Breaking away from the pack.
ONE with the Universe; group yoga classes, yoga studio retreats, yoga logo's, yoga brands, yoga levels 1, 2, 3 or 4, etc. It's never ending, all the ideals to follow in order to become a “real” yogi. Ok, I know I may sound a little sardonic, but, seriously people. It's time for us to wake up.
Is this really what yoga is all about? Is fitting into one yoga studio or method over another really our true yogic path? Tell me, who defines whether or not I am enlightened or a “true” yoga practitioner? Is it my certificate, the style I teach, how many years I've practiced, or the fact that I've been to India?
The perfect yogi is such a contradiction in terms or an oxymoron if you will. Forgive me for sounding pessimistic; but, it's time to be more genuine. However, sometimes I feel like I'm in “yoga high school” Just trying to fit in with the INNER crowd. This especially comes up when teaching or taking classes in a yoga studio. I often find myself thinking, is this really my authentic self teaching this class, or have I become what is expected of me as a yoga teacher/student?
There are times when I'm teaching or taking a class and I find myself all of the sudden on auto pilot. You know, getting into a posture and not remembering HOW you got there. I'm in a daze! Then, I look around the room and begin to notice that half the people in the class are possibly doing the same thing! What is this all about? Are we a bunch of zombies following the yoga routine that we're told to do?
Do you remember when you were a kid and you'd be around a bunch of adults that are quietly talking? Or you're at church, a quite restaurant or the library and all of the sudden you have this urge to jump up and start dancing on the table just to shake things up a bit? No, you never felt that? Oh, well. hmm. I have, and I still get this feeling sometimes, especially in yoga class. But, do I act on it? No. And why don't I act on this urge?
Because I would be breaking away from the protocol, the unwritten rule that says you have to stay quiet, stay with your breath, the posture and stay CALM. I know one of the key principles in yoga is equanimity; I've preached it myself when I teach. However; one can still be composed, calm and “level-headed”, but at the same time free the mind and body. Equanimity doesn't mean that we should refrain from letting loose a little. Yoga doesn't have to be about rigidity and stagnant procedure.
Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that there is a time and place for everything… like refraining from doing the Polka in the library. But, who says I can't break away from the “yoga rule” and come out of my fog once in awhile? What about acting on what makes my mind and body feel good, with the exception of harming another?
It is also understandable that we respect another's choice as well. For instance, when taking a class where the main idea is to be quite, meditative, traditional, etc; allow that to be what it is. We don't want to judge what is right or wrong, or more yogic than another. At the same time, it's important to be authentic to our true self and follow our own yogic path. We can still enjoy the wonderful benefits of yoga practice, and at the same time make it our own source of inspiration or self discovery.
I've seen it all too many times. I'm in class and the yoga teacher, with their best intentions of course, begins to “guide” us through their ideal mindset while practicing yoga. I actually enjoy being reminded to become aware. However, I don't necessarily want to be told what I should be mindful about. I want these thoughts or feelings that come up during practice to be my own thoughts/feelings. I want to recognize them for what they are for me and take it from there.
However, all too often I find that just as I become aware of a sensation that appears in class, I am told how to deal with it and what I “should” be doing instead. I would much rather be free to decide how I want to react to my awareness; again, with the exception of harming or disrupting anyone else in the class. It's one thing to be guided in practice, it's quite another to be told how to think and react. I want my practice to be freeing, liberating and an awaking to my own potential.
Yet, on several occasions just as I might be feeling a breakthrough of mind, body, spirit I hear the teacher say, “Recognize these thoughts, feelings or sensations you're having right now and bring yourself to this moment… take yourself to your breath and let go of your thoughts…”
Wait! What if I want to contemplate for a moment? What if this particular posture I am in has conjured up some creative juices for me and I have just had a moment of inspiration that I don't want to forget! What? You're telling me to let that go? Isn't yoga supposed to be about awareness and the here and now of the moment? What if at this moment in time, right here during my practice I am reflecting on something POSITIVE!? Why do I have to let go and “go” where the teacher is telling me to go? Does this mean I'm not a yogi? Does this mean that I'm not following along in my yoga daze and running with the pack?
Remember that word Dharma, defined as the teachings of the truth? Then there's the word mindfulness and being aware of the constant changes of the mind, body and soul. So, I propose; let go of the attachment to yoga class protocol and flow with the change, let go of the attachment to the “right way” to do yoga (with the exception of proper alignment in class) and allow ourselves to be free of the constraints, limitations, expectations and realize through our practice that maybe sometimes we just need to follow our own path. Even if it means taking time to reflect-the evil word- thinking! Maybe my meditation is to do my practice to loud rock music, or sing along with the music while I'm in a posture. Maybe I want to tell a joke while I'm teaching, or break up the monotony with a little bit of dance mixed in with my warrior! Maybe yoga IS my time to think and at the same time release my positive energy into the world!
I'm not suggesting that we break away from the yoga community. I'm merely advocating the uniqueness of our minds to create something positive, creative, and freeing during our practice. So, maybe next time we find ourselves on auto pilot or in the communal yogic daze of nothingness, how about checking in to see where our individual mind wants to take us, and break free from the pack, and breathe.
Tamara Schreyer is a Certified Yoga Teacher and has taught yoga in North County for over 8 years. She has trained with several well respected yoga teachers, such as Tim Miller, SRI K. Pattabhi Jois, Richard Freeman, Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee, David Swenson, Doug Swenson, Erick Schiffmann, Bryan Kest, David Life and Sharon Gannon. To learn more about Tamara including information about her DVD and classes, go to tamarasyoga.com