In the last several months, while following different online yoga publications, I was beginning to grow disheartened by the continuing debates about what yoga is or is not.
As I read articles with their various opinions, I fell into judgement.
I found myself either agreeing with someone’s point of view or disagreeing, and falling into the divisive and confusing nature of the articles that I was reading. I would imagine myself writing rebuttals to whatever I disagreed with. The ego judges and argues differences of opinion with other egos. And my ego was working overtime. Ironically, yoga is about letting go of the ego. I became increasingly aware of the dissonance within myself.
I finally stopped reading articles which debated proper alignment, yoga selfies, styles of yoga or anything pertaining to the business of yoga, which seemed to me, an oxymoron.
It also appeared, in reading these debates, that yoga was becoming more and more complicated in its right and wrong ways to practice. Just like religion, there were certain “laws” to obey and requirements to make it “real yoga.”
And there were many differences of opinion about whether or not one person’s preferred practice was the “right” way.
I needed to get back to the basics.
I needed to remember that for me, yoga itself is the teacher.
I needed to take a breath and remember the roots of yoga and the reasons for my practice. The literal translation of the word yoga means union. Union with the body, the mind and the spirit, in connection with the breath. Yoga is first and foremost a spiritual practice.
Simply put, yoga is quieting my mind and connecting my breath with the movement of my body. My breath is the guide and facilitates the movement of energy (prana) thought my body. This does not require any special props, needs no perfect alignment, no goal, no competition and no teacher. It only requires that I tune into my breath and quiet my mind. This is where yoga, or union, is experienced.
I remembered that there is no such thing as advanced yoga. It does not exist. How would I know whether or not someone is an advanced yoga practitioner or teacher? By how capable they are in asana? Whether or not they can do a handstand?
How does one judge how spiritually advanced another person is?
Is another person more spiritually advanced because they know the Sanskrit names for poses? And if I find someone who seems to be more enlightened than me, do I ditch my own efforts towards advancement to set up camp with them?
Yoga teaches me to find the guru that is within me.
A yoga instructor is only needed to teach the basics of breathing and basic asana. That is all that is needed to have a personal practice and relationship with yoga. I have found that the simple rule of thumb in finding a good instructor is whether or not they can teach the importance of the breath our connection with it.
A good teacher will not create a dependence on themselves or their style but will inspire you to form your own relationship with yoga. And to teach these simple basics they do not need hundreds of hours of training nor will they need a myriad of workshops.
Yoga classes can be wonderful and the shared energy can be amazing. But there is also the trap of dependence on a specific teacher or style of yoga. Students can and very often do, develop a dependence on a class rather than developing their own practice. And in teaching yoga, there is the trap of feeling that the teacher is superior to the student.
Yoga is a personal practice. It is a way of life.
What I learn from my personal practice I bring into my life. Yoga has given me many tools for my life and has been a solace and many times a life raft. It has helped me navigate the rough waters of life at times. It has been a mirror which showed me what I needed to learn about myself. Yoga gently coaxes me to look within, bringing me to awareness of my divinity.
Yoga is my teacher and I am its student grateful for its teachings. With each new lesson, I am a humble beginner.
Turning away from the confusion and debates of the “yoga world” has caused me to remember my path and returned me to the peace that I find in my personal practice with my teacher, Yoga. In my practice I experience my connection with the universe.
I experience the grace of my own divinity and the divinity of everything and everyone. It releases me from judgement. For me, this,is yoga in its purest form. This experience leaves no room for debate. I am thankful for the lessons that I learned from falling out of balance. I am grateful to yoga for bringing me back into balance and clarity again.
With this clarity, I return to the grace and blessings of my own path and practice, while blessing everyone else on theirs, without judgement.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman