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April 2016 - Technology, Evolution, and Yoga

Dear Yoga Friends,

One of my daughters recently asked me what I could never have imagined about the future when I was her age. My answer was the instantaneous sharing of personal and public information in the form of words, photos, and videos. We then began to talk about what changes like that might take place by the time she is my age. With the pace of information technology and biotechnology, one can speculate about a merging of flesh and blood life with man-made technology. Chips and processors will be embedded in brains, or connected to them in some way to expand memory, information access, and mental capacity. There will be apps for your brain, internally-projected images. Body parts will be mechanically enhanced to increase strength and durability. Biochemistry will be altered to steer and influence biological processes. There will be much debate over the ethics and purpose of such developments, but like the proliferation of mobile devices and information exchange today, the flow will be inexorable.

What is the relationship between this crazy trend and yoga? I have always been a purist when it comes to yoga, but truth be told, I utilize many kinds of technology: mats, timers, woven cloth, heating, flooring. I might think I'm getting away from technology in the wilderness, but I have brought along some finely manufactured gear to protect me from the elements and help me not only survive, but enjoy the experience and perhaps even capture it digitally. It becomes a matter of degree. B.K.S. Iyengar was the first yogi to systematically employ photography as a technology to improve his asana practice and teach asana to others.

I'll need to work hard to keep an open mind. If there were a way to embed a device in my body to enhance my asana experience, or to calm and focus my brain, or to improve my stamina, would that be wrong? It's not unheard of to link external "technologies" to yoga. The Yoga Sutras mention the use of substances as a means to spiritual enlightenment. Props are a kind of technology. I'm a different person as a result of experiences that technology has delivered, for example, a flight to India 20 years ago. I will need to negotiate a "get over it" moment. Or maybe that will be more for the next generation, my children, than for me.

One theme of the Yoga Sutras is the ignorance of confusing the small self and the ego with the true self. Perhaps the trends are slowly eroding the notion of the individual self. Perhaps there will need to be a letting go of the autonomy of the individual. So difficult for me. What about art? Sports? Will there be a counter-movement of individualists or purists? Yoga will always have a place until there is no individual to practice it. And perhaps even then it will be practiced by some more complex entity, still yearning to understand its relationship to something larger.

Ok, time to go back to dog pose...



Chad Balch