Wednesday, August 31, 2011

make your yoga yours

Being a yoga teacher gives you a whole new perspective on class. You hear how everyone is breathing, you see them making small adjustments in their posture, and you pick up on the energy of the room. It's wonderful. Just wonderful.

There's something funny about being a yoga teacher though- everyone does exactly what you say. If I say inhale and lift your right leg (even though we just did right and I meant left- that happens less frequently lately) people lift their right leg anyway. If I offer a way to move deeper into the pose for those who would like to try it almost everyone will do it.

Therefore, I consider what I say in yoga class carefully and know that it is an honor to teach.

However, asana is only a small part of yoga. In the home of yoga, India, (I have heard) that most people don't practice the poses at all. Yoga there is meditating, breathing, and devotion to God. While that's in yoga classes in America also, there can be some misconception about yogic texts here. Some teachers talk about Patanjali's yoga sutras in class and from one teacher to another you can find different perspectives on it. (Also, teachers never seem to refer to the hatha yoga pradipika- what's up with that?)

The writings in Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White (my teacher!) really resonate with me. (It's a great read and I suggest anyone interested in furthering their yoga practice pick it up) In making his point that you have to find your yoga and what it means to you Ganga mentions how the concept of brahmacharya is interpreted as responsible sexuality or making your sexual union special when it is more likely referring to celibacy. People take the text and choose to read into it what they need. He goes on to say,

"We can learn from and use the tradition in an approach tempered by the realization that what we call tradition is truly our own, or another's, interpretation of what something may have been in the distant past... Relying too much on doctrines and texts for guidance in living cuts one off from direct perception and from the living awareness of insight. Yoga should be viewed as an art as well as as science. Structured, more scientific, aspects of yoga and techniques also involve unstructured, indefinable dynamics that require artistry and awareness to apply. Living in wholeness and creativity has structural components, but life is more an art than a science...Yoga is practiced within the tradition but must be applied according to the uniqueness of wach person's life and situation. We should not simply idealize the past and assume that teachings, purportedly unchanged from the ancient past, are perfect, superior, or appropriate for the present...

We cannot learn to fly by following the tracks left by birds in the sand, We must find our own wings and soar"

The best yoga practice is your practice. Returning to your mat daily, sitting in meditation, taking pauses frequently to deepen your breath, and showing compassion to your neighbors. I'm not at all saying that you should or shouldn't read the ancient texts- like the translations of the Yoga Sutras. I'm attempting to humbly suggest that by noticing your thoughts, using your body, and finding some peace you are practicing yoga in all its glory- your yoga.

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