You have attended a yoga class, or are thinking of attending one. Often the thoughts arise, “will this ever be easy, when will I ‘get it,’ and what will this do for me?” We learn how to do some poses and styles of breathing, yet often get only cursory guidance concerning the purpose of these tools and how to get the most out of them (or perhaps don’t realize this guidance is necessary!). The poses, breathing, mantras, and visualizations are not yoga itself; they are tools that lead to yoga. Yoga itself is coming to an understanding of what you are and what you are not. The tools of yoga are meant to present you with a challenge in order to reveal your personality: what are your motivations, aversions, desires, and habits of thought? And out of those, determine what is good or not good for you: what should be discarded and what should be cultivated. Advanced yoga is a mental state, not a pose or some other technique.
The goal is not for the tools leading to yoga to be easy, or even for you to be an expert (as the techniques of yoga are vast and diverse and sometimes even contradictory towards each other). If they are easy, they won’t churn up what is inside of you, and the aim is to be an expert about your own inner workings. Our mastery of the techniques of yoga is only so important as we know enough about what is safe for us, what gives us self-knowledge, and where to go from there. To know yourself is to be able to control yourself; to know what is “you” and what is not “you” is to know what is in your control and what is not. If you can control something and there’s a need to, then focus intensely on the task at hand. If you know something is out of your control, then relax and accept things as they are.
Once you have started to learn a set of yoga techniques and have found a good teacher to guide you, use what you’ve learned in solitude. Just observe your thoughts, habits, and reactions. Over time you will begin to acquire deeper and deeper insights about who you are, and thus begin to truly steer yourself towards a happy life as your true self. This touches on the need for lecture and didactic discourse in yoga studios: the willingness for the teacher to offer this, and for the students to attend.
-- Marc-Cristobal Guilarte
This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Post. Check Back Next Friday to Read Part 2.
This fall Marc Guilarte will be offering a variety of discussion based workshops about the nature of Yoga. Make sure to download our App and Follow us on Facebook to get notified about our events!