When I was new to yoga, I was searching for THE authentic yoga. For the first few years I thought that the yoga I was practicing was “THE REAL THING”, and then I found another real thing. And another.
Many years of yoga practice later, I’ve come to the understanding that the multitude of phenomenon in the modern world labeled “yoga” is a CHAOS, just like everything in the rest of the world; different viewpoints, different people, with or without knowledge of the history of yoga and the ideas and circumstances of modern society clearly influencing the concepts and practice of yoga.
I haven’t found any yoga style that’s entirely more pure than another, although I see some yoga styles have more strict rules or instructions for practice and more strict standards of teacher training that may (or may not, in some cases) contribute to make the yoga taught a more “pure” (ie effective) yoga practice.
The other day, I returned to reading parts of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an influential YOGA TEXT from the 15th century. It’s written in the context of a specific time and place and some parts of it are not completely relevant to us today, at least if you’re reading it literally.
Not much of the instructions on yoga in that text (or other yogic texts) are followed precisely by modern day yogis. What we practice today, which is mainly YOGA ASANA (physical poses) may be derived from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, along with other important yoga texts, but every yoga style in modern society has changed and DEVELOPED FROM THE ORIGINAL TEACHINGS, hopefully in most cases staying true to Yoga. We have partly developed the TOOLS, but the GOAL of yoga stays the same.
Of course, the experience and understanding of the TEACHER is crucial to what you’ll get out of your yoga practice. For some teachers, the only goal of yoga may be to become physically fit, for others (me included) yoga reaches much further (although physical and mental fitness are obvious effects of yoga practice).
Nowadays, yoga is mentioned mainly as a way to reach physical and mental health, which is much needed. However medical professionals, journalists and teachers (including me) often exclude mentioning the goal of yoga, out of ignorance or fear. It’s too bad, knowing that yoga reaches much further. However, I believe we’re better off using yoga to create physical and mental health, than not using it, as I find it outstanding in many ways, and on many levels.
Today, we may have too much attention on the physical body and using the rational mind (to practice yoga in an ergonomic way to stay free from injury). This EMPHASIS ON THE PHYSICAL BODY and the lack of connection to other aspects of our beings may make yoga practice distorted. However, from my own experience, even though the main part of my yoga practice has been physical body practice, it has AWAKENED my awareness to the SPACE within, and the connections of the physical body with mind, energy, and the universe around me. In short; the physical yoga practice has opened me to EXISTENCE, to God.
Reflecting on the authenticity of yoga as it is most often practiced and taught today, I’m thinking it’s in fact enough “real” yoga; having OBSERVED THE TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECTS in myself and others, and RECOGNIZED the descriptions of practices and effects from ancient yoga. So, my current understanding is that the practice we do today WORKS the way it’s meant to (roughly, at least!).
And maybe most important; the kind of yoga practice that attracts us and makes us return to practice is more effective than any super-terrific yoga technique that you don’t feel drawn to practice. The practice that gets DONE is the most effective! And if many of us are restless, stressed and spending too much time seated at a desk, asana yoga practice makes a good combination of physical activity and yoga tools that we feel like we can afford spending time doing. We can allow yogasana to be the starting point and when you’re ready for more, you may want to explore pranayama (breathing techniques to regulate life force energy) and seated meditation.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how little I know and how much there is to know, of the worldly things, that is… And still I know a lot more than I did 15 years ago, and a lot that can help other people and the world develop into more health, happiness and love. I know there is nothing else I need to “know”, than awakening to the INTELLIGENCE that’s already WITHIN me and everywhere AROUND. But my mind is still clouding my sight. I’m doing my yoga practice to clear this channel.
I certainly hope that everything I teach is in service of a greater good. I do my best in guiding you, it may not be much, but it’s what I can do.
Along our yoga journey together, I want you to do your best in opening up to your wisest teacher; the GURU WITHIN YOURSELF. I remember hearing this from some yogic text (don’t know which): The highest guru is your own spine.
Listening to teachers is great, but most of all: explore and LISTEN WITHIN.