Monday, January 12, 2009

Thou Shalt...

The human mind tends to default into duality. We tend to divide things into categories of good or bad, right or wrong, and ultimately, us or them. It’s easiest to see the faults of others, though our continued growth asks us to identify the faults within ourselves.

There is plenty of judgment within the Yoga community. One teacher claims to be teaching the oldest and truest technique, while another lineage makes the same claim. Without waging all-out war, there’s a lingering judgment that festers just beneath the surface in the western yoga world.

Interestingly, there is little historical evidence to support these judgments. The primary yogic texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, scarcely mention the physical practices of Asana and Pranayama. It wasn’t until much later that texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika described the physical practices. Even within these relatively modern texts, there’s insufficient information to assert whether a technique is right or wrong. Surprisingly, the physical practices of yoga are scantily documented until recently.

Because Yoga (as a spiritual path) has existed for so long, and most Westerners associate yogic postures as the essence of Yoga, the assumption that the asanas have existed since time immemorial is either directly promoted, or at least not actively discouraged. The teacher offering the most authentic, most ancient or truest approach to Yoga has a distinct marketplace advantage over the teacher offering the possibly-quite-old or fairly-recent interpretation of Yoga. Interestingly, many of today’s most popular approaches to Yoga occupy the latter category, despite their claims to the contrary.

We all want to do the right thing, and to follow the path that’s most likely to work. It’s human nature, and not such a bad motivation. Unfortunately, these well-meaning motives can also cultivate less-than-yogic mindstates.

In Hatha Yoga, the greatest growth occurs in sticking with a path for a long time. Whether you resonate with the flowing Ashtanga Vinyasa form, the BKS Iyengar precise alignment or the integration of breath and structure of Alignment Yoga, to mention just a few examples, find a form and stick with it. Along the yogic path, steer clear of dogmatic judgment of other forms you may not be following at the time. The concern over whether a form is right or wrong exercises an aspect of the mind that’s most distinctly contrary to the state of yoga. If none of the forms can be described as right, then by default, all of the forms are right.

If you’re interested in learning more about Yoga, be sure to include the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in your studies. If you’re new to the roots of Yoga, a good start is the excellent book by Michael Stone, The Inner Tradition of Yoga. Within the pages of this book, the heart of Yoga unfolds. Yes, the physical practice is an elegant and time-tested path to health and vitality, though Yoga is so much more than perfecting a technique.

Namaste,
Scott
www.alignmentyoga.com

No comments: