Monday, January 24, 2011

Yoga/Animal Studies

This morning as I was being given a ride home from Conrad's while my Saab
headlight was being replaced, I started thinking about yoga positions and then
animal studies. Having just read Cary Wolfe's "Human, All Too Human: 'Animal Studies' and the Humanities," I guess I shouldn't be surprised that thinking of yoga led to my thinking about the meaning of appropriating non-human animal positions by the human animal for an exercise that brings self-awareness and spirituality to some. As Wolfe, agreeing with Derrida, proposes the erasure of plurality from animal studies, that humanism be abandoned by animal studies since it simply reinforces the binary human/non-human, I thought yoga a wonderful example of just such an erasure. The human form imitating sentient and non-sentient forms, becoming simulacra not as performance (although I'm sure much can be said of both the child making wings of his arms and quacking like a duck, or the lead ballerina in Swan Lake), but as a meditative aid, when perhaps even the emptiness of our minds resembles more the state of an inanimate object, or an animal with a more simplistic nervous system. During yoga, the human animal is assuming the shapes and stretches of other animals not as a symbolic act that identifies the ways in which non-human animals resemble humans, but instead an act in which human forgets its anthropocentric perspective and explores the limits of its body by assuming positions other animals take more naturally. I'm just rambling here, and I know many Eastern cultures have a less anthropomorphic perspective on animals, especially in religious texts, but as the West as borrowed yogic exercises from the east, perhaps it is justifiable to consider yoga from a Western animal studies point of view. Developed far, far pre-Enlightenment humanism, then showing a return in a post-human era, yoga reinforces that closing parenthesis Ferry describes in The New Ecological Order. Each time I enter into "Downward Dog" or "Cobra Pose" or "Half-Moon Pose," I will consider it an act exposing the non-existence of a boundary between man and animal.

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