Bringing The Ancient Texts To Life
What do you do when you find contemporary yoga to be going a little lite? Jacob Kyle, an intellectually ambitious 32 year old, started a website to fix the problem.
Embodied Philosophy (AKA Five Tattvas) was designed to deeply investigate this wisdom writing—not just classical yoga texts, but also other traditions like the Vedas, the
Upanishads, Buddhism, and Taoism.
But Kyle doesn’t want it to be simply an intellectual exercise, using podcasts, videos, as well as articles. He sees this as 21st century-living wisdom—mindfulness, insight, attention, and intention.
Lisa Dawn Angerame sat down with Kyle to find out more about how Embodied Philosophy will work to transform modern lives at the physiological, the psychological, and the spiritual level, using wisdom that has worked for thousands of years
Lisa Dawn Angerame: Why "Embodied Philosophy"?
Jacob Kyle: Embodied Philosophy is my response to a feeling I've had for some time that the yoga community needs a platform to exchange ideas. There is a lot of fluffy, confused, or just downright incorrect interpretations of the teachings of Eastern philosophy out there. I feel it is our responsibility as practitioners to keep the traditional teachings and texts alive and be diligent students as we consider them in our practice and personal studies.
LDA: What is your own background?
JK: Originally from a small town outside of Seattle, I've had a few different lives, as we all have, but the one that led to this project was my years in academia studying politics and philosophy. I wanted to become a professor and completed two graduate degrees in philosophy—one at the London School of Economics in Political Philosophy and one at the New School for Social Research in the History of Philosophy.
Academia ended up not being for me, as I realized that I was looking for something spiritual in academic philosophy, and my heart broke when I realized the academy couldn't provide that. Philosophers seemed to be more interested in their careers than in truth, and even when they were interested in truth, it was only the kind of truth that had been deemed legitimate by the politics of the academy—which proved to be a very narrow truth, at least from my perspective. So I left academia around the time that I became a full-time yoga teacher
LDA: What was the impetus for putting this site together?
JK: After leaving academia I still yearned for a philosophical outlet. I've been dreaming about building something. I used to talk about building a commune on an island in
Greece, where people would study and write and live sustainably. Sounds great, right? Embodied Philosophy is the online version of that dream. My vision is to turn Embodied Philosophy into the go-to educational platform for Eastern philosophy and practices.
LDA: How do you decide what to write about, when?
JK: It is a big strategic exercise. For the first year, I wanted to provide a deep introduction to the philosophies of the East, which we call "radical practice." Because most of our readers are yoga practitioners, and because yoga practitioners first get introduced to Eastern philosophy through the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, I wanted to start the year with those two texts and their related cultures and traditions. Then, over the next quarters, we'll move into Buddhism, Shaivism, Taoism, and some of the ancient Vedic teachings.
LDA: So, what exactly do you mean by "radical practice"?
JK: The word "radical" doesn't mean "like, far out, dude," but represents a major shift in the status quo, in the same way that "radical politics" refers to deep, progressive change.
Anybody can practice anything—cooking, volleyball, the piano, or drawing. All of these practices will perhaps give you deep pleasure and may even change you on some level, but the practices of yoga are radical practices—they will turn you inside out so much so that the outside and the inside are no longer separate.
I believe that there is no process more radical than a yoga practice, if you let the teachings guide you to the heart of your true nature, which is a nature radically other than what we've been conditioned to think that it is throughout our whole lives, by culture and society.
JK: Viveka is a good example. Discerning between spiritually beneficial and non-beneficial relationships and activities can turn your world around. Vairagya, non-attachment, is another example—not being invested in things turning out the way you imagined or dreamed is a prescription for a certain kind of peace that the average person who craves specific outcomes can never know.
LDA: I love your "Chalkboard Studies"! You stand there like the professor you always wanted to be. Describe them for us.
JK: Chalkboard Yoga Studies are short videos in which I unpack different concepts from the yoga tradition and introduce words, concepts, and ideas in an effort to educate new and even seasoned practitioners. These are words like asana and namaste, and concepts like ashtanga and jnana, heard around a yoga studio. This is our way of offering information that many students generally don't have an opportunity to learn.
LDA: You have a cool podcast called CHITHEADS. Can you explain the name?
JK: CHITHEADS is a cheeky play on words. Chit is a Sanskrit word for consciousness, or awareness. When you say the name to yourself, you can hear the playful intent behind the name.
LDA: Ok, so it rhymes with a not-so-yogic description of people—I get it! Consciously aware people. Who have you interviewed so far and who is coming down the pike?
JK: I have interviewed leaders, teachers, and scholar-practitioners from within the wider yoga and wisdom community on topics ranging from eastern philosophies and practices, consciousness studies, social justice, and the human spiritual condition. Up on the site you can find chakra expert Anodea Judith, Buddhist author Michael Stone, as well as Jillian Turecki, Gabriel Halpern, Ralph De La Rosa, Dhanurdhara Swami, and Rima Rabbath.