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Central to the yoga discourse is its inherent ability to turn its use-value definitions into social symbols thereby creating difference and power metamorphosing yoga into a social totem.

The fluidity between use- and symbolic-value

The distinction between use-value and symbolic-value is extremely fluid in the case of yoga, and this is no coincidence. We have frequently seen in this book how the social symbolic-value became the use-value of practising yoga. Further we can also see that what one cultural context perceives as a use-value, another cultural epoch will see as symbolic-value. Take the claim that yoga generates supernatural powers, which enables the yoga virtuoso to fly through the air. At the time of the Puranas this might very well have been the use-value the individual sought by practising yoga. As we recall, yoga’s use-value was initially defined as the significant, individual and existential transformation gained through practice. However, in a modern worldview we do not accept such supernatural powers as real❠use-value, because we do not consider a flying yogi as a realistic achievement. So we would say that the concept of a flying yogi’ is instead a totem, generating power and symbolic capital. In the context of a modernist sign system this is really❠what is going on here. And to the yogi we would say that he is either lying (he knows very well he cannot fly), or he is hallucinating (because of the ASC) or he is deluded (he is still hoping that one day he will succeed). The middle ground between the ancient and the modern outlook is to say that as the ancients wrote about the use-value – learn how to fly – they simultaneously created upheaval in their society. This symbolic-value – the awe and fear – was maybe intended, maybe not. A post-modern sceptical mind would settle on intended.

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