Yoga is sometimes about separation. We call this viyoga, separating from that which no longer serves you. It's not always easy. After some reflection, I've just taken a step of separation from the Ottawa Yoga teachers FB page. Why?
I feel that for yoga to thrive those that purport to represent it must be willing to be challenged and to grow. When posts to a teachers' page that are meant to do just that are received as negative or critical, there is something missing. Maybe it's insecurity about what they do not know or it maybe simply ignorance (which I understand given the lack of authentic teachers of the yoga tradition out there).
Yoga as peace-love-and-grooviness can become something more. The fear of that and the deep inertia (tamas guna) that does not allow for such growth and expansion of yoga is not helpful.
For yoga practitioners to thrive - and especially those instructing yoga asana classes - we must be willing to move beyond poses, to begin to integrate deeper teachings, to reflect, to grow and to move forward.
Popular yoga lacks sophistication. Teachers don't understand how to integrate the range of techniques that are available to them - if they even know them! There is a saying: If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. In popular yoga this equates to asana; if the only tool you have in your yoga toolbox is asana - good luck! Sadly, most have not been introduced to the yoga tradition in any real way, nor do they understand how its taught. This deficiency means the deeper teachings that can benefit us today much more than the most kick-ass yoga asana class are not available to yoga practitioners.
Most yoga teachers out there don't have a yoga teacher (guru) of their own. Perhaps because of ego or pride, or maybe they simply aren't ready. It is the connection to a lineage-based tradition that changes one's understanding of yoga, not the latest and coolest workshop by a celebrated popular teacher. It is almost like the blind leading the blind out there. Even more troubling is that some are making a killing off it.
Recently I learned of someone who is charging $5000 for a 500-hour certification. This saddens me, deeply. Yoga should not be an elitist practice. Those offering yoga trainings should not be gouging their students, especially if the content is iffy. But who's to know?
There really are no standards. Popularity and personality rule in the modern yoga world.
If I can pull in thousands of folks to yoga on Parliament Hill I guess I've arrived. But what is the destination again?
My commitment to the teachings are real. Those who study with me get that. My life is devoted to practice. Yoga is my family. Every time I teach I see the power of yoga at play. I love that I can impact someone's life in a way that workout-yoga never can.
Healing requires deep work. Yoga is about healing, growing, and expanding. This involves connecting with our darkness, necessarily! It ain't all soft-yoga-voice-pretty. Some of it gets pretty damn messy. But the rewards of this work are beyond words.
Yoga is about the mind. This is lost on the modern practitioner for the most part. But it doesn't need to be. One CAN teach asana-based yoga and still work with prana and all the subtle stuff to affect stillness.
Upon arriving in a steady and resting place we are able to move beyond all of the distractions and rest (finally!) in our true essence, transcending the manifest and material world. Getting a glimpse of this reminds us who we really are. Yoga practice is designed to work with the body to move us beyond the body; to understand that we are more than the bricks and mortar of this physical form; to know that we are not just mortal physical beings. We are spiritual beings.
ParaYoga introduced me to tantra. It is an amazing worldview that is about expanding beyond our limitations (many of which we create) and weaving all of the threads together to create this amazing tapestry we call life. In that we can recognize when things may be holding us back and choose to let them go (viyoga) and use our awakened force (prana shakti) to move us to realizing who we were meant to be, awakening this dormant potentiality (kundalini shakti). It is then that we are truly on our path, resting in our dharma and shining.
Life is a beautiful gift.
Separating from what doesn't work or serve us can be challenging. The more we do our sadhana (spiritual practice) the more fearless we become, eventually resting in a deep and abiding joy with Self. This is the promise of yoga. So why settle for a flexible hamstring?