Walking the path of Yoga is about thriving, to be the best possible you not to be like or imitate but to learn from and emulate those we consider to be our teachers. It’s also of course as much about celebrating life on the journey as it is about arriving to the place of Freedom, Moksha. There are many paths to enlightenment, freedom from the bondage of self, and many schools which promise it though all too often with strings attached. I continue to struggle with the Brand Naming of yoga with membership and lineage toted out as validation of something special at the same time I acknowledge the value of following a particular teaching rather than trying to draw from too many wells, though along the journey we may have to draw from more than one. My own experience is that the teacher comes in many forms and that the outer manifestation comes and goes or that we need to move on to find another well along the way.
Ultimately students have the same freedom, to come or go. I see this on a couple of levels personally. I miss students when they no longer come to class . I’m happy when some keep in touch and tell me how the yoga practice is helping them move towards “thrival”, a word I first heard from one of my teachers. Yoga is about thrival not just survival. Survival is at the first two chakra, Muladhara , coming into manifestation or embodiment and Svadishthana, the beginning of finding the I that I am, through ownership. Thrival begins at Manipura, where we find the city of Gems and the wealth of being who we really are. It expands in the heart center, Anahata, where we bring heaven and earth together in sharing. Clearing out a way for the imprisoned splendor to emerge to paraphrase Robert Browning’s Poem Parcellslus, from there we come to Visuddhi,, Robert Browning’s poem Paracelsus. From there we come to Visuddhi, the power to manifest and Ajna the ability to see that which is unseen. Occasionally, rising to a new perspective Sahasrara , the Lotus with a Thousand petals though it seems to me that it is a difficult place to stay seated and not really up there but where we are seated in “Self”, which we know is the definition of Asana, not just a position but also a perspective.
I’ve studied with and learned from many teachers, choosing one in particular for a long period as a committment to Svyadyaya, self-study and walking the talk. ( I choose not to name names because of the nature of this exploration.) Ultimately it seems to me that attachment to any teacher, and a teacher’s attachment to any student and/ or student body needs to be looked at through the lens of Yoga . Abhyasa is defined as practice with a consistent effort to letting go of distractions and attachments in order to become established in Yoga, the deep and profound essence of being . Vairaya means Non-attachment. It often seems to me that the nature of being human is ‘attach thyself’ and in a certain sense some degree of attachment is part of the condition of being human. Our first attachment the umbilical cord is cut when we are born into this world. But love which is supposed to set us free often comes with strings attached. Sometimes, in my own experience I attach myself to the loved one or thing thinking he,she, it to be the source of happiness. This has been a source of suffering when the object of my love disappoints me, and who hasn’t been disappointed in love?
I can tell you that relationship is where we practice yoga. Or rather maybe we practice yoga in order to be able to form ‘re-elation ‘ rather than having the ‘ship’ founder on rough seas. Ultimately my yoga practice brings me back to basics. I’ve been doing yoga more than half of my life. Last count for almost 40 years. Eaks, yes I began when just a wee toddler. I know far less now than I did many years ago, in fact the more I practice the less I seem to know. I’m no Guru, the term originally for Hindu masters but which has become part of our vocabulary for “Big Cheese”, or expert. Recently the distinction was made to ask whether one is a yoga teacher, embodying principles, or a yoga instructor, teaching exercise. Instead, in sharing Yoga I think of myself as a guide, one who walks the path and is therefore able to share some principles and maybe shine some light so that others may find their own way or path.
I call Ujjayi breathing “sussura da l’anima”, whisper from the soul breath. The official definition of Ujjayi is victorious breath. If we get quiet enough to listen it is certainly a victory. A synonym for Guru is heavy or venerable and one who gives weight can also mean brings one into the present to accept the gift of Yoga. However, an antonym to Guru is amateur, one who does an art for the love of doing it rather than as a profession. We know that Yoga is the place where opposites meet. It is indeed a fine line to walk between being an amateur, which seems closer to being a yogi, and being a teacher, not to mention Guru, an expert. I’d rather be light-hearted, listen to the whisper of my soul and follow the guidance of a loving presence , I, being human, can definitely benefit from the guidance of a teacher. I certainly need communion with like-minded souls, sangha which can be found in a particular school or group of ‘followers’ of a particular tradition. Still, I find myself in a dilemma when asked or offered an opportunity to become certified in a certain school. I’ve been called certifiable in other parts of my life, meaning of course a little or more than a little crazy.
Off the beaten path was once what was associated with practicing yoga but as it has become a business, there is a certain element of being officially sanctioned. I was “certified” by Yoga Alliance back in the beginning because as they said, I’d been carrying my mat round for a long time already. I’ve the symbol to put beside my name but I generally find that people are attracted by the person or maybe better yet the practice, more than credentials. Sometimes I’ve found myself walking, or running around off the ‘beat and path’, out of harmony with myself and others. This is a time to get silent and ask for guidance rather than stamp my feet and insist on my way. Inside me is a lost and found department. I’ve lost my way many times and found that others have shown me how to find a new direction by example. I’ve also found that what I’ve lost, or given up and that includes being a success in this world, is not as important as what I’ve found in Yoga , laughter, love, light-heartedness, a journey or companion through the dark times, and a place or way to listen to the whisper of my soul which tells me to sing my song: loud and clear when the occasion warrants being heard and in harmony when it is more important that the chord not the individual note be expressed. Ultimately, if we listen to the beat of our own heart we may find that we each march to the beat of a different drummer but can walk together.
Back to Om-my-God… or Goddess . Sometimes we do a gesture we call separio, parting the curtains which separate the stage from the audience. Bringing hands together in front of the heart center we part the curtains to let the heart light shine before doing warrior pose and say “Yes!” Ah, a new mantra… practice yoga to live in harmony and om yes to life and to thrive … May you say Yes to yoga today!
( Jane in addition to being a Yoga Guide, is also a singer songwriter. Some of her songs can be found at her website, www.beyoganow.com. See if you want to sing along .)