When the west first encountered the discipline of yoga it was a centuries old tradition based upon the sacred relationship of guru and disciple. The average yoga practitioner in India was a young boy, and the guru (or teacher) was a much older adult. The nature of this relationship demanded respect for authority and an unquestioned acceptance of the teachings that were offered.
One of my favorite quotes from the former lineage holder of Ashtanga Vinysasa Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, sums this up quite nicely. When asked by an interviewer the one quality he thought was the most important in a yoga student, he briskly turned to the camera and sternly deadpanned, “Obedience!”
Well, western students aren’t so good at that. We question everything. But honestly, when it comes to the practice of modern yoga, I think perhaps we are not asking enough.
Here’s some questions worth considering:
Is leading a group of people simultaneously through the same sequence of yoga postures really the best way to tailor the practice of yoga to an individual’s needs?
Why is a discipline that’s main purpose is to create inner stillness taught in a room full of mirrors, or to popular music, or by a teacher who won’t stop talking?
Are the postures that were designed for an eastern body hundreds of years ago really appropriate for the modern lifestyle without some sort of upgrade?
I’ve been asking myself these same questions (and more) for the past twenty years. And the result is Adamantine® Yoga.
I don’t believe there is a strictly “right” or a “wrong” way to practice yoga, but I do think there is a better way. And if you’re not practicing Adamantine® Yoga, I do believe you may well benefit from practicing differently.
Don’t take my word for it though, ask some questions. The unexamined practice isn’t worth doing.
But maybe you should begin by questioning your current practice first. When is the last time you asked your yoga teacher how the postures they use in their average class balance the mobilities of the physical body? Do they even know the mobilities of the physical body? Is their sequence organized at all, or simply arranged with the intention of giving you a good workout?
That would probably make a difference in the outcome, don’t you think?
You see the goal of the physical practice is to balance the body as a means of balancing the whole self, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you create chaos in one, you impact all the others. But teaching a well-designed sequence that balances the physical body is an art, and it’s rarely encountered in the modern yoga class.
Or maybe you should inquire more about breathing. If breath is so important to the practice of yoga, why is it neglected in almost every style taught in the modern classroom? Could it be the result of teaching people in groups? Is it possible that this has been largely overlooked due to an environment that is simply not conducive to focusing on perhaps the single most important element of the practice? You can probably guess my answer.
We can and need to do better than this.
The average yoga practitioner in the modern world is an adult, fully capable of making an informed choice about the best means of developing themselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. Nothing has to be taken on blind obedience.
We can’t copy what Indian boys did hundreds of years ago, and if you continue to follow the ignorant innovations of most western styles, your practice will remained hopelessly doomed to mediocrity.
Ultimately it is you who are responsible for what you practice. If you love the practice of yoga, learn more about how it works. Closely examine your current practice and once you are certain beyond any doubt that you are on the right path, move forward relentlessly.
My best to you on your journey,