…or something more? Are we missing the deeper message?
As I read the philosophy of the esteemed teacher, Mr. Glenn Black, whose classes I have had the privilege of taking, I am confused and I must say disheartened. I too have been walking the path of Yoga for over 25 years. I, luckily, have had a much different experience. I have been fortunate to have very wise and skilled teachers, starting my practice at Integral Yoga with Swami Ramanda, then Amy Mathews, Richard Freeman and onto my greatest teacher Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. I believe these teachers helped me to see the true form of Yoga and though, I will admit, I have found myself in the presence of teachers who taught a more western version of the practice, my body has always asked me to leave and I quickly found my way back home. For me, and I hope for my students, Yoga is lens we use to look deeply inside to see what we really need – whether those needs are physical, emotional or spiritual. I have walked along my life path with Yoga by my side. It has been my greatest companion and so, it has held me, educated me, challenged me, employed me, it has been where I have found my closest friends and has been my guide through the most difficult times in my life.
On a nuts and bolts level Yoga is about re-patterning and that occurs in the nervous system. Whether we are discussing muscle tissue or emotions. It is wise in that way. We as humans are not so wise. We push, pull and grasp just as it asks us not to do and then we blame Yoga. It has been my experience that in those moments we aren’t really doing Yoga but just using the asanas to live our lives they way we always have, in arrogance. Yoga is a way to see things differently, to find peace of mind and true grace. It asks us clearly to stop pretending and start accepting what is, to listen instead o demand. This could be getting real about our flexibility in our bodies or in our lives. What is the real truth of the matter and can we stop pretending that it is something different. These of course are the harder lessons that only a true friend can offer.
Bonnie my teacher has always explained to us that we must listen to the lessons the body is teaching. So, it is the deepest meditation where I am asked to stay present and keep my ego in check. I must wait patiently for an asana to blossom inside of me. When I do I am in true ecstasy and when I don’t…well Mr. Black has already covered that. The asanas unfold, they present themselves to us, and we find we are in them without ever knowing we were going there, very much like life. If an injury comes, and I won’t lie I have had mine, it has shown me my own arrogance not a flaw in the teachings but in my ability to listen to their wisdom. Each asana holds a lesson so we move slowly and with reverence through our practice, as it is truly sacred.
As a teacher I am in service. I have come to own my own studio and so I am in service of many. I must maintain my clear mind so I can see the movements in each of my students. This comes with time and skill. So I have had to get that much more honest about what I am doing. Teaching has required me to rise to a higher form of myself. It has demanded a deep understanding of myself so that I can serve others. Oddly, teaching is typically less about knowledge, though incredibly important, and more about presence. If the room is crowded we don’t move faster but deeper more slowly, we use the power of the group to hold the meditation we are all there to find…teacher included. It is the job of the teacher to empower the student to listen to their body and not to become dependent. Though this can feel good, as we all want to feel important and needed, it is an extreme disservice to our students. If they alone trust us how do they learn to walk alone to find the self-practice we are grooming them for?
I have worked privately most of my 25 years, typically with people who suffer from some type of physical malady. I have seen this sage practice heal so many and not only heal but deliver them to a place where they were better then where they were before they were injured. I have been with most of my clients for 7 plus years. So we can see Yoga is not a fad nor is it a religion. What it is-is an awakening. It demands that we stay conscious at all times and so it is a very challenging and perhaps not right for those who want to dabble. It is clearly not whether I can do a fancy arm balance..that is an insult to its wisdom, but instead whether we can listen deeply to ourselves and others. In the light of Yoga we find, as we get older we get better. We are more alive, more compassionate, more humble. We realize we will never know anything and so we get to maintain our curosity about everything.
I will agree that yoga as a competition or for athletic advancement is a bastardization of this wise and golden practice. Yoga has never been that for me, or for my students. We have taken a far less popular road to a place to where we are sure we will never arrive… But we are so enjoying the journey.. Freedom!
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