Trying The Yoga

by on June 11, 2014 · 0 comments

in Thoughts on Philosophy, Thoughts on Teaching

emaciatedA co-worker admitted to me today that he wanted to “give yoga a try”. I responded, without pause. “Why would you want to do that?” To which he immediately responded, “You’re not a proponent of yoga!? Then why do you do it?” In my own amazement at the situation, I said “I really couldn’t tell you”.

At the moment, I really was not sure. As my practice has evolved, it transformed as what initially began as an obsession into something of a maintenance routine. I was warned about the honeymoon period with yoga, which begins for most as a multivitamin for the ego. I let my physical practice wane for many years as I devoted my free time to anthropological studies, ancient texts and a meditation practice. So, naturally, joining the yoga subculture was one of the best things I had done for my body and mind in several years. I was patting myself on the back after my first class, then after my stamina increased. There was even more self-praise once I began to notice that my wife looked at me in a different light, and my self-esteem shot through the roof. Months later, my teachers began to notice my improvement and then there was the grandiose feelings of someone taking special interest in my physical and spiritual development and the introduction to other yoga kulas and different styles of yoga.

This honeymoon period didn’t just last a week-end or a week or even a month. My obsession and drive and determination centered on my yoga practice kept building as my practice continued to become more refined. Even three years after my studio practice had taken off, I began a home practice. Then there was teacher training. Then the two years of teaching which has recently passed with haste.

I think back to my first impression of yoga. I had decided, based on the advice of Ram Dass in the book, “Be Here Now”, to look into the practice of yoga asanas. The first image that I saw was a picture displaying the posture of Pigeon Pose. The thought of being able to move my body into this shape brought about a feeling of excitement. Just the possibility of having that kind of control and mastery over my own body was an exciting dream to have. The next was the emaciated Buddha, along with the story of the path he carved unto the world. Both of these images would have lasting impressions on me.

As time has passed and goals accomplished, my aspirations and path has changed. For many years, I walked the path laid before me by other yogis and teachers who had provided light along the journey. Many of these paths were secured by stepping stones of logical achievement and direction. While some helped to remove the illusion of life shrouded by social constructs and engrained ideals, others began to restore a sense of normality. For a while, the momentum of my practice was carried along by the undercurrents of its novelty. I was a proud yogi. Almost elitist. I viewed those who did not practice any form of transcendence with a bit of disdain as I embraced the philosophy that a life worth living required inquiry and questioning.

In my attempt to set myself apart from the normal uniformed routine of life, I ended up in a compartmentalized ritualistic stereotype. Just one person, going through the same motions, subscribing to ancient ideals with a new age twist. The next few years, the popularity of yoga begins to emerge, filling the empty time slots in every Studio, Dance hall, Gym, and park in town. The practice for many in the community became muddled with marketing gimmicks and names such as power-yoga, hot yoga, yoga for athletes, yoga for runners, yoga for recently divorced mothers of newborn babies, etc. The styles become watered down versions Surya Namaskar, crammed into 50 minute intervals with 3 minute savasanas.

Out of frustration and a stubborn will to not conform to the new trends, I turned my attention to home practice and studies. In my idle time, I’m constantly contemplating how to restore yoga traditions to the roots that I know them to be, and hoping along the way, with discernment, continue to refine the practice to its right nature. I’m also continuously questioning my intention. Why yoga? Why Teach? Is this important? Am I making a difference? The best that I can admit to is pointing in what I perceive to be the right direction even though I may not know where the directions lead. I am just as lost as the next person searching for stability in an ever-expanding volatile existence.

After years of practice, heightened states of awareness, dark throngs of despair and an overall bewildered awareness of being a tiny vessel of consciousness in an unfathomable vastness of the universe, I am starting to feel pretty normal about this whole yoga thing. It’s very much a dependence at this point, and I suppose that isn’t necessarily bad in the context of health, (though yoga steers us from attachment, even if it’s the attachment to the path). But, it’s not the same obsession any longer.

After pondering my response to a co-worker, I began to see that it was not totally out of line. In the past, the inquiry into yoga would result in a long conversation and explanation of the chronological evolution of the human spirit beginning with an explanation of the Indus Saraswati civilization and documentation in the Vedas. I hope a blanket apology to all those who nodded ceaselessly while hearing an obsessive outpouring of unnecessary explanation will suffice from the standpoint of karmic dept. Now most conversations generally digress with a casual “Yeah, Yoga’s cool.” I have nothing to sell. If you’re thinking about trying yoga, I really hope you know what you may be getting yourself into. My honeymoon may be over, but the relationship with the path is fulfilling enough to keep trying the yoga.

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