The Flexibility of Resignation.

Via Tobye Hillier
on Nov 1, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bruce Lee. As a kid I remember going to Karate classes and watching “The big Boss” and other movies. I also remember how I felt after a Karate class; Focused, centred and confident. It wasn’t until I began practising yoga that I felt the same feelings all over again.

Even at such a young age, I’d realised Martial arts wasn’t about the fighting. As Bruce put it “Martial arts is about self-knowledge.” The work made me feel something different inside.

I went back to Bruce a couple of years ago. My Parents gave me a book voucher for my birthday and I bought “Bruce Lee ~ The art of expressing the human body.” A collection of Bruce’s training notes and believe me, he made lots of notes. His practice was as much yoga as you can possibly get and his philosophy was incredibly yogic as well.

One of the things in the book that really gave me a “Mindful smack” was a quote from Bruce; “There is no such thing as an effective segment of a totality.” You see, he believed strongly in the idea that, if you just trained yourself in one particular area, one particular style, flexibility would be lost, your practice would stiffen and become weak. The only way to stay strong in your practice is to take all practices, seek out the strongest poignant parts from each and meld them into one. This was how he started “Jeet Kun Do” what has become known as “The style without style.”

It needs to be the same with yoga. Hatha yoga is Hatha yoga. The physical practice of postures. Whether you call it; Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, or any of the other myriad of styles, it’s still all Hatha yoga. To get caught within one particular style leaves one isolated to all the other styles. The only way to stay flexible is to embrace all. All is one.

Bruce Lee had to resign from the style that kept him caged. He wasn’t allowed to teach the way he wanted, to who he wanted and literally had to fight for the right to do so. And in doing this, he became an inspiration to millions all over the world.

No one style is better than the next but, it seems that a lot of the time yoga gets caught in trends where certain styles become more favourable than others. In the early stages of our practice, it’s possible to favour one style over another. As our practice deepens though, we may start seeing the attraction of other styles. To not be able to investigate every style could end up becoming stifling. Flexibility would be lost.

Learn the principle, abide by the principle, and dissolve the principle. In short, enter a mold without being caged in it. Obey the principle without being bound by it. LEARN, MASTER AND ACHIEVE!!! ~ Bruce Lee.


About Tobye Hillier

Originally from England, Tobye Hillier has lived in Ireland for over 17 years, living in a small seaside town called Greystones 20 miles south of Dublin. A qualified Karuna yoga teacher (RYT 500), Tobye also plays a pretty darn funky 5-string bass guitar and likes to sing in other peoples' showers. Empathic and intuitive, He likes to bend Yoga to suit people and not the other way around.


11 Responses to “The Flexibility of Resignation.”

  1. Valerie Carruthers says:

    Ah, Tobye, those are brilliant words to live by. As a fellow teacher, have you ever suggested to your students that they take someone else's class to open up to other approaches, techniques and paths? And have you noticed how few of them actually do that? While loyal students are gratifying at the risk of inflating the teacher's ego, how many times have you wanted to give some of them the boot so they can grow, for crissake? How many actually can get out there, take what they need and leave the rest?

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    LOVE this and really love the quote by Bruce Lee at the end.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. ARCreated says:

    Oh my Ganesah I LOVE THIS 🙂 Thank you!

    I guess I think like Bruce 🙂 make no mistake though part of what made it possible for him to break free was a VERY strong foundation.

  4. Great point. I practice vinyasa and wanted to branch out. Among many things I found that Bikram gave me a great way to connected with my center in a way that was not as apparent to me in vinyasa. Yet vinyasa allows for more strengthening in the upper body. The combination is great for my body. Eventually plan to branch off into other forms.

  5. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks for reading/sharing Aminda 🙂

  6. Prasad Rangnekar says:

    Dear Tob.
    A very profound thought simply out across. Love your writing skills and thought process. Keep up the good work dear Friend. Thanx and looking forward for more of your writtings

  7. Emma Magenta says:

    Hi Tobye, I'm a Certified Anusara teacher and I enjoyed your article. It's interesting because one of the ways I view Anusara yoga is that it is the distillation of everything that John Friend found most effective as a yogin. But of course, once you name a style, you differentiate it from other styles. This differentiation is limiting, but Anusara yogins believe that healthy, mindful limits create freedom and joy. Choosing to get married, choosing a particular major in college, and choosing to go to bed at a particular time, or eat a particular diet, are all examples of taking on a boundary in order to create more freedom. This is, in fact, what our Universe does–the one great consciousness that coalesces to create our Universe takes on the boundary of limited, mortal forms. You and I are examples of the universe choosing to limit itself in order to experience greater joy in a limited context.

    Regarding your comment that in Anusara, you "forsake all other styles unless you settle for Anusara Inspired." If you label your class "Anusara yoga", Anusara requires that you be teaching Anusara yoga. It doesn't mean that you can't PRACTICE other types of yoga–for example, I really enjoy vinyasa yoga classes. It just means that if you say you're teaching Anusara yoga, you teach Anusara yoga. This is a boundary, but it's one that can create freedom. Of course, if the boundary stops serving you (your marriage stops working, or you decide you prefer to eat meat, or you decide you're more interested in Art History, or you decide you want to teach philosophies or methodologies that are distinct from Anusara yoga), then you gotta reassess.

  8. yogi tobye says:

    Wow, thanks Prasad!

  9. Emma Magenta says:

    I certainly agree that we are constantly evolving. And I agree that the Universe is limitless and constantly expanding. Anusara yogins believe that as the universe evolves, it differentiates, and that those differences are meaningful. I don't know anything about Karuna yoga, but I respectfully submit that it must be different from Anusara yoga, simply by virtue of the fact that it passed through Ruth White. To use your evolution metaphor, while birds and lizards both evolved from dinosaurs, they are different from each other and from their common ancestor. In fact, the very birdiness of the birds and lizardiness of the lizards is beautiful and meaningful.

    I agree that birds, dinosaurs, and lizards are all manifestations of one big Life Force. But I live in the relative world and I find her distinctions beautiful. I agree that the packages are not neat, and personally I do not find Anusara yoga little, but for me, part of yoga's beauty is that as she evolves, she naturally differentiates. If yoga is all the same, how is it possible for you and I to have two different viewpoints?

  10. […] The Flexibility of Resignation. […]

  11. Hanri says:

    This is exactly how I've felt lately about my yoga practise and you have summed it up beautifully Tobye & inspired me to try even more. I think it's so true that when we start out we learn more by sticking to one style, but then as our practise advances, it's time to spread our wings.