What is yoga to you?
For me, yoga is first a foremost a practice of exploration and discovery - a practice that is unique and individual to each one of us.
Unlike religion, in which we’re told what to think, how to behave and what to do, yoga is a practice that encourages us to find our own truths, a practice free from dogma (at least in theory - I’ll leave that discussion for another day :)).
There are many many different yoga techniques, practices, styles and traditions. Too many to list here.
But each of them share fundamentally the same goal - that of connecting to the true essence of our Self. To expand our awareness beyond the narrow confines of how we see ourselves, and expand our concept of ego or ‘I am’ to its fullest potential.
So when your yoga teacher tells you to feel something in a particular posture or practice (whoops…I’ve definitely done this!) don’t listen to them. Trust YOUR intuition and YOUR experience of the practice instead…
This habit of telling people what to feel and how to act robs them of the opportunity to explore the richness of the practice for themselves.
And it can potentially lead to darker consequences too - such as those we’ve seen come to light from pretty much every one of the major modern schools of yoga over the last few years.
That’s not to say that teachers aren’t of value. Of course they are - they help to point us in the right direction and facilitate our exploration of the practice. But they can’t walk the path for us.
I attended a talk last year with Christopher Hareesh Wallis, a very well respected Tantric scholar and practitioner (proper Tantra, not the weird new-agey Sting take on it). Hareesh talked about the ‘epistemological triangle’ - which sounds like something you’d probably rather avoid.
This exotic sounding triangle tells us that there are three primary sources for our exploration of yoga practice: the yoga texts, the words of the teacher (or guru) and OUR direct experience of the practice.
Without the third, crucial, component of this triangle we really can’t trust that what we’re told or what we read is true or has any value.
If you’re told to feel something and it’s not there, it’s not because you got it wrong, it’s simply because your experience of the practice is different….but that experience is exactly as it should be, in fact the only way it can be.
So read the texts, listen to the words of your teacher, but above all trust your own experience of the practice…be your own guru.
What is yoga to you?