Thursday, April 17, 2008

Peel the onion

My yoga practice is changing, my attitudes, my thoughts, my desires and the purpose of yoga for me is all changing. Finding it hard to explain it in my own words I will borrow those of Gary Kraftsow:-

"Our tendancy today is to thing of physical fitness and health in terms of measurements and/or standards of performance. Bringing this mentality to asana practice, many have the impression that it is about performance and that we can measure our progress by our ability to perfect the forms of postures.

"The ancients, however, based their concept of physical fitness and health on an entirely different set of criteria; a feeling of lightness within the body, an ability to withstand change, and a stable body and focussed mind, ready to sit for pranayama practice and mediation

Yoga has gone mainstream in the west over the past few years. And this is a great thing. But so so much yoga concentrates purely on physical asana (posture) practice. To concentrate on this alone, or indeed to make this the majority of your practice is like discovering the onion but cooking only with the skin. So much of the flavour and goodness is left out.

Sitting and breathing, sitting and focussing, allowing oneself to be is equally important as posture practice. At the end of the day, apart from looking kind of cool, getting one's leg behind one's head is of little benefit in the grand scheme of things. Practicing consistency, and mental, physical and emotional awareness if far more important. What good after all physical strength without the strength of mind to resist the everchanging nature of life in this physical realm?

So will my new thoughts and feelings gained through my own yoga practice change the way I teach?

Well yes and no. I think that by trying to transcend the physical a little in my own practice I can teach more from the heart, with the stillness, calm and strength that my students need; that they come for whether they realise this consciously or not. I already only teach 50-55 minutes of asana practice during a 90 minute class so they are already experimenting with breath and and meditation by themselves. Some people love it. Some have come from yoga backgrounds where 85 minutes or so is dedicated to asana and have been surprised by my teaching style. Some have persevered and come to love it, some have hated it and never come back. *shrugs*. What can you do? Some people just aren't ready; they may never be ready in this life. And that's OK.

But as for the question will I be teaching a class that perhaps incorporates minimal posture practice, for example 20-25 minutes to warm up the body for deep breath practices? No probably not. Not in a regular class. That's not what people want right now. It's not what I'm here to teach right now.

But of course I could teach a two hour workshop on it one Saturday afternoon and take it from there.....


Cara said...

I agree with you that yoga has gone mainstream over the years. I think a lot of people don't appreciate the origin of yoga and what it really means. They just want to emulate celebrities.

scoliyogi said...

Very true. However a lot of the time once they start doing yoga a lot of people do become interested in the origins and philosophies. So it's not necessarily a bad thing. The important thing is that yoga teachers are still prepared to teach more than just the physical and a lot of them, esp in gyms, just aren't. Which is a terrible shame