[quote]GURU??? really?? That might be stretching it a bit.. There is more to being a GURU or even a YOGI than a mere practice of stretching..There are 8 limbs to yoga and I mainly see only asana…A guru is much more the a good Yoga teacher…We should give respect to the truly deserving of that title..[/quote]
This email I received as a ask a Guru submission… I was not impressed, and replied:
I agree that there is much more to being a Guru then being good at a physical practice. The site plays a bit on the warehouse concepts; yogi of the month instead of employee of the month, ask a Guru instead of a Boss.
I apologies if you were offended by the use. Still the Gurus are teaching;doing their best to impart the best knowledge that they have and encouraging people to cultivate their own inner teachers….I go on…
In the west I think you would have to agree that most people come to yoga for the asana, but many will explore further the eight limbs you so kindly reminded me of, once touched by the practice. The site therefore focuses on the events related to asana as they are the most common events we have here in town, still anytime there are events that expand on that you will find them too. You may want to revisit ahimsa, if there is ever a workshop on that I can send you a reminder.
I was not happy with Todd’s judgements, however it created a path for dialogue. As we emailed back and forth I learned that Todd has strong opinions, credentials to back them up, and was not trying to be mean but stand up for what he thinks matters.
After a series of interesting emails I asked Todd if he would write for the site and share his passion for yoga. Here is his article:
Yoga as a Way of Life
Today I am going to talk about what Yoga is and in particular will talk about 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga, the one that everyone thinks Yoga is, Asana. Asana is the physical postures that have come to be so popular in the West. I think that maybe we should change it from yoga studios to asana studios as it would actually be more correct. Now yoga is being sold as mere physical fitness and is sometimes a far cry from the original intention of the totality of the practice.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (I.2) the goal of Yoga is:
This means that Yoga is to stop the modifications of the mind or the ability to direct the mind exclusively on one object with sustained focus.
This being the case asana was originally a moving meditation not unlike chinese Tai chi, used to bring the mind to one pointed focus and clarity. Asana actually was the seat which you took for meditation practice. The only point of the exercises was to make the person more comfortable in a prolonged cross legged posture..Yoga was not created to make people more narcissistic and body orientated, yoga was created to attain self realization not for personal self gratification. It seems in many cases yoga has become an ego builder rather than destroyer so by definition it cannot, in fact be called yoga. People even brand name “their” particular Yoga after themselves, this is silly. When we take something spiritual and just make it into a commercial product to be sold it is doing a disservice to thousands of years of lineage and will not be of true value to the individual or society.
“Asana is a state of being, not a state of doing” Kausthub Desikashar.
To be considered Asana there are also certain guidelines or rules that apply I again refer to the Yoga Sutras II.46
Steadiness and comfort is asana. Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation
The functional qualities of the pose are more important than the aesthetic look of it.. People should not be forced , pulled or pushed into any asana, ever. If it hurts, don’t do it or back off and look for modifications to suit the individual. When the bodies only way to tell you something is wrong is through pain, it is best to listen. This is the problem with group classes as there is simply no way to cater to each person ( not profitable for the studio, but the superior way to learn, think guru and disciple) so there have been “1 size fits all” Yoga classes growing popularity everywhere. This is not necessarily all bad it is just up to the student to be honest with him/herself about the level of class they are capable of. The problem is with our “More is better” western attitudes is that we generally push ourselves. This is the EGO having a party. Remember, in Yoga “Less is more.” From my own experience I have found that many classes being taught are actually too hard for many of the students. A point to always keep in mind is that the teacher is there for the students and should not be teaching a class that is at their level and not the students.
A good reference point of proper Asana is Ujjayi Pranayama.. In Most yoga (asana) practices of classical Hatha yoga and Vinyasa Krama the technique of contracting the throat is used… The practitioner is to focus on breathing through the throat with a slight sound. This serves several purposes.
1.. It regulates the breath and helps in concentration.
2.. If a practitioner is unable to keep a slow and deep Ujjayi breath then the practice is too hard and there needs to be more relaxation or adjustments made in the level of practice. There should be little stress in breathing or in body.
This is why Yoga cannot be considered a cardiovascular ” workout . A common misconception again is to push, pant and and panic. When , in fact, Yoga is supposed to relax a nervous system that is being taxed all day from the everyday stresses of life. he heart rate should slow down, not speed up, yogi’s believe that the heart only has a certain number of beats in a lifetime so we should not waste them by severely straining the body.
AHIMSA – Non Violence
Now, when many Yoga people hear ahimsa they think it just means to not be violent in any way to others.. It is of key importance to understand that the idea of Ahimsa is very important to oneself. Again this will seem repetitive but I am trying to get a very important point across..
All day we beat ourselves up about who and what we think we are or are not, then over work, over play, and over exercise.. This is Violence to ourselves..We get enough stress all day just living and Yoga should not add to this crazy wheel of suffering.
The very sharp rise in Yoga injuries is due to a yoga practices being catered to an aggressive western mindset. Simply put, if many of the people practicing the western version of yoga were to do an Indian Yoga class some would simply walk out and go back to the gym. Now there is “power” yoga where it is all about pushing the body, increasing heart rate and contorting the limbs. Power yoga is an oxymoron.
Yoga is not a gymnastic, contortionistic sport as many think.. Unfortunately Yogi’s like Krishnamacharya, iyengar and Pattabhi Jois did some demonstrations of yoga for propaganda purposes to grow awareness and people took it as the meaning of Yoga. These great masters even know the mistake they made. These contortionistic asanas are not needed to maintain health or to gain the advantages of a good practice and are many times used to show off ones supposed yoga “experience’ or “how good” at yoga one is. This is nothing more than ridiculous and conceited. I have coined this “ego yoga.” This creates division and jealousy which is also a form of violence. I believe a teacher should never show anything beyond the capacity of the students.. It is not a forum used to show off ones own skills, yoga teachers are there 100% for the student and their progression.
Sequencing is also a very important part of yoga.. Yoga is not a bunch of haphazard stretches done in no particular order or made up as you go along. Generally a forward bend is always followed by a backbend so there is balance and symmetry. Just placing each posture anywhere a person likes is not yoga..There is a rhyme and reason for the placement of each posture to create a balanced body and to move prana flow properly throughout the body, causing the mind to become still. A haphazard sequencing can cause not only problems within the physique but can also cause big problems within the mind and emotions. This is the Koshas in yoga ,or energy bodies.
In Yoga there should be a slow progression, this simply means that you would not go to the gym and bench press 1000 pounds so you should not just go and kill yourself jumping into a practice you are not ready for yet. Patience is a virtue. For instance a Krishnamacharya classes ( viniyoga) would take about 20 different classes to get to a certain level and would constantly change according to the strengths and weakness of the students . A Sivananda class would be a progression of 4-8 classes just to do the 12 main postures, people might only do 3-4 postures in the 1st day!! It is probably a good idea to see students strengths and weaknesses to see which class would be best. The thing is that it is easier for studio’s to get “instructors” to “instruct” 2-3 basic series than to have a “Teacher” teach a slow proper progression. This is what I have heard called Mc Yoga. I want to point out that there is nothing wrong with this if the person can do the practice and is seeing benefit with no health concerns. I think in some cases it is better for people to do any yoga practice rather than none as long as they are not just injuring themselves or creating mind and body imbalance. There are some great places to do yoga in the Okanagan. Always check the yoga credentials of the Instructor/teacher and try a few places to see what suits your body and disposition… I think most would be happy to talk about their yoga adventure.
This is not a discussion for this writing but one should also always look for a proper pranayama and meditation practice within the class. These are in fact the most important parts of yoga and are highly neglected in the west.
Asana should just be considered the warm up to a much larger experience..
Thank you, HARI OM TAT SAT….Todd Daniels
P.S. I highly recommend the movie “Yoga Unveiled” it is a great documentary on yoga..
-Todd DanielsBIHAR SCHOOL OF YOGA 4 MONTH YOGIC STUDIES COURSE, MUNGER ASHRAM, INDIA (SATYANANDA LINEAGE,) SIVANANDA YOGA TEACHER TRAINING THAILAND 1 MONTH ASHRAM INTENSIVE (SIVANANDA LINEAGE KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM HEART OF YOGA 1 MONTH COURSE CHENNAI, INDIA ( KRISHNAMACHARYA LINEAGE, VINYASA) KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM ASANA INTENSIVE 2 WEEK INTENSIVE CHENNAI, INDIA KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM YOGIC ANATOMY 2 WEEK INTENSIVE, CHENNAI, INDIA CURRENTLY ENROLLED IN 1 YEAR STEP BY STEP CORRESPONDENCE COURSE GITANANDA LINEAGE AS PREREQUISITE FOR MY 6 MONTH YOGA ACHARYA COURSE IN TAMIL NADU INDIA.. 1 MONTH TIBETAN LAMRIM MEDITATION COURSE AT KOPAN MONASTERY IN KATMANDU NEPAL..