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It is now a growing phenomenon. We have all heard about the laws of attraction, NLP, strategies for success, mental techniques to grant any wish, foolproof methods for self realization in all areas of life, and so on. Often, those who advertise these types of techniques - and the related paying courses to learn them – in order to convince the potential customer of the high level of what is being sold, enlists a testimonial of exception: none other than Siddhārtha Gautama, alias Śākyamuni, in person. All that is necessary is a beautiful image of Buddha (sometimes terribly kitsch), some unlikely quotes of his speeches, some catchy 'spiritual' phrase - perhaps with undocumented references to alleged esoteric and scientific knowledge - and that's it.

The historic origin of postural practice (āsana) is currently a widely debated topic amongst yoga enthusiasts, be it practitioners or scholars. Opinions are varied and contradictory: some people (in decreasing numbers) lean towards ancient origins that go back to the Vedic era or the following centuries, often attributing the origins to Patañjali himself.

Yoga and 'energy': suggestions, ambiguity and a critical reflection

'Energy' is one of the keywords of contemporary yoga. We all use it, are fascinated by it and attribute all sorts of meanings to it, often without realising its complexity and problematic character:

"I feel the energy flowing"; "I have an energy block"; "Absorb the energy of the Earth"; "Mudrās seal energy"; "In this āsana I can feel the energy lines"; "You have to move energy towards the central channel"; etc.

Anyone attending any yoga class in any part of the globe, discover from the very first lessons that in addition to those two hamstring muscles, a diaphragm, seven chakras and three main nāḍī, they also have an "ego".

This ego, we are told, is responsible for almost all evil in the world, from the annoying mite allergy that sometimes haunts us to the hole in the ozone layer:

You can not bring your head to your knees in paścimottanasana? It is because of your ego, preventing you from letting yourself go and stretch your muscles.

You can not "open your heart"? Obviously you're too "rational" because of your ego.

Often people ask me, under the most different circumstances, the killer question: “But what kind of yoga do you practice?” Answering this apparently simple and trivial question is a task that lands all concerned in a huge and hermeneutical (how I enjoy using this word!) mess and results in never–ending discussions on what yoga is, what is its history, on how many and what types there are, etc.

At the end of these discussions (which unfortunately most of the time resemble a dialogue between the deaf) I often hear the following consideration: “Okay, obviously there are many types of yoga, however all considered, there is just one type of yoga!” I must have heard this repeated so often that for a long time I innocently believed that this was true and irrefutable. If so many people believed it, it must perforce be true!

When someone enters a bookshop to browse around they almost inevitably end up in the section dedicated to “Oriental Philosophy” made up of entire shelves devoted to subcategories which normally include exotic subjects such as yoga, martial arts, tantra, kāmasūtra, feng shui, the chakras, Osho, Sufism etc. etc.

We all search for stuff on Google. Often, for the very things we do not dare ask aloud. If Google were a real person, maybe we would think twice before typing “how are people living in Manchester called”, “how to boil an egg” or the classic #AsktheOxfordDictionary “do you spell its or it’s?”.

…but I did. The most FAQ

So you practice yoga?
Lucky you, you must be really relaxed.
You also teach? (looking doubtfully at my body)
Vini..what? Oh, like the word “wine” in Italian. Never heard of it.
Krishnama…what? Hare Krishna?
The teacher of Iyengar, ok. Yes, I do know him.
Ah! You practice yoga. That’s why you are so hot !(thanks for existing, Editor’s note)