Yoga Training Week 2: Surfing the Edge

Namaste from the hippy surf town of Santa Cruz, California.

I have one week to go in my Advanced Yoga Training, and as we like to say in our trainings ‘the lights are on.’ In other words, my student mind is fully engaged, if not getting a bit overfilled. Hiking in the Redwoods at Big Basin State Park today will be a welcome break.

Here are the ways that the challenges of this training are informing my teaching:

Looking at the different ideas of the yoga practice with a more open mind. This will probably be my biggest takeaway… I admit that I am probably more than a small bit judgmental as to what I think is yoga and what I think is just for show. When I came to understand more clearly the history of various lineages it de-mystified much of what I considered to be “the more traditional practices.” We know yoga to mean union, which is inclusive not exclusive. When we open ourselves to more willingly accept the changes that yoga is constantly undergoing we tune into an essential concept of yoga, parinamavada – the constancy of change. All seasons change, nothing is staying the same, so it is perfectly understandable and in fact quite healthy that we might change our mind about things. When we witness the ever-evolving nature of things, including yoga, it is helpful not to be judgmental and compassionate. If we can instead engage with idea of parinamavada it will help us shift from seeing yoga as disparate and competitive, which are dualistic views, and instead appreciate the blending of more than 20 million ideas of what yoga is today.

More closely considering hands-on adjustments. There are many ways to view the landscape of assisting students in yoga asana. Those of you who have attended my classes know that I am passionate about the art of hands-on assists in yoga poses. It’s one of the many things I love about my role as a yoga teacher! I have found great value in refining and in some cases reevaluating tactile cues for my continued evolution as a yoga teacher. Admittedly, I’ve had some frustration here as I considered this to be a strength of my teaching style. So when Mark Stephen’s approach conflicted with mine I was forced to take a step back and look at what I was offering and how I was offering it. When I checked my ego at the door and could look at the presentation of hands-on assisting more clearly I am seeing how to transform what I do in the most authentic way of seeing and supporting students.

Perservering practice and non-attachment, aka abhysa and vairagyam. For me, the philosophy of the yoga path always returns back to these two important concepts. I love how these two ideas support one another! When we witness ourselves pushing and striving, overly exerting for that sense of accomplishment, then the lesson for us is letting go. When we may be getting complacent or lack engagement in our endeavors, then the lesson is refocus and dedicate ourselves more wholly in our efforts. I think that it is easy to project our feelings of frustration with our limitations onto others, both on and off the mat. I notice myself doing this time and time again. While it is human to compare, we have to be very careful of how detrimental and unproductive this habit may become to our growth and development. A simple check-in with ourselves to reflect on why we are striving or comparing, or why we have just given up all together is the key to staying on course in an effective manner. Lao Tzu said it best in the Tao Te Ching, “Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”

I hope you enjoyed this read. If you are open to deepening your practice, then consider doing a teacher training. If you have already done a training, then do another. There is always room to learn when we take on a beginner mind. Namaste friends, hope to see you at Breathe when I return.

Om Shanti

Gil