Obviously, times have changed and plenty has been said (and will continue to be said here in the blgogosphere) about the changing the times of yoga, but in some ways, I always feel the my yoga roots when I teach in San Marcso. I am always reminded that what I love about the yoga practice is that it is, essentially, a fairly simple thing.
So all that being said, a good case could be made that it is not simple at all. I get that.
And yet, the stuff around the practice needn't actually be so complex. I mean I get it- there are marketing woes, branding imperatives, business worries, clothing considerations, body-image issues, real and imagined competitions, insecurities and competing ideologies. I know. I really do. I have been in the game a long time.
Really, put 20 people in a room for an hour of seated practice in the morning, 3-4 hours of dynamic standing poses/back bends/arm balances in the morning and 2 hours of restoratives/inversions/ forward bends in the afternoon and well, the seeds of transformation can be planted and watered quite a bit.
I think what I am most grateful for about teaching people over a long period of time that we get a chance to bear witness to each other's struggles and victories more than once and in more than just a glance-at-a-time. Each person is like a facet of the Jewel of the Teaching, providing real-life testimony to the value of what we are up to together. Many of the folks in the room have been my students almost a decade and so they have seen me through more-than-one difficult cycle and I have seen their practice and faith strengthened through their ups and downs as well. It's rich and rewarding territory. The value of our shared experience and lived testimony is not always in the perfect application of the teaching but in the ways we show up both flawed and brilliant, contracted and persevering in the face of the difficulty and in the ways we often find courage in the face of fear, compassion in the face of our failure and and light in our darker moments.
I have always seen them as complimentary teaching tracks that could inform one another. It seems however you go about learning anything, there are going to be gains and losses.
For instance, obviously, an online teacher can't look at your pose and tell you how its going "right" or "wrong." However, in an online class, a teacher can often give a level of information that is rich, deep and precise because they do not get interrupted or side-tracked as easily. You can also rewind and re-watch an online teacher. I have many online yoga students who use the technology, not as substitute for live class, but as a teacher training tool. They pop a bowl of popcorn, open a notebook and watch a class, writing the sequence down and noting the alignment cues and links. Obviously, that is not the same thing as getting it in the body, but it can be a lovely way to understand, learn and see the full picture clearly from a different vantage point.
We work on the pose because it is in the postures where we training our attention and where we develop our relationship to our awareness, to a greater Awareness and where we can lay down the patterns of a loving, intelligent relationship with ourselves. (Don't be fooled by all the talk about the pose, if all goes well, the asanas just keeps us busy while the other stuff is happening!)
In any given pose there may be fifteen key actions that need to be understood, integrated and executed to yield said pose. (Depending on who you ask, that number is higher or lower. I am just giving an example here, not a definitive number.) However, most of us can't manage fifteen cues in the less-than-30-seconds we have to practice press handstand. So, one day we work on one or two points of awareness. Another day, we work on an equally-valid, different two points. And the two points may or may not yield the pose on the day we are working on them. If you have thirteen of the fifteen key points already integrated in your practice and the two given today are the two you needed to complete your fifteen, then voila--you have the pose!! And it will always seem to you that those two points are "how to do the pose." But they were actually the two keys you needed and someone right next to you might already have those and need two other keys. And so on.
If we work on awareness first and and know the poses to be secondary, we get a chance to move away from the complexities of "how do I look" and "how advanced am I" and "what is someone else doing that I can't do" or even "look at me I am doing something no one else can do" and move into the simplicity of inner awareness, personal understanding and the depth of acceptance that comes with being with what is moment to moment.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."