Over the last couple years I have become increasingly surrounded by people involved in yoga one way or the other. While I try meditation once in a while I have never taken a yoga session. So, I asked a good friend of mine who recently became a certified Yoga Teacher where I might start in the way of reading material to learn more about yoga. She suggested The Wisdom Of Yoga by Stephen Cope.
This book is interesting but I have mixed emotions on it. The book is a good introduction to some yoga terms and the general philosophy of yoga. My biggest surprise about it though was just how much psych is involved in yoga. In fact, Cope is a therapist. He does a decent job of making the connection between yoga, Freud, and Jung.
Cope uses a steady class of students over a two-year period as examples/subjects for his book. One thing I noticed is that while he makes connections between yoga and the psych masters, when his students experience something almost paranormal along mystical lines he makes no effort to delve into that world. Maybe he was uncomfortable with what he didn’t know. I can’t say but it was a major omission.
There were two things I increasingly noticed while reading the book to the point that by the end was really bugging me. It had nothing to do with the yoga and wisdom imparted but rather with the characters as presented in the story.
It always bugs me when the ‘real world’ presented is far from being the real world. I always say about The Real World on MTV that it will actually be the real world when one of the cast members is working at WalMart or McDonalds. None of the students in Cope’s book seemed to have steady work or was struggling the way most people do to make ends meet. In fact, not one of the students or Cope himself was in a steady relationship during the period discussed. I picked up on the fact that Cope may have had an attraction, (the impression I got was even possible some sort of fling), with one of the students but that was never admitted.
The upshot of this is of course the reader never sees how the practicality of yoga affects a marriage or a relationship or even a real working situation. Instead this is all glossed over leaving the reader to struggle with how the wisdom of yoga would be applied in real life.
While the students in the book – who ranged in all ages – seemed nice enough people I can’t really say the same for Cope. This has rarely happened to me when I’ve read a book but I actually grew not to trust Cope as I read the book and I can’t put my finger on it.
Was it because he seemed to discuss everyone but himself? The lack of real worldness so to speak? The sense that he was hiding as much as he was disclosing.?By the time I reached the end of the book I regarded Cope as the type of guy that you meet at a party and he seems cordial enough but by the time you’ve chatted over a few drinks you know you’ll avoid him if you run into him at the next party.
The Wisdom Of Yoga is good as an introduction to the basics of yoga thinking. It is a decent peek into what might be sought through the practices of yoga but it is also disappointing for not giving us a realistic sense of what it may ultimately achieve.