April 22, 2010

Earth Yoga

We are earth yogis with earthly challenges.

After a particularly mindblowing practice during a week of Mysore yoga mornings at Yogaview in Chicago with Petri Raisanen (after some years focusing on Iyengar Yoga which had followed years practicing Ashtanga) I thought that anybody who dismisses or talks poorly about another system of yoga simply has not done enough of it. I have had incredible experiences in Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, and Kripalu (Heck, I got a lot out of ‘Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan’, back in the day…). So what gives? It makes me wonder about the mentality of yogis who want to structure their experience in an exclusive way. Why must my yoga be better than your yoga? To really grow as human beings, and be better yogis maybe we need to try one another’s yoga.

To stay with a system of yoga, going deeper and deeper has the potential benefits of knowing self, ecstatic states, and spiritual subtleties. But it could be like the first time you connected sexually with someone (just let me try this out), you might have associated that incredible bliss with a particular individual. Life goes on and perhaps that first relationship doesn’t work out. Then you realize that you might have it with others, too. Some are better. Some are worse. But when you associate it with one person and your mind is stuck remembering the past that is delusion. The danger in keeping it (when the “it” is yoga practice) to one teacher or yoga style right now is based on my belief that we need to connect better with each other here, on the planet, which could mean bringing the spiritual experience out of an exclusive arena where we connect it with one style of yoga or one teacher. Maybe it’s time to branch out to understand one another across beliefs, and across yoga styles.

When we associate the precious, sacred, totally beyond words experience of yoga with one style or teacher it can be harmful socially when we channel our reverence into a mentality that separates us from other yogis who practice with other teachers in other styles of yoga. It makes sense that we would want to protect ourselves, but what is the cost? Doesn’t this pattern of thought and behavior reflect the divisiveness that can be seen amongst sports fans of different teams, or members of different religious groups, or citizens of different countries, etc? Should we allow the yoga we practice be another reason to shun people who we conceptualize as being “different” in some seemingly important intangible way? Is this really an important difference?

I see an earth translation of yoga as bringing more friendliness and care across peoples, rather than another reason for seeing difference. And I think that we desperately need to find a greater sense of union between all people.

Traditionally yoga practice offers techniques for uniting the individual sense of yourself with a larger sense of your Self, profound connection, oneness beyond description. Yes! Good… A yogi might need to practice with a particular yoga tradition and/or teacher for a while to perhaps be blessed with this realization. How we go forward from here is actually what I’m considering in this post. Certainly you might need the safety of certain parameters (like: a particular teacher, style, or tradition) to develop on your path. But don’t get confused and think that the way you did it is the only way that others might do it. That most certainly is absurd. Your path is only right for you, just as my path is only right for me.

In the sea of all of our differences how can we resonate with our common needs? How can we align less with personal selfishness, and become more motivated to work towards common goals like a more friendly world, and care about the effects our actions have on the global environment? How can we bring our tastes of beauty and connection from yoga practice into meaningful compassionate actions towards others, ourselves and our Earth?

(Article provided, compliments of Yogic Muse…)

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