Study Guide

Georges Bataille Files

A new work of astounding significance has been recently found in the basement of an old converted cathedral in France. It's a little-known work entitled Georges Bataille Reimagines Yoga. Here are just a few of the new yoga poses that he suggests.

The Headless Cow

In this pose, you stretch the collar of your T-shirt up over your head, get on all fours, and bellow loudly. You raise a leg to urinate and quickly fall to the ground. This is to help you view yourself as a sacrificial animal and lose your human identity. Why? In order to be one with the chaotic universe of death, of course.

The Eyeball

This is one of the more popular poses during special Halloween Yoga gatherings. This pose is performed curled up into a tight fetal position. Other people roll the "eyeball" around the room as others pretend to take it into their mouths. This position reminds the person that seeing is not always believing. Bataille's novel The Story of the Eye tells us that sometimes you have to pluck out your eyes and "see" with other senses... or just do it for the sheer agony. Think Oedipus while attempting this pose.

The Big Toe

Yes, this was the title of an actual essay by Bataille. Big Toe Yoga has turned into a very popular sub-group among yoga practitioners. In this pose, you stand, hands high over your head, and then lean down and grab each big toe. You then proceed to walk about the room on your heals. This takes a lot of concentration, and people are easily frustrated.

Bataille saw the big toe as the most human of all body parts.

The big toe allows us to stand upright, placing our heads in the clouds where we forget about the filth and dirt and waste that our feet walk through. This pose reminds us that all humans are still part of the earth and all its refuse and waste.

The Severed Ear of Vincent Van Gogh

This pose is taken from the actual title of another of Bataille's essays, which examines Van Gogh's act of self-mutilation. This is a fairly simple pose. You cover both ears with the flat palms of your hands and silently open your mouth as of you are caught in a painful scream. This allows excess emotions of fear and pity to escape silently from the unconscious mind. No jumping or moving is required, and you should always meditate on the following mantra: I vomit my excess violent thoughts; I vomit my excess violent thoughts.

The Downward Spiral

In this pose, you lean over to your left side, head and left arm limp, and allow your body to circle around the dead weight until dizzy; then you fall to the floor. This action represents the indulgence of the body. It also represents how Bataille himself got caught up in his own excess. He believed his true church was a whorehouse, but the yogi need not ponder this in order for the pose to be successful. Just consider how a body gets caught in addictive habits that are hard to break. This pose reminds us that we are still animals and can't always reason our way out of our problems.

The Dog

In this pose, you basically stand around sniffing stuff. This pose doesn't really accomplish anything; it's just there to remind you how absurd being alive is.

Sad Clown/Happy Clown

Hands are raised high above the head as you jump up and down while your head bounces from side to side wearing a giant grin. Then you begin giant Rockette-style leg kicks, and after a five to seven count, both hands cover your face, you bend at the waist, and you moan loudly. These motions are to be repeated in rapid succession.

This pose illustrates Bataille's admonition that we must ruin transcendence with laughter. He equated the happy clown laughing with sex (which he also associated with death). According to Bataille, sex brings joy (attraction and stimulation), but it always ends with sadness (hence the sad clown). This pose helps you understand that sex, death, and laughter make up the holy trinity for Bataille's concept of base materialism.

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