Understanding what Yoga is not: When in doubt go back to the basics.

Via on Nov 30, 2011

I just read Laura’s article WHO THE FCK LET YOU BECOME A YOGA TEACHER http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/licensing-yoga-who-the-fck-let-you-become-a-yoga-teacher/ , about yoga teaching licensing, a debate that occupies the western yoga world since forever.

Have you seen the movie “THE LORD OF THE FLIES”, if you have you will understand right away the similarities of what Yoga in the West is going through. The lord of the flies is a about a group of young kids that are stranded in a virgin island after their boat sinks. These are school boys  who study together and have been educated in the elegant ways to behave as a society, but when they found themselves alone, without their teacher’s guidance and conditioning, new behaviors set in as a consequence of natural instincts of survival…as the story develops the mind defilments of being human arise, low frequency patterns develop and a display of human archetypes show themselves in the story…it gets pretty wild west bu I won’t ruin the end for you, it is worth watching.

In Yoga, it is helpful to remember the most important lesson this ancient practice teaches: THE TEACHER IS WITHIN.

In my humble opinion, this debate that people have going on about who can teach yoga and who can not teach yoga is a simple one to resolve. We can go on forever at war to stop those who we disagree with, trying to control others and making them summit to what we think is “right”… or we can use the opportunity to practice our yoga and be real yogis, practicing UNION (yoga) instead of division.

As yoga practitioners, understand what YOGA IS NOT, take responsibility for your own practice and become a master of yourself. Don’t be a hater, be a lover.

YOGA IS NOT a class that happens while you are on your mat. Yoga is a way of life, yoga is an art of living. Everything we do is a yoga pose, every relationship we engage in is a yoga action, every breath is a yoga moment…Yoga is a state of mind.  Ideally, a clear peaceful mind, that is what we practice.

YOGA IS NOT an aerobic series to loose weight or sculpt the body, and feed our vanity and ego. Yoga is a meditation practice of self-observation in which we learn the art to  “know thyself” in order to calm the fluctuations of the mind (thoughts) so we can become masters of it, we use the understanding of the breath and the practice of universal moral values and a healthy sustainable body care; Yoga is a practice that will prove successful only as we see the ego itself dissolve and harmony increase. Loosing weight and sculpting the body comes as a bi-product of the asana practice, great.

YOGA IS NOT a cult or a religion. Humans do need guidance, as history shows over and over most people are followers. So understand, that those who you choose to follow are nothing but YOUR CHOICE. It is important you, as a yogi, see clearly that there is not one-and-only bible about YOGA, all masters have develop their teachings according to their own experience, their own range of motion, their own body qualities and limits, their own spiritual growth. If you choose to follow somebody blindly, don’t get surprised or disapointed when you hit a wall, as we are only humans. Learn from those who are as happy as you would like to be…because those are the ones that will guide you towards yourself.

YOGA IS NOT a superpower. A teacher will only be able to teach you about what He or She has learned up to that point. YOU are the one that is choosing to practice his/her teachings, if they don’t make sense to you, why are you doing it? Blaming others about your bad experiences goes against the practice itself, remember it is a practice of Self-observation and self-mastery. Placing your expectations in the idea that all teachers will enhance your yoga practice just because they are presented as yoga teachers is practicing against the main teaching of this ancient practice, which is to be present, breath by breath, observing things as they are, without judgment or expectation, with an equanimous mind, a calm mind, a loving heart, a compassionate response, without harm, as things change all the time. What do you do when you face a challenging moment? Like a teacher that does not meet your desires? Will you react and create more stress, or animosity? or will you practice your yoga and reflect compassion and love, and grow within your own practice by teaching yourself and behaving like a true yogi?

YOGA IS NOT about being flexible or being able to touch your head to your knees, or the capability to place your body in a knot. Yoga is a practice of balance, it is about being who you are and accept yourself as an evolving being, with a calm mind. YOGA is a practice of harmony, it is a practice of peace, it is a practice of Union, in which your thoughts, your actions and your words become one, it is a practice of Love. You have to start by loving yourself, as you are, that  is flexibility. You can’t wait until you think you are flexible to start practicing, flexibility will be a result of your practice; and usually has more to do with the state of your mind than how far your body can reach. Are you flexible enough to see clearly that you can’t touch the floor with your hands at this moment, but you can breath deeper and freely as you try? Are you flexible enough to respond with a compassionate happy state of mind towards yourself when you can’t reach as far as you would like to, or will you react with self-judgment when you cannot meet your self-created expectations? Sometimes backing off a little, or simply avoiding what is having a negative impact on you or others is what the lesson is all about.

YOGA IS NOT a competition. Yoga is a path towards unity that starts and ends with the Self. Competing with yourself or others about how flexible, how strong, how beautiful, how a great teacher or how psychic you become is a waste of your time, since by competing you are only feeding your Ego; and as long your Ego is leading the practice you will not reach enlightement, the final goal of Yoga.

YOGA IS NOT about the poses. The most respected ancient yoga masters like Patanjali and Babaji, spent many many many hours in sitting meditation in their effort to reach understanding about the Ultimate Truth and the Natural Law of Change so they could  become One with the Universe and raise the vibratory frequency of creation. Sitting so many hours in meditation required to have a healthy body, not a good looking body, a h e a l t h y body; so such yogis, through out time, developed a series of body movements, which we call “asanas” in order to maintain the health of internal organs, blood circulation, cellular function and nervous system in optimum conditions, which through regular practice will lead to longer periods of comfortable sitting meditation. When you are practicing Yoga, the poses, the asana practice, is to be meditation in motion. In order to be meditating as you move , you are aware of your breath being free and your mind staying clear as you do the pose.  The pose does not have to look in any specific fixed form, it is about finding your place in every pose and make it a comfortable place to stay still for as many breaths as possible and go deeper into your meditation. If your mind is full of negativity and judgement as you are practicing the poses, you are not doing Yoga.

Yoga practitioners eventually understand through the practice itself that like everything else in Life, Yoga is  a matter of responsibility and self mastery. Let the practice practice YOU.  As long as you remember what Yoga is not about, you will never experience anything such as a “bad class” or “bad teacher”… you will only see opportunities of growth within your practice, and maybe, hopefully,  help somebody else in the process. Anybody and everybody can be a teacher, since we are all mirrors to each other, you don’t need certification to teach what you, by your own experience have learned, there will always be somebody who will benefit from the little, or the tons,  you know; but in YOGA practice: The Teacher is Within ~ the teachings are available to all, it is a universal teaching…when in doubt, just go back to the basics:

Listen to yourself

Listen to your body, respect your boundaries

Honor how you feel

Remember your intention

Speak truth

Do not steal

Do not harm

Do not sexually misbehave

Be content

Practice self-observation

Read inspiring texts about Yoga or listen to inspiring people talk about Yoga

Clean your body, mind, space

Keep in good inspiring company

Master the material cravings of your senses

Keep your body healthy through asana practice and good nutrition

Observe your breath at all times and use it to understand your mind

Focus

Meditate

Be happy

Love Everyone

 

Happy holidays :)

yeye

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About Yesica Pineda

Destino Magazine - Los Cabos Creative Editor / Writer www.destinomagazine.com

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19 Responses to “Understanding what Yoga is not: When in doubt go back to the basics.”

  1. Christine says:

    Do not sexually misbehave?

    • Yesica Pineda yeye says:

      Hi Christine, eventually the practice itself growths torwards calming the senses and celibacy becomes a great place to be. For those who live the worldy life and celibacy is out of the question, a sexual proper conduct (meaning your actions, words, and thoughts cause no harm to anyone) is what the yogi practices.
      Thanks for your comment!

    • Ramapriya Ramanuja says:

      Every bona fide school of yoga teaches this. It is in the Dharma Shastras and also the Yoga Sutras. The Word is Brahmacharia – to be a celibate student of the teacher. However, in household life it means to have fidelity to your partner and, ideally, only sex for procreation. Outside of wedlock it means abstinence. Not very popular in modern, western "culture" where we are all trained to think that we're the body so that we can fit into the mass consumption machine, but it is the tradition of yoga. You will not achieve self realisation as long as you act as if you are the body and so that means action on the spiritual platform – precluding promiscuity, or gratuitous sex. "Action on the spiritual platform" can be found in the Bhagavad-Gita, the clearest rendition of which is the Gita Bhashya by Sri Ramanuja.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Yeye, thank you so much for writing and sharing this.

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    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  3. irina says:

    agreed

  4. Yeye, thank you for writing so passionately about a necessary discourse that needs to take place. I will definitely look into watching the film Lord of the Flies. This morning I took my practice back to basics with Baron Baptiste and it was just incredible. What I love about him is his unassuming nature. It was one of the deepest, awe inspiring practices that I’ve done in ages. Abundant Blessings and Light, Nadine!

  5. irina says:

    I think the book by William Golding 'Lord of the Flies' is even better than the movie.

  6. Suzette says:

    Yeye, thanks so much for this piece it's a great reminder and good guidance for we all need proper guidance at each level of our lives to really achieve maximum growth and potential to be more compassionate beings. I have experienced that the more flexible my mind is dictates how much further I can reach doing an asana. I have experienced the more flexible my mind is how much I can reach out to others. I haven't practiced in a month and this stepping back away from or off the mat I also found necessary and enlightening…I observed that my mind/body/spirit was becoming inflexible and almost atrophied so it just confirmed for methat through the body, through the mind to the spirit.
    "A real student will not follow blindly," Swami Vishnudevananda. Thanks again and I will revisit the movie!

  7. nitpicker says:

    THE LORD OF THE FLIES was a (very famous) book before it was a movie…. And "summit" is a mountain peak, I think you meant "submit."

  8. Valerie Carruthers Valerie Carruthers says:

    What you are describing in your post, Yeye, are the goals that every serious Yoga student aspires to and strives to live by in their sadhana or spiritual journey. However a great many who attend classes at studios, community centers, etc. never develop a home practice or enough of a personal practice to understand their minds, behaviors, bodies, breath or the philosophy of Yoga. For them the class is their entire Yoga experience for the week (I have seen this countless times in over ten years of teaching) and so everything is placed squarely on the teacher's shoulders. The teacher cannot take anything for granted or assume anything about a student. All the teacher can do is come from the highest place in teaching, guiding, assisting. Sometimes that place simply does not mesh with the student's expectations. Yes there are expectations, realistic or not.

    When all Yoga students (including teachers) reach the level of life mastery you so eloquently and urgently describe we will have heaven on earth. Until then we must display compassion for the complaining students and the crappy teachers.

  9. [...] Understanding what Yoga is not: When in doubt go back to the basics. [...]

  10. Song says:

    Great writing and an always welcome reminder.

  11. Ramapriya Ramanuja says:

    Thank you . . . At last some common sense on this topic on Elephant Journal. It is a vexed topic, because none of the "Great Teachers" – Buddha, Sri Yamunacharya, Sri Ramanuja, Jesus, Sri Shankaracharya, had "pieces of paper" to say that they could teach. Their qualifications were self evident. For most of us, that is not the case, so we need to seek instruction and demonstrate in the beginning at least that we have some know-how. Who we follow is a matter of adhikari – our intelligence and how we have interpreted our experiences, which shapes our thinking. If my adhikari is not the same as a teacher in a particular class, I respect him or her – knowing that his or her true identity is the shining, eternal, magnificent servant of Sriman Narayana and find another class. Adiyen dasi.

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