Traditional yoga was about escaping the body — escaping desires and wants and the foibles and suffering of life.
Another way to look at this is morality vs. ‘a’morality.
The traditional Vedic yogic teaching, as I understand them from my basic study of the topic, were basically more life disaffirming, meaning they viewed life as suffering, and suffering as a sin.
If you wear thick soled shoes that crowd the toes, the nerve endings in your feet atrophy.
In a more traditional Vedic perspective, such atrophy of the body is inconsequential if not desirable, because life is futile and indulging the sensory mechanism is nothing but a recipe for disaster.
In the later centuries of documented ancient Indian history, Tantra emerged — it was life affirming, meaning that the senses were anatomical mechanisms that if not to be indulged were at least worth exercising for physical and mental health.
It was at this time, also, that more active forms of yoga emerged.
This was when the yogic practice, at least in India where it has the longest recorded history, was brought from an emphasis on sitting and passive meditative positions to develop more active and standing postures, or asanas, with roots in both traditional Indian dance and also the Indian martial art (oldest known in the world) Kalarippayattu.
The earliest yogic postures were all sitting postures mostly, because the earliest yoga was influenced most heavily by the Vedas and sensory depravation, almost like the creation of a floatation tank around one’s body.
There is actually a strong Western Judeo-Christian tradition that mimics the Vedic tradition in many ways, and that is Catharism, which professed strongly dualistic and arguably anti-natal beliefs.
Cathars believed that the body was inherently evil because all humans suffered, and that all matter was inherently tainted with sin.
Some Cathars indulged in uninhibited if not deranged sexual practices, because to them the body was something to be ignored, while others were open to the possibility that giving birth and procreation were acceptable.
The contrast between extremes of ideas like this is stark, and what strikes me is that the traditional Indian perspective — prior to Tantra — and the traditional Islamic perspective have so much in common.
Strong morality, as opposed to ethics (the latter of which I would argue is more contextual), is life disaffirming in so many ways.
It states that sex based on attraction is evil, that indulging in flavorful food is gratuitous, and that embracing sensual pleasure in general is without exception sinful.
The problem with this is that hyper-morality begets a backlash.
There are many brothels surrounding the Vatican for a reason, and in Afghanistan where militant conservative Islam reigns supreme, sodomy and ‘boy play’ pederasty are more common than in the ‘reviled’ and indulgent West.
However, the reason I argue for Tantric yoga is much more individualistic than moral or ethical.
Simply put, if one does not exercise the nervous system, and indulge it to some degree, the nervous system atrophies.
That’s why going for a walk at night with no flashlight strengthens the eyes, and sex can be a form of Tantric, Kama Sutric yoga.
Hey, what’s the alternative?
Machines taking over the world and eliminating the human desire for exercise, our need to labor physically, our striving to indulge the sensory mechanisms at least to a degree that keeps our bodies robust?
At some point, there’s a fork in the road, and we go one way or we go the other.