The craving for power, youth, beauty, recognition and health I believe to be a part of corporate capitalism and consumer culture. These desired resources represent symbolic capital in a post-modern and narcissistic culture fed by endless images of idealised selves: the celebrities. Furthermore we live in a celebrity culture turning the yoga instructor herself into an idealised icon: a gorgeous integration of graceful movements, a slim long limbed body, a gymnastically drilled body sculpture and facial features deserving the very same front page on which she appears. This idealised yogic body vision – calmed and de-stressed, resting in herself – is celebrated on the front of yoga manuals, DVDs, women’s magazines, and product advertisements. This desirable totem is endlessly promoted by a visual media and fashion industry that continually craves and consumes new young beauties to keep the attention of consumers, who suffer from exactly the same cravings to fill up their sense of emptiness. This is the culture of narcissism, where yoga skills can create symbolic images so strong that they turn yoga skills and yoga experts into powerful symbols.
The craving for power, beauty and health – the body as symbolic capital – is interesting as it links into the tension between what I call the technical and the symbolic meaning of yoga -the dialectic between its use- and symbolic-value. Throughout this book I am investigating for each historical period the relation between the technical utility of yoga/ use-value (often being transformative) and the symbolic meaning/ symbolic-value of yoga (what images society projects onto yoga; yoga as totem or sign).
It is largely a question of how important real peace and Yoga to the people true security are to the individual. There is the story of the master guru and his Yoga to the peoplestudent who were sitting at the edge of a river and discussing Yoga to the people the practice necessary to achieve enlightenment. Suddenly the master grasped his student about the neck and Yoga to the people held his head beneath the water. The student struggled to release himself but the master held him firmly. Finally the master pulled his head from the water and released him. The student gulped air into his lungs. Then the master said, When I held you under, what was the uppermost thing in your mind?Air, air,gasped the student. Exactly so must you crave enlightenment,stated the master.