Yoga is growing in popularity in Poland. As with every fashion, this leads to a number of simplifications, and sometimes even misunder-standings.
Meanwhile, the book by Professor Konecki is a book about yoga in the context of modern culture. It is also a book about modern culture in the context of yoga. It gathers the experience of trainees, and shows as well the phenomenon that evolved out of Indian tradition and became an integral part of Western-European lifestyle.
One may ask: in a world of corporations, business transactions, sports competitions and a lay world which is mistrustful towards everything that does not withstand the trial of rational discussion, is there space for the search for inner peace and harmony? How much does physicality (asana exercises) bind with spirituality? It is worth asking yourself these questions even if you have never set nor intend to set foot on the yoga mat. Maybe it is especially worth asking in a country like Poland, which is so dynamically changing and where the meaning of individual choices is becoming ever more important. Every thought which helps one harmonize the micro-cosmos that every human-being is, as well as consciously influence the macro-cosmos – the way the society functions and the way to treat the world we live in – is very valuable. Yoga, which may be treated as “the everyday life religion” (as described by Professor Konecki), or as a way to keep one's psycho-physical fitness in good shape, or as a chance to build community relationships, or connected with Indian culture, or maybe with the New Age, definitely offers one a chance to take control of his or her life. Even if we start from something as basic as our body, if we fully realize the influence that we have on it, that our body really belongs to us, maybe it will be easier to accommodate other aspects of our lives: conscious decision-making, human relations, and our use of natural resources and of the skills given to us. Is this a utopia? Perhaps, but perhaps too it is an opportunity that we overlook because it gets crushed by life's everyday pressures, and because we run away from difficult confrontations with here-and-now solutions.
In modern Eastern societies, we are looking for something that would take us away from everyday life, from the workload and the problems connected with work, or the lack thereof. Everyday life is what aches us the most, but we have to go through it to achieve maturity and ask ourselves serious questions. This maturity is often connected with the will to understand oneself, the mind, and the body. The inherent limitations of these aspects are strongly visible when we cannot manage with the race of our thoughts connected with a purposeful, rational usage of time, which the harder we try to achieve, the more control we lose. Our mind often does not cope with the everyday routine that thickens more and more around us, where in our perception time often loses its linear character, being just a way to get us to a moment, in the form of meetings and making further plans and arrangements. Hence step by step we become weaker, both mentally and physically.
Feeling this, we often end up asking ourselves the question: “How can we stop this course?” Others may ask: “How can we improve the shape of their bodies and minds in order to manage with the slowly-consuming everyday life?” These two adult questions (“adult” not being connected here with biological age, but with one's state of mind) create a motivational base for the search to find a permanent and stable drift in everyday life, or to strengthen one's psycho-physical state in order to manage life. Thus begins an individual search. Some turn towards actions connected with other people and in this way realize that time is a relative notion, especially when we want to help others. We find time for them. Others find themselves in different types of hobbies, while some run away from everyday life by the simple act of travelling, and thus find themselves in the claws of the tourist agency world. Sport and physical activity also offer a possibility to improve one's psycho-physical state, as well as to escape from everyday life. Training and/or participation in marathons enables individuals to partially run away from everyday life, but still be strongly submerged, and boosting self-esteem is evident in a variety of different, everyday life aims, often not connected with sport. The ego is also working hard in sport.
In the chapter I deal with research problems connected with the issues of the transfer of body feelings and phenomena connected with embodiment.
The problem of the body and the embodiment became very popular in sociology since the 1990s. However, the research on the embodiment and the body have a rather theoretical character, and even if empirical, then by the use of techniques based in direct and indirect communication. Observational techniques are seldom used (see: Waskul, Vanini 2006; Jakubowska 2009). This chapter shows the trial of linking the observational techniques with the interview techniques and is close to the naturalistic research on the practice of using the body (Schubert 2006; see also Laurier, Maze, Lundin 2006; Heath, Luft, 2007a; 2007b; Konecki 2008; Knoblauch 2008), although it widens it by individual experiences of the body researched with the usage of interview techniques which characterize the approach of symbolic interactionism (Schrock, Boyd 2006) or phenomenology (Brandt 2006) or the model of research through mutual experiences (Wyka 1993). The photographic representation of many activities are common in contemporary society where the visualization of many social processes, selves and everyday life activities (e.g. hobbies, sport activities) are presented in social media and in many public places (Bogunia-Borowska, Sztompka 2012; Sztompka 2005; Drozdowski 2008; Drozdowski, Krajewski 2008).
A very important element in popularization of hatha-yoga in the modern world was the technical possibility of visual reproduction of yoga and yoga training. The development of photography, relatively low price of photography, and the possibility to print it in yoga textbooks and popular magazines are an important technological element contributing to the social development of the yoga world in the modern civilization. The transmission of yoga is currently based on “photographic realism” which causes lessening of the interest in aspects of “traditional” esoteric yoga.
Singleton (2010a: 164) quoting the views of John Putz from the work Photography and the Body shows what photography was for the modernistically oriented worldview.
The explanation of what hatha-yoga is seems a difficult task for a sociologist. I am even more aware, since practicing yoga and observing yoga practitioners and listening to their explanations, of the wide array of common definitions of yoga, as well as the many types of yoga. People who practice different types of yoga usually treat the given type which they practice as the source, and even sometimes as the one and only true source, of that which can be called yoga. While we will deal with the problem of a common definition of yoga by practitioners in Chapter 3, at this point we will examine how yoga is defined by a religious historian and theologian, Mircea Eliade, and a practitioner and theoretician of yoga, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, who is a spiritual guardian, teacher, and master (guru) in his own line of yoga teaching, often called Iyengar's School.
Iyengar has created a very buoyant B. K. S. Iyengar's Institute of Yoga in Pune, India, which educates teachers propagating hatha-yoga around the world. Iyengar (December 14, 1918–August 20, 2014) wrote several books that explain his philosophy of yoga and also gave instructions for executing certain asanas (positions) and breathing practices (pranayama). During his youth, Iyengar cured himself from many physical ailments and sicknesses through yoga practices (2005a). Maybe this biographical fact established his strong tendency to accent physicality and physical exercises in his concept of hatha-yoga. He is often accused of having a physical approach to yoga. However, in order to level this tendency in his work and in the perception of his school, he wrote a book after 70 years of practice, Light on Life, which shows other elements of yoga, accenting more the spirituality of this philosophy, and also translated and explained Patanjali's sutras, which express the essence of yoga and show its spiritual character (Iyengar 2002a; 2005a).
The issues concerning hatha-yoga can also be looked at from the perspective of the modernization concept that our society has undergone and is still undergoing. Modernization can be understood here as a process of social change concerning industrial and post-industrial economies, increasing the role of the public, lay, and democratic institutions, the expansion of mass-media, increasing wealthiness of the major part of the society and major flexibility in the human physical and social mobility (Lynch 2007: 100).
Emil Durkheim claims that one of the major influences of modernization on the changes in the Western culture was a social increase of the meaning of the individual. The increase of the meaning of the individual and its interests was considered by Durkheim as destabilizing for the society. Lessening of the meaning of the social structure causes the social bonds to fall apart, causes anomy. Acknowledging the individual as the highest value can be the basis of a new, humanistic religion. Durkheim foresaw that news of religiousness would emerge together with collective rituals that would celebrate the individual and keep the cult of the individual alive (see ibid.: 100).
Georg Simmel believed that modernization causes establishing new mystic forms of religion. This new mysticism accented the power of personal, inner experience of an individual, gradually moving away from the traditional forms of religiousness. According to Simmel, even though people where moving away from Christianity, the religious impulses still remained. This new mysticism is, according to him, a new way of life, without any relation to any God. As a result, the whole life is sacred. This way, the life is not devoted to following a God, but to following a specific quality of life, which is feeling the depth and completeness. Simmel was skeptical towards this new mysticism; he did not believe that it is capable of fully expressing new religious life. This mysticism was nothing but a trivial spiritualization of everyday life (see ibid.: 105).
A teacher who has a great authority confirmed in a line of inheriting the practice from grand masters, being a morally significant other, is called a guru. The teacher allows overcoming the obstacles that appear on the path of the pupil. It is an extremely important task for a guru:
The syllable gu means darkness, ru light. Guru disperses the darkness and brings enlightenment. The notion of guru is full of deep sense. He is not a usual guide. He is a spiritual teacher that teaches the way of life and not only how to earn for this life. He passes the knowledge about the spirit, and the one who gets this knowledge is shishya (pupil). The relationship between guru and shishya is special; it is something more than a relationship between the child and the parents, husband and wife, or among friends. Guru is free from egotism. With devotion, without looking for fame or benefits, he guides the pupil towards the ultimate goal. He shows the paths of God and watches the improvements in learning and in the discipline leading him through this path. With love, he awakens trust in him, devotion, discipline, deep understanding, and enlightenment. Believing in his student, the guru does his best for the knowledge to be absorbed. He encourages him to ask questions, learning the truth by analyzing and questioning. The student should have needed qualifications such as high type of awareness and advanced spiritual development; he has to have trust, love, and devotion for his “guru” (Iyengar 2005a: 9–11).
You salute your guru on every occasion, what is seen in all Iyengar's books where he thanks his teachers for all the teaching they did.
The relationship between Arjuna and Krishna described in Bhagavadgita could be here an example of such tradition of parampara (see: 1993).
The role of the teacher is extremely important in the development of an individual. The student has to, according to Iyengar, trust his teacher completely (2008). It is to some extent an idealized concept of a student-master relationship, it is possible if we deal with a real guru and a highly motivated student on the other side.
It needs to be remembered that the body is the temple of the soul and it needs to be nourished, cared for as if making the place saintly, then it is in harmony with our mind… Yoga teaches how to love your body, it is a great gift, we got it on the day of birth and it is a great gift and we should take care of it, love it just the way it is.
This chapter undertakes the problem of perceiving and feeling the body in the process of acquiring the identity of hatha-yoga practitioner. The process of becoming a “yogi” is connected with the practice of work on the body and on defining these practices, engendering a specific perception of the body, and feeling the body.
Becoming a hatha-yoga practitioner is a process. In this chapter I describe the phases of this process: 1) the initial phase – constructing motives and first steps; 2) the phase of a fuller recognition of psycho-physical effects and ascribing appropriate meanings to them; 3) the phase of a fuller recognition of spiritual aspects of hatha-yoga (as a quasi-religion). The relations between the mind and the body become complicated at the moment of meaningful engagement in yoga practice and in defining body practice as mental practice, as well as spiritual. The work on the body can change the Western perspective of defining the body as a material element of human existence (the Cartesian vision), to a vision of treating the body as a spiritualized substance (the vision of Eastern philosophy). Such a change is not always possible if we hold on to the guidelines of other religions as our own (e.g., the Catholic religion). In such a situation, changes in the body and psyche have to be defined differently and also certain language descriptions of these changes have to take place (often acquiring guidelines of set languages formulas) in order to combine the statements of conventional religion with the new spiritual experience.
What is the social world?
The social world is some form of association based on mutual interests and the undertaking of various actions by individuals, and this is what defines belonging to this world.
Here, I use the term ‘social world’ as it was described in interactional sociology by A. Strauss (1978; 1982) and his successors (Becker 1982; Star, Griesemer 1989; Clarke 1991; see also Kacperczyk 2005).The social world centers around some basic actions which it selects. You can distinguish many social worlds, for example, the world of qualitative researchers, the world of practicing yoga, the world of climbers, the world of dance, the worlds of postage stamp collectors, non-conventional medicine, tourist travel, etc. While the world contains spaces where the action can be carried out, technology, especially innovative technology, also which allows one to carve out for a given world both symbolic and physical space. In a social world, we usually encounter some division of work. Some persons deal with justifying the existence of the given social world (legitimization and theorization, as well as public relations), others searching for new spaces for extending its work, others are involved in the development and teaching of technical skills, etc. Some do all of these things on their own. There are also many auxiliary activities, such as defense and attack, creating associations, which help to achieve the main action (Strauss 1978; Kacperczyk 2005). Arenas of disagreement also arise: who is an authentic member of this world, what are its boundaries, what are the justifications for its existence (so-called legitimization), and so forth. Sometimes there is a boundary object around which the disagreement takes place.
The definition of ‘belonging’ to a particular world is connected with the performance of certain primary activities which, in the case of hatha-yoga, involve performing certain practices. The level of advancement in the practice describes the social identity of the practitioner. Some have a vivid identity and some less so, and many balance on the border of several particular social worlds and accept and juggle many identities, often ending up on the border of all the worlds in which he or she operates.
Yoga in the modern version, directed mainly to the Western receiver, for example, in the shape of so-called hatha-yoga, is directed to achieve therapeutic effects. Its modern propagators adjusted it to the needs of the man feeling strong civilizational stress caused by the pressure to venture so-called career dangers connected with nutrition, environment pollution, noise, pressure on consumption, and also with the institutional secularization of the modern society, etc. Thanks to it, in yoga schools, “work on emotions” that is done by specific physical practices (with the usage of the body) in order to gain emotional stability, elimination of negative emotions, and obtaining mental peace can take place. The work on emotions seems to be an internalized ritual of “modern religion” that most often is not seen for a side viewer and even for working on emotions. Work on the mental and physical health is a “boundary place” where the aspirations of the profanum sphere (practical goals of the individual) meet with the aspirations of the sacrum sphere (spiritual goals) of a given individual whose aims are the need to overcome own possibilities and existential fitness to become somebody else, so the old body would die and the new is born with a freshened psyche and in general without emotions. The work on emotions in hatha-yoga has thus an initial character if there is a visible change in the individual confirmed by its new interpretations of own emotions and own feeling.
I would like to show in the chapter what work on emotions in the social world of yoga practice is. The second goal is an attempt to interpret this phenomena in the light of the processes undergoing in the modern Western societies.
That yoga helps to shape the emotional stability is written by hatha-yoga's guru B. K. S. Iyengar (2005b). According to Iyengar, with the use of work on the body, you can get rid of the stress. Iyengar's attitude to yoga has a therapeutic character; it concerns both the physical and psychic sphere.
In this chapter, we introduce commonsense definitions of yoga. How is yoga defined by the practitioners themselves? What is it for them? What role does it play in their lives? In the life of an individual, definitions of situations and ascribing meanings to the objects of the “outer” world are very important. Yoga, being a set of practices, cannot enter the world of the individual without having defined meanings that the individual ascribes to it. The activeness of a practitioner in the world of yoga depends on the importance that the individuals as cribe to these practices and what they mean to them in their lives. The more meaning an individual ascribes to the practice of yoga practice, the more he/she engages in it and remains in the social world of yoga. The interpretational work is, of course, done individually, but the social surroundings and the dominant interpretational frame connecting the body and health in the modern world are of great significance in the process. This frame in the social world of yoga is built upon the classic texts by yoga masters. The language used in describing the experience of yoga practice has already been shown. This language co-produces the experience, including the bodily feelings. Language classifications are acts of placement. Definitions help to place an object in particular categories. Is yoga a physical activity or a spiritual one? By placing an object, often by defining it, we obtain directions for our actions. Language classifications are also evaluations of the objects of perception. The value is an evaluation of an object (Strauss 1997: 23–25). The value of yoga is not in yoga itself, it is in the minding of and evaluation of yoga.
The interpretations presented below are an example of common sense theorizing in the context of defining basic activities. Theorization is supposed to legitimize the social world, mark its independence from other worlds, and give the motives, voice, and justification for taking part in this world.
On the ground of psychology there are many various theories explaining what a notion is. All these approaches can be grouped in three classes:
(A) classical theories which present a notion as a compilation of features in common for many particular objects.
(B) probabilistic theories in which notions are derived from the higher structure
– an individual theory of the world. Notions are elements of the structure.
(C) theories in which a notion is strictly connected with its references and with other notions.
Theories of the first class are a little bit naïve today, and theories of the second class fail because of the error of circularity – in order to explain what a notion is, we need to explain what a structure is, but in order to explain what a structure is, we need to know what a notion is (Maruszewski, 2001: 297–299). Theses of theories of the third class are obviously compatible with simple everyday observations and with the logical knowledge about the properties of natural language expressions. Thus, the approach presented in the paper coincides with the main ideas of the theories of this last class.
During a stroll with his father a boy asks: – What is it, daddy?
– A building, honey – the father answers.
– And this is another building, isn't it? – after a while the child adds pointing at next object.
– No, it isn't. This is a shed.
– Why this is not a building? – the boy asks.
– Because it is much smaller than a building, it is constructed from ordinary boards, it is not for living, just for garden's tools…
During a stroll with his father a child asks: – What color is this leaf?
– It is brown – the father answers.
– It's impossible! Your jacket is brown and the leaf's color is different.
– My jacket is brown and the leaf is also brown. Both colors are a little bit different but both are brown – the father states.
– And what about that car's color? – the boy asks.
– I'm afraid the car is not brown – the father answers – that car's color has a delicate red shade.
The most likely form taken by the first human communication was gestures and miming. The body is still an important component in a direct conversation with other people. However, humans are the only animals who have developed a spoken language as our primary tool for communication. Dialogue is our most genuine form of interaction and it will be our point of departure when we compare different forms of communication supported by technology.
Since early in the history of Homo sapiens, we have used different media for communication. The oldest are cave paintings that are about 40 000 years old. But it is above all written language that has influenced our way of mediating thoughts. The oldest forms of writing are about 5000 years old.
The last few centuries have seen rapid development of different technologies for communication. Printing was invented a little more than 500 years ago. Telegraphy and photography are about 150 years old. Bell invented the telephone in 1876, Marconi made the first radio transmissions in 1895, Edison taught us how to record sound 100 years ago, and moving pictures are equally old. In the last 50 years we have seen how the fax, the television, the computer and the mobile phone have radically influenced our ways of communicating with other people.
Imagine, for example that your boyfriend or girlfriend travels to New York to study for a semester. Unfortunately, you are unable to go along. What types of communication technologies will you use to keep your love alive? A handwritten letter is of course very personal, but it will take time before it reaches the addressee. E-mail is an excellent form of communication over long distances for keeping in touch with people; it is fast, cheap and you can write long messages.
Texting an SMS by mobile phone is not a bad solution but is more suitable for short messages. However, if you want to express your feelings and get an immediate response, the telephone (or the videophone) is the superior medium to “feel close to” the other person. A disadvantage is of course the time difference: you cannot call at any time that suits you.
Even though psychology and logic share several topics of common interest, they operate within different paradigms and therefore encounter difficulties in mutual communication of their advances. One of the most dire problems shared by both is the question of acquisition and structure of notions. Both of these issues have been minutely addressed from perspective of logic in the previous article entitled “Two procedures expanding a linguistic competence” (Łukowski, 2015). The theory proposed there for development of linguistic competence and ontogenesis of notions, has significant impact on foundations of semantics. Its claims could not be made if not for several neuroscientific insights into functioning of the central nervous system that resulted in refining the models of cognitive processes. It is apparent that emergence of notions in an individual is a direct product of brain activity. Even though philosophers still contest the character of relationship between neural function and psychological phenomena, it is no longer controversial in science that the structure of the first determines the structure of the latter. Following that, any theory expressed in language of psychology or philosophy should comply with inferences concerning the architecture of thinking that is derived from neurophysiological data. Although there is a vast amount of information concerning neurobiological correlates of psychological phenomena some of them are of special interest in the discourse on notions and the meaning of words. This chapter will focus especially on biological substructure underlying vagueness, generality, dynamicity and temporality of notions.
Every neuronal network, be it artificial or natural, requires constant flow of new inputs (information) to properly function and produce useful output. In case of the human brain inputs are provided by receptors of sensory systems. Contrary to the popular belief, humans have more than five senses. Their actual number is estimated to be around twenty, depending on adopted definition of sense. When matter of learning is raised, it is customary in philosophy to concentrate the argument around visual perception. That practice is not groundless as majority of sensory information received by human brain is visual. 10 bits of information is coded by retina each second. Considering that human cortical, sensory network is approximately convergent (Foxe, Schroeder, 2005), only a fraction of the mentioned amount of information reaches cerebral cortex. Around 104 bits/sec ultimately reaches the fourth layer of primary visual cortex (V1) (Raichle, 2010).
Game theory is a growing field of analytical modelling of interactions between agents. It has found many applications in economics and business administration, as well as in social and cognitive sciences. Among various forms of one-off and multi-period games, the probably most popular one is known as a prisoner's dilemma. This paper analyses the social interactions from the perspective of the equilibria resulting from the prisoner's dilemma models with a short and indefinite time horizon.
A one-period interaction modelled in the prisoner's dilemma setting results in an equilibrium point where the agents are maximising their short-term profit and thus, interacting, they reach a suboptimal point of overall welfare. However, in a model with an indefinite time framework, it is likely to reach an equilibrium which is consistent with the cooperative behaviour over a longer period of time. In result, an optimal point from the perspective of welfare is reached. In the following analysis, we relate these model results to social interactions and discuss their possible applications in cognitive science.
The paper is related to the literature on game theory and its applications in social interactions. Research in game theory dates back to the nineteenth century, when, among others, the theories of strategic interaction in oligopolies have been developed (see, e.g. Bertrand, 1883, or Varian, 2006 for an overview). In the first half of the 20th century, Neumann and Morgenstern (1944) applied game theory to the economic interactions among agents who maximise their utility (see also Neumann, 1928 or Copeland, 1945 for the review of Neumann, Morgenstern, 1944). Following this, the field grew intensively, with the range of underlying concepts developed and extensive applications to many areas of economic research (see, e.g. Shapiro, 1989; Kreps, 1990 and Selten, 1999). In particular, in 1994 John C. Harsanyi, John F. Nash Jr. and Reinhard Selten received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for their pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games”. Following this work, game theoretical results have been validated from the behavioural perspective, as well as by experiments (see, e.g. Smith, 1992 or Crawford, 1997),2 while the framework to analyse conflict and cooperation of economic agents has been developed further.
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