon Buddhism and tried to hold the paradoxes of old and new beliefs with the rebranding compassionate productivity.

Fortunately, she didn’t stop there, she would age very badly, life was generous and pulled her into a deeper hole: today the cat is doing a PhD in the area work sufferings – I confess, it was when I thought she was going to throw in the towel, but she holds firm, because it’s what we can do.

I say this to illustrate that “productivity” is a complex and paradoxical subject, not always synonymous with alienated corporate bitches. I also tell you to go there on her blog, it has everything.

My mini contribution to the subject is: “How do I want to feel” and “Who do I want to be with” are good question-exercises to guide the steps when planning, as well as planning from 12 to 12 weeks instead of the whole year, and using the notion app (along with the planner, yes) – everything for me.

I shared in the last edition some of the cool things to do at the beginning of 2024 and I have already prioritized this, if it is not precisely the fun that is left for the second plan, buried by the accumulation of functions and maintenance of everyday life: training, taxes, food, work, courses, professional events, doctors…

The scheme is to think that planning is more of a compass than a map.

It’s an instrument that guides you in some direction, for example, I like to think of a larger goal as the theme of the whole year, but I don’t specify from January to December how to get there. Another thing, I keep a list of trips-rides I would like to do and choose on average 2 to do each trimester.

I have a very experimental personality, I want to acquire many skills or at least humble myself trying – it’s stronger than me. I usually try about 5 habits-hobbies per year. By the way, we are here, now, directly, live, in habit number 1 of 2024, writing and publishing weekly. Stay tuned for more:

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So that I can do this without losing track of the activities-to-survive, planning is essential, it helps me fit work in between fun, I mean.. the opposite.

Ritual 2: Connect the body to the present moment

Besides this ritual-planner, on day one, I also usually do 108 sun salutations. In some yoga studios, on special dates, people do exactly that, so I just borrowed the little ritual for myself too – this magical Indian number and this random sequence.

The idea is to have a moment during the day to make a knot in time, connect breath, thought, body, everything in one place – we are here, we are this, we are together, we have passed another year.

Of course, I would rather ground mind-body-breath to the present moment with my tribe, in a ritualistic dance, singing, playing instruments, and perhaps with a touch of medicinal herb, but I didn’t get to be born in that context.

I grew up with a sun salutation poster on the blue wall of the home office, it was something I used to do since childhood with my mother, it’s a good memory. As an adult, I wanted to know what is the tradition of this sequence, in which text is it? Why does everyone do it? Why is it a little different in each yoga lineage?

If you are also curious to know the origin of Surya Namaskar, the so-called sun salutation sequence, come with me, I will tell here briefly, but I warn you: it is not carved in any ancient sculpture, nor described in medieval scriptures. It’s just a set of movements that a rich Indian invented 100 years ago.

The sun salutation

During World War I and II, showing health and strength was a way to demonstrate national sovereignty. For example, the Germans used their gym exercises not only to develop healthy bodies, but also to promote certain morality and create “new Germans”.

Throughout Europe, texts on sports such as rowing, horse riding, boxing, and swimming, as well as manuals on how to walk, climb, and jump were published. In this context, health and fitness magazines emerged, such as L’Athlète, in 1896, the year the first modern Olympics took place. Before that, in 1893, the first international bodybuilding exhibition took place!

In India, various Western gymnastics, such as Ling, Sandow and YMCA, had a great impact, were incorporated into the local culture of fights and we can find this mix in the Indian Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding (1950), a book that was translated into English and sold in other countries, and also included a description of Surya Namaskar as an exercise, along with a detailed history of a supposed tradition.

However, according to the book The path of modern yoga, in extensive bibliographic research, it was discovered that there is no millennial tradition for Surya Namaskar.

In reality, it was Raja Bhavanarao Pant Pratinidhi (1868–1951) who invented and disseminated the sequence. He tested various foreign & Indian exercise manuals, but saw no result in any of them – like us, who test a thousand workout apps and the belly remains there.

So, he took a sequence that his father used to do to pray, made modifications, called it surya namaskar (sun salutation) and, with the help of the businessman and guru Paramahansa Yogananda, adapted it to the popular form of the time, a step-by-step manual: “Number 1: stand in tadasana, mountain posture… Number 2: bend in uttanasana, etc.”

Bhavanaro systematized his practice as the science of Namaskaras, and incorporated it into the curriculum of his yoga and gymnastics school in Satara. He claimed that the practice had benefits such as muscle development, disease cure, and pain relief.

His booklet included illustrations and recommended practices in cycles, varying from 25 to 50 cycles for children from eight to twelve years old, 50 to 150 cycles for boys and girls from twelve to sixteen years old, and 300 cycles for everyone over sixteen years old.

Since then, millions of people have been doing these prostrations, across India and then around the world, with the help of illustrated manuals translated into English, but also with the little push from gurus seeking ways to disseminate their knowledge in a homogeneous and memorable way.

All of this is very different from the older yoga books, in Sanskrit, medieval, secret, that had little or nothing to do with a sequence of rhythmic movements – of which I will inevitably end up talking in other editions. If you’re interested, stay:

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Hatha yoga is a modern creation and the sun salutation was incorporated into it. It has a base, but everyone does it their own way, Bhavanaro himself mixed the movements with the chanting of Vedic and Bija Mantras.

In fact, it is likely that Bhavanaro named his sequence surya namaskar due to its resemblance to the sun worship ritual, in which Brahmin priests kneel and prostrate – a characteristic of the syncretism that permeates the entire Indian imagination to this day.

Another example that I love, in the akharas, Indian bodybuilding gyms at the time, in addition to weight training, there was the Surya Namaskar and a mix of other techniques that practitioners brought from different places.

K.V. Iyer, combined bodybuilding with yoga postures. 1930. Otley Coulter Collection.

In these places there were also strong anti-colonialist movements, which caused a paradox between accepting European and foreign techniques in general, but at the same time strengthening the nationalist movement, so sometimes everything was appropriated, adapted and renamed as a “purely Indian” practice. Who knows if a bit of what is now said to be yoga and purely Indian is not from another place?

Perhaps they didn’t go that far.

Final Thoughts

You can’t control the future using a planner. There’s a sick productivity p0rn on the internet and I won’t corroborate with that: sometimes I organize myself and don’t deliver anything, it happens.

You also can’t transcend reality by practicing a sequence of movements invented between wars. I won’t embrace alienation and pretend there isn’t a lot of academic research that debunks the magical discourses of gurus out there.

It may sound a bit square, but I like doing these things – and I can handle being cheesy in a good way, I don’t need to justify that I plan because it’s more effective or do yoga because it’s ancient and mystical.

When I laid my head on the pillow, thirty minutes after the turn of the year, I was very happy to be going to bed early, sober, with my alive and clean brother crashed out on the couch and still hearing the sound of my mother washing the dinner dishes.

For this past year, this calm was everything, everything I needed most – I almost cried from how much I needed it. However, I strongly wished that the next turn would be in a short white dress, very nice, bathed in champagne, perhaps even in the midst of some commotion.

Regardless of the situation, I know I will write in my planner and do the sun salutations. As the philosopher Byung-Chul-Han would say in “The disappearance of rituals: A topology of the present“, the ritual is to time, as the house is to space. I like to decorate this knot of time, just as I embellish my house.