Tuesday, June 14, 2011
One of my friends recently spoke to me about a day she’d spent with other yoga practitioners. She said that if she heard another person say “That’s not very yogic” about anything, she’d scream or explode or something like that.
It’s something I hear sometimes and it always takes me back a little. I thought it’d make a nice little Facebook status update so I promptly posted “Saying ‘That’s not very yogic’ is so not yogic” then waited for the responses to come in. You can see them here.
Folks are responding with some variation of either “Yeah!” or “You’re wrong!”. Instead of getting mired in a Facebook comment war, I thought I’d weigh in right here.
I get my instructions for practice and teach instructions for practice from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The reason I use that is that it details a system that has been very effective for me and my students. It’s not the only set of instructions, but it’s what I refer to, coupled with my own individual experience, when I need to get a question answered.
Patanjali states that yoga happens when we are absorbed in the present moment, unaffected by the mind’s chatter. There’s not much controversy or argument with that in the yoga community. What people seem to get all worked up over is this strange need to tell other people what an authentic practice is and what isn’t. The responses to the thing I posted on Facebook are a good example. The silliness of it all is why I named my company YogaPoser. The whole finger-pointing thing has no place in this practice or the culture that surrounds it. It’s ironic that saying “That’s not very yogic” reveals that the finger-pointer is misunderstanding something very important about yoga. The statement itself is, in all cases, less yogic than the thing they are talking about. Here’s why:
Patanjali defines practice as whatever the practitioner thinks they need to move to a less disturbed place: It’s usually translated as: “Practice is any effort toward stillness”. What is or isn’t practice can only be decided by the one doing it. The thing that takes one person toward a less disturbed experience of life is different from the thing that takes others there. Whether motivated by a desire to meditate for a long time, to be compassionate, to get rid of a fat ass or to meet more chicks, the thing that any person needs to be happier is up to them. So, instead of saying that something isn’t yogic, maybe those critics can instead think, “Hmmm. This person is very different from me” and leave it at that. What is yogic and what isn’t is different from person to person.
I say all this as a recovered asshole. I used to judge almost everybody’s practice but my own. When I got serious about things, I found that this open approach to allowing individuals to do their own thing not only fit with my own yoga better, it also felt better and made me happier.
There are many, may things that I think we should be discerning about. There are many times that I believe we must be critical of others. We judge or discern when choosing the people we spend time with, the people we have relationships with and do business with, for example. But, judging another person’s yoga is not yoga. It’s just wrong.