We’ve all heard the cliché: “yoga means union”.
It can ring hollow when we learn that spirituality, like the unconscious, can be a broken space:
We can think we’re practicing to heal our wounds, even as we deepen them.
We can love teachers and methods that might be toxic to us.
We can easily confuse the sensations of transcendence and trauma.
We can feel like we’re loving people and saving the world while we’re really retrenching privileges of race, gender, and class, as well as ignoring the destruction that surrounds us.
The “union” I focus on in my practice, writing and training uses heart-centred skepticism to see these splits more clearly, so that they can be mended, with whatever it takes.
The “whatever it takes” part often means seeking both beyond my own limited resources and the conventional/patriarchal yoga literature to the writers and activists of marginalized groups, who are doing the most profound spiritual work today. I hope to support them and continue learning from them in my work.
Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse: Nine Women Tell Their Stories
As the #MeToo movement hits the yoga scene, women are coming forward on social media, forcing crucial questions into the spotlight that the entire industry must now confront: Is the yoga studio consistently the healing space it is advertised to be? Or has it engendered a culture in which spiritual surrender can be conflated with physical submission? Above all, practitioners must now ask how a culture with such a robust history of abuse has also been marketed as a path to bodily autonomy, spiritual awakening, and a cure-all for both mental and physical ailments.
Karen Rain Speaks About Pattabhi Jois and Recovering from Sexual and Spiritual Abuse – Video Interview
This past March I had the honour of finally meeting Karen Rain in person, after two years of interviews, emails, and phone calls about her experience with Pattabhi Jois. We decided to do this interview as a summation of what we’d explored so far. In the interview, we cover the challenges of remembering trauma, of bearing witness to that remembering, and the struggle to break silence. Karen gives answers to the victim-blaming responses that have been thrown at her and others. She opens up a larger discussion about the connections between asana performance and the stress response of an abusive space. She discloses some of her post-Mysore PTSD symptoms, and speaks transparently about her former complicity in Ashtanga community dynamics.
WAWADIA – What Are We Actually Doing in Asana?
What Are We Actually Doing in Asana? is a sweeping inquiry into the sensations, meanings, and purposes of yoga practice today, from the ascetic to the aesthetic to the therapeutic, and from the personal, to the social, to the political. It will mine testimony of desire, pain, injury and healing to discover how modern practitioners work to experience and embody their developmental ideals.
Naada Yoga’s online education program presents
A Year of Ayurveda with Matthew Remski
Ayurveda offers an ancient language to help you become a poet of your internal experience. Its holistic practices of mindful, sensual awareness offer resilience against the inevitable changes of season, place, work, and identity. In this online education program, you’ll receive lifetime access to over 23 hrs of video instruction, downloadable pdfs and illustrations, 6 CEU’s recognized by the North American Yoga Alliance, and more.
Praise for Threads of Yoga
"This is a massively important work… finally a philosophical text rich in contemporary wisdom that can speak to the radical embodiment and deepening intimacy with ecology and relationship that modern yoga practice inspires. Matthew is not only the most stunning writer in prose working in the (underpaid) world of yoga discourse he’s also one of its most fluent cultural critics. More importantly, what he does here is pave a new road forward for the future of Western spirituality: embodied, psychologically informed, with an aesthetic so potent it has the power to heal."
author of Wet, Hot & Wild American Yogi
"…I find myself continually challenged, informed, and bedazzled within its pages…"
"If you know about the Yoga Sutras, I think you should get your hands on a copy of Remski’s book. Really. It’s the only edition I’ve read that… Gets me through the second half of the Sutras without falling asleep. Names the secret ingredient I always knew Patanjali left out of his sauce. Grabs my ear with language as beautiful as the sounds of Sanskrit. Lights sparks for me over and over again by striking Patanjali’s flint with the steel of modern science and philosophy. Shows me how to reject and love a spiritual text at the same time."
"I believe it will change the way we think about Patanjali–and the yoga we all practice– for many years to come. Creative, original, and full of great heart."
Professor Jody Greene
Feminist Studies, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz
"I’ve struggled with the sutras for a while. Bits of wonder mixed with confusing, un-useful threads that take me down dead ends. You’ve done a great job of reflecting modern thinking and making the whole book useful. I find your writing intelligent and humble. Good all around. I’ve been using your remix of the guna-s : urge, gravity, resolution, in my classes this week. Crossing between the tangible/scientific and metaphor/spiritual to gracefully bring clients deeper into yoga."
Director at Live Well Yoga in Portland, Oregon
"The book makes a great contribution and should be of interest to both scholars and practitioners."
Professor Janet Gyatso
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, Harvard Divinity School
"You reveal the [Sutras] to be as much a work of poetry as philosophy, and as much a work relevant to multiple forms of daily practice as to speculative, even soteriological, reflection."
Professor David Carl
Director of the Graduate Institute, St. John’s College
"The beauty of this book is its relevance and context in modern society. Through the skillful hand of an accomplished, contemporary writer, who is a respected practitioner of yoga and ayurveda, this remix of Patanjali’s sutras shows the very positive influence and creativity the West can have on the evolving art of yoga. This book is a must read for anyone interested in applying the ancient principles of yoga to our crazy, modern lives with originality and humor!"
Founder of Manduka
"[Remski] attempts, quite movingly, to reawaken us to the beauty and power of the world around us–to leave the guilded cage of our metaphysics and become a part of the world that made us, rather than believe that we are the genesis of our own mother and father. The spiritual logic of threads weaves a bright pattern of humility: accepting the mud of this world as parent, the body as source of thought, relationship as the locus of meaning. It seeks to reposition our awareness back to being creatures of this world rather than divine creators, or worse yet, as spiritual prisoners of the flesh."
"I am blown away by it. Being as familiar with the sutras as I am, it was an absolute delight to read your creative translation in reference to the dry old standards in my memory, and feel reinvigorated in the validity of my own interpretations. Your work renders the sutras relevant anew, and creates a link for me between the modern yoga of my intuition and the classical yoga of my learning."
Yoga Therapist & Owner, Yoga One Petaluma, CA
"I find your contribution a serious and worthwhile contribution to the unfolding of the history of yoga philosophy. It comes from “inside” the complex process of tradition and tells us that tradition now extends far beyond the original, the context of India, and into the modern world of western thinking."
Professor Douglas Brooks
"Patanjali must be rolling in his grave, laughing and so happy."
co-founder Nosara Yoga Institute
"I don’t know of any reading of the yoga sutras as wildly creative, as impassioned and as earnest as this. it engages Patanjali and the reader in an urgent, electrified conversation that weaves philosophy, symbolist poetry, psychoanalysis and cultural history. There’s a kind of delight and freshness in this book that is very rare in writing on yoga, and especially rare in writing on the yoga sutras. This is a Patanjali for postmoderns, less a translation than a startlingly relevant report on our current condition, through the prism of this ancient text."
author of Yoga Body:The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
“…the only rendering of the Sūtras I know of that can be read to an audience like poetry, and that audience not only understands, but is moved.”
Christopher D. Wallis
Author of Tantra Illuminated
"I’m awed by the fearless audacity with which you approach the sutras. And have been enjoying the dialogue you’re creating between an articulate post-modern mind and a powerful traditional text."
"It actually does what the Yoga Sutra is supposed to do: to serve as a string of seeds for meditation and self-reflection. I actually think this is the version of the YS all training programs should be reading."
Author of Original Yoga: Rediscovering Traditional Practices of Hatha Yoga