Friday, March 02, 2012
First off, I want to remind people of the very first time you walked into a yoga studio to take a class.
Do you recall how you felt? I do. I was nervous. And uncertain. I didn't exactly know what happened in a yoga class. Do they sit and meditate the whole class. Stand on their head. Chant words that will make no sense to me? I had little clue. All I knew was that the universe kept pointing me in that direction. Go. Do. Yoga.
Plus I was having my mid-twenties crisis and it just seemed like a good idea. I thought it might be able to help me calm my wild thoughts and help me center and connect to myself. Of course at the time, those were not the words I used.
It was more like, "Oh shit, my life is falling to pieces. I'm too young for my life to fall to pieces. What the hell am I gonna do? I've gotta figure this out."
When I see and read the articles in The New York Times and I hear that people actually think yoga is a religion it gets to me.
Not because it ruffles all my yogi feathers in a purist way. Ok, ok some if it has ruffled my yoga tail feathers, just a bit. I can't lie.
It's mostly upsetting to me because here we are adding to the list of reasons not to do yoga. As if people need more reasons not to do yoga. In general as a society we already feel less than.
Oh I can't do yoga because I'm too old, too young, too skinny, too fat, too tight, too weak, too conservative, too eccentric....on and on and on.
Now we have people reading these articles and perhaps thinking they'll either break their neck doing yoga or get lured into a sex cult.
Yogs is not (and I repeat not) a religion. We have no place of worship. No god or gods we must pray or bow down to. Yoga does not tell you to pray to any certain thing nor person. Yoga actually encourages you to connect to any source that uplifts you. One of the niyamas is "ishvara pranidhana" which is connecting to a higher source energy. Be that source the sun, Jesus, Allah, your lover, whatever. Yoga does not attempt to define what that higher source is. And I love that. Wars break out, people fight, and do all sorts of crazy things in the name of God and love. We get so attached, so righteous about what we believe to be the ultimate truth. Really seems counter-productive to me.
Yes, yoga has deep spiritual roots that are there should one be interested in exploring that. It is not a prerequisite nor a requirement. You can come do yoga to get a nice yoga ass or you can come to connect to spirit. Whatever. It doesn't matter to me. We all have our individual reasons and that is a beautiful thing in and of itself.
Yoga as a sex cult....yes let's explore that one. Appears all this talk stems from the scandal happening around John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga. If you're curious just Google John Friend Sex Scandal and you'll get more information than you care to read.
First of all, yogis are not super humans free from struggle nor suffering. Yogis are humans. I'm not at all justifying his behavior. Mostly what I'm saying is that when you really think about it, it's not that utterly shocking.
Shocking? At first yes, upon further inquiry maybe not.
Sex scandals occur all over the place.....business people, family people, politicians, religious leaders, and yes, yogis.
This is a reminder to each of us as a student of yoga. It's not about your teacher. Really, it's not. It's about the wisdom within yoga and You. I get that your yoga teacher can serve as a source of inspiration. Your teacher has been walking the path. Seeking and striving to live a good life and sharing what is true for them. It's not about them. I repeat. If they say it is about them, that's a big red sign. When it starts to feel like your worthiness is based on your teacher and it's more about them then I'd step back and ponder what's truly happening.
Lastly, this idea that "I'd better not do yoga because I might hurt myself."
News flash....I can spill my hot coffee onto my lap and hurt myself. I can slip and fall on the street and hurt myself. I can literally dance my big toenail off and hurt myself (yes still slightly traumatized by that one).
Asanas (the yoga poses) are physical. You can hurt yourself doing anything physical. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
Both students and teachers have responsibility when it comes to safety in a yoga classroom. We as teachers are looking for signs of students overdoing it and straining. That's why I always say, "If you can't breathe in this pose, don't do it!". I've had conversations with students and essentially said, "I don't think you're ready for this pose."
Students have responsibility. Just because we teach it, doesn't mean you have to do it. Honor your body. Listen deeply. Find your edge in the pose and don't push past it. Be more concerned about your body and pose than your neighbors. How do you know if it's too much?
If you can't breathe you shouldn't be in that pose.
If your mind is freaking out you shouldn't be in that pose.
If it's a pose that requires great strength and you're just not there yet, you shouldn't be in that pose.
If it hurts (and this is more than simply uncomfortable) you shouldn't be in the pose.
Actually when the article by William Broad came out in NYT I felt really good about my method of teaching and the process I lead trainees through in yoga teacher training. I believe it to be wise, safe, and sustainable.
Basically I love yoga. I want everybody to do yoga.
I truly believe that if we all did yoga the world would be a much better place. I do. I believe that deeply, in the core of my being. When I read some things I just want to bang my head against the wall because it seems so unbelievable to me.
Don't believe everything just because you read it or someone told you to believe it. Take it in, try it on, and then choose for yourself. The same thing is true for yoga.
Shew. That was a lot. I shall now step off of the yoga soapbox. Thanks for listening. Or reading.
Have a great day friends.