Saturday, 27 January 2018

Friday, 21 October 2016

The yoga of our region

We call upon our local-born ascetic-arts heritage to feed and even pander to the tantalising image of Angkor Vat as a soothing restoration at the end of the world. We further advance the invigorating theory that "Yoga," as we broadly imagine today, is largely derived from the cultural basins into which Angkorian culture flowed, in particular, the the royal court customs of Ayutthaya (old Siam). We additionally proclaim these classical vernaculars the world's preeminent female yoga, if only for the fact that it comes from the region where the feminine element is socially diffused to a greater degree than anywhere else.

Our regional tradition is internally exotic. It is the manifestation of a deeply seeded legacy that snuggles up-close to its jungle backdrop and spawns animistic views of life where body, mind and soul gain lusher, more succulent and integrated dialogue.

Not to be evasive, you can think of this approach as a kind of Hatha Yoga mixed with Raja Yoga, the 'royal eight-fold path of yoga.' It comprises a handful of rediscovered principles and the pedagogic methods that emerge thereof. These natural, precise and elegant procedures are remarkably distinct from the replicated formulas that colonise contemporary corporate regimes. In fact, our research findings form a critical indictment of the whole industrial yoga masquerade.

Guru Chod (1900-1988)

Guru Chod (ชด) was the Kingdom of Thailand's pioneer yoga authority. His family name, Hasbamrer (หัศบำเรอ), signifies Royal Khmer ancestry. He was born in the fifth Rattanakosin reign of King Chulalongkorn near the empire's southerly Andaman Sea coast. In youth he attended Penang Free School and then studied further in Bombay, India.

Upon graduation from Trinity College, Cambridge, he remained in England and worked as a reporter. He furthered this profession in British India. By 1937 Chod was working back in Britain and covered stories on the continent too. A few years later due to imminent war and serious personal health concerns, he withdrew to India and gained ascetic refuge with Swami Sivananda on the banks of the Ganges near Rishikesh. It took him two years to cure his disorders and he stayed three more to master yoga's higher forms.

With the end of the war Chod moved to Bangkok and established himself as a national news editor. He sometimes ran two papers at once while writing internationally for the Reuters news agency. He turned his home into a morning yoga training centre and drove to the newsroom after lunch.

At the strong and healthy age of seventy-five years Chod retired from journalism and founded his distinguished yoga ashram. Public demand was often unrelenting but he faced daily challenges without complaint. "It's a good occupation for an old man," he said: "I like to be useful." Students and patrons came from all walks of life, yet most were of the kingdom's higher social rungs. High-ranking members of the Buddhist clergy similarly sought the guru's counsel. He looked to all with equal vision. He was furthermore esteemed as a rajaguru who initiated members of the Thai royal family. Guru Chod himself never made such statements but those around him openly did.

Even well into his eighty-eighth year the guru radiated charm and grace. He was typically surrounded by sparkling college girls, gorgeous air hostesses, stunning models and other talented professional types, such as academic writers, wives of industrialists, bankers, traders and foreign diplomats. But road-tattered Western yoginis came as well, aglow from extended travels East having heard along the way of a certain living saint. This is probably what kept him teaching so long. "But everybody has to die," Chod affirmed, and he certainly gave us all fair warning. True to prediction, near his eighty-eighth birthday he stretched out on the floor and walked right out of there.