Even though there is still almost a meter snow outside, the energy of spring can be clearly felt. There is a scent of life on the wind. A refreshing sweetness that makes you want to move and run and dance again. Perfectly, the 6th chapter of the teacher training at Northern Light was just about that.
And it is such a relevant topic to talk about. There are still so many clichés about yoga and especially the focus on physical movements. On which bodies are able to do those movements, on how exactly those movements should look like, on the purpose of them and on the role of the teacher in these classes.
Recently, I heard someone say that humans only start thinking about the meaning of life, when they have a full belly, a place to live and a have a general feeling of safety. Only then do we start creating art and beauty. Only then do we have the luxury of prioritizing time for expanding action and creation, yoga and meditation.
Often, we are complacent about the conditions that set our lives. Are we grateful that we had the option of prioritizing time and money (which are interchangeable energies) to participate in a yoga education? Isn’t it easy to forget that not everyone has the conditions to put energy towards becoming more ‘awake’? Isn’t it easy to climb on a spiritual high chair and look at our society as an ant farm of sleepwalkers? Isn’t it easy to want nothing to do with those people?
Yoga is for all. Yes.
Somehow it also has an aspect of exclusiveness. Whether you live in the west, in the east or are on the move. It is so, so important to not isolate from the world. We did not come here to form islands and life in our own bubble paradise.
Of course, you can create your private wonderworld, where the only experiences you have, are candy cotton positive.
But how does that serve the world? How does that serve you? How is it helpful to focus on only one aspect of reality and not associate yourself with the dark side on the coin of earthly life? You are human. That’s means that all the potential of humanity is yours too. Own it!
The metaphor is this: If you have a very bad hip, you are not going to be able to sit with a straight spine, basically on the ground, to meditate for 11 minutes. You can focus on the bright side of life all you want, your bad hip will still be there, and will feel very alone and abandoned in the process.
The body is the way to the not-body. The body is the earth, the world with its contrast and spectrums, positives and negatives. The not-body is beyond that contrast. The all and the nothing of it.
And that’s how we get to the questions we asked ourselves in the start of the education (isn’t it beautiful that these are returning?). What is yoga? What is the purpose of yoga? What is the purpose of the yoga teacher?
Instead of ignoring that bad hip, sitting in spite of it, how about we accommodate it? Take it into the whole of the body and treat it as a very real aspect of it?
There are so many opinions and traditions within the yogic world. Touch and physically correct the students. Never touch and only give verbal cues. Different yoga styles who do the one or the other. Different settings where the one is more appropriate than the other.
Yes, people tend to do movements in a way that could hurt them in the long run.
Yes, people feel more save when they know that nobody is going to touch them.
Yes, the energies of the body are best not disturbed.
Yes, the teacher is responsible for the safety of the bodies of the students.
Maybe you could ask why it is that people tend to do movements ‘wrong’ or over -extend and -extort themselves in an attempt to bend into certain positions? Where do we put the focus in the west?
The image is still that of beautiful, fit and lean bodies, bending their toes to their forehead while having enough upper body strength to stand on their hands for half an hour. And it goes from good better best the more you move towards that end of the spectrum.
A direct consequence of the adoration of beautiful lean bodies in our society. Of white, young (and privileged) women becoming the face of yoga. Isn’t it ironic that yours truly probably would fall into that category?) When was the last time came across an Indian teacher not wearing tight and stretchy yoga clothes?
So many conversations we could be having, without jumping to the right-wrong of it.
The purpose of physical exercises and movements (asana) is to work the body-mind connection. To really move into the body. To exercise it and maintain it. So, it doesn’t become rusty. It is to make your body so subtle, so comfortable to live in, that sitting on the ground with a straight spine, is no problem at all. So, you are really able to meditate, without uncomfortable restrictions and distractions.
Setting the conditions to create beauty.
The way to the not-body is through the body. Every single part of it.
Have a bad hip? Use padding. Tight ankles? Use blocks. Accommodate yourself.
And that is also the responsibility of a teacher. To accommodate.
To take things into the right now and create a path for infinity.