Friday, October 28, 2011

Pretension…and yoga.

Is this possible?
Not only it is, but it is also everywhere. Unfortunately. Such is life. You will have to use your discernment skills to weed out the pretention from the authenticity.

For starters, yoga teachers are not egoless, selfless beings of light, no matter how much they try to work on their peaceful teaching voice, elaborately constructed resume, or how many yoga workshops they attend and how many books on yoga they read. In fact, for many that is part of the pretention. As if somehow, if one lists the number of teacher training they’ve taken, drops a few yoga celebrity names, and lists a few books on yoga this somehow means anything.

The funny thing about yoga is that it is something that one has to eventually embody. Teacher training in this day and age is pretty much a meaningless money making machine for yoga studios, as proved by the poor quality of yoga instruction around the country. Any warm body with $3500 in their pocket and a few weeks to spare can get through a teacher training, complete with a piece of paper serving to testify that this warm body is now a yoga teacher.  Young, inexperienced, well meaning folks, who still don’t know their own minds are in the business of teaching an ancient mystical tradition that requires grueling self investigation, long years of struggle, skillful teachers as guides and selflessness.

This is not to say that everyone attending teacher trainings is a ding-dong with stars in the eyes dreaming about having a “following” and the easy life of an urban yogi, or a yogini, who’s loved by all, makes more money than a doctor and keeps up his, or her yoga figure well into old age to the amazement of everyone. Some people actually are truly interested in learning about yoga. They are interested in delving deep into the philosophy of the ages, the mystery of the practice and the depths of self discovery. Those folks would make great yoga teachers, indeed. Most of them come from at least a few years of their own practice and study, and are truly looking for some guidance so they can grow further.

Questionable quality of teacher trainings, producing teachers of further questionable quality in a world of yoga that has now been officially named an “industry” – that’s where we live.  Multi-billion dollar figures get thrown around as proof of the industriality of this industry. Branding is just as prevalent in yoga as it is in cereal manufacturing. Yoga celebrities have yoga fans. Yoga conferences abound everywhere. Thousands of yoga books get published every year. Yoga studios pop up on every corner. Gyms dedicate space as “yoga rooms.” The word “yoga” gets slapped and mashed into everything one can think of. Yoga for dogs is doga, as if dogs need yoga. Last time I checked they were way more liberated than any human I know. Yoga + Palates = Yogalaties. I have no idea what that’s like since I have never taken a class.

Open any Yoga Journal magazine and you will find out that yoga sells everything from wine, snacks, sneakers, and purses to home decorations, vitamins and supplements, cars, cleaning products and what not. That’s in addition to the usual stuff like yoga mats, props and clothes.  Yoga advertising, yoga foods, yoga clothes, yoga life style, yoga relationships, yoga for children, yoga for black people, or gay people (as if it makes a difference what color you are or who you like to screw), yoga for increasing productivity, yoga for getting in touch with your sexuality, yoga for grieving, yoga dates, yoga phone apps, yoga Wii…that’s in addition to the usual health benefits the practice is well known for. Somehow, yoga is always “for” something, or else people don’t want to do it or talk about it.

Yoga, is just yoga. That’s how simple it is. Yoga is not a verb. Yoga is a noun. People forgot, mainly because there’s no one to teach them that. We, in the West, “do” yoga. Yogis of old, attain yoga. That makes all the difference. Postures are for posers…a bumper sticker said. It’s funny because it’s true.

Take the famous second line of the Yoga Sutras: Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah, which roughly means, “union (integration of the outermost layer all the way to the innermost self) is a state of control, restriction, cessation of the chitta (the vehicle of observation, attention with its three functions of cognition, volition and motion)” Or simply: yoga is a state of mind. Even more simply, yoga is a state. A state is a noun not a verb. That’s why yoga used to be attained and attainable and now yoga is doable and therefore unattainable. By definition you need to stop doing in order to attain. Doing is a mental predisposition that prevents being and for as long as you are doing you aren’t being.

I can already hear people ready to argue because how are you supposed to do yoga postures without doing. Well, that’s when you know you’ve attained yoga – the yoga postures get done while you are being.  So does everything else in life – it gets done while I am being.  That’s yoga.

Not very many yoga teachers can say that they know the feeling of that. So, how are they supposed to teach you to get there….

Actually, I’d be happy if most of the yoga teachers out there at least acquire some anatomical knowledge. Just that would be nice. The rest of the stuff one can work on by reading, investigating, meditating, etc. Anatomy is easily learned. Yoga teachers should at least know the names of a few most commonly used muscles and how they interact with each other, so that at the bare minimum they are not hurting people. When I look at the list of stuff yoga teachers say and make people do, commonly, and how harmful those things are, I cringe! It’s definitely one of the reasons why people going to yoga with great expectations for fixing their bodily problems end up with more of them at the end. It’s another pretention – pretending to know what you are talking about in front of a group of people who hope that you do.

Anyhow…I am just saying that if you are going to be involved in the process of yoga, you should know a few things. 1 – Why you are doing it. 2 – There is different quality of teachers out there and you should seek the best because it could be detrimental to your well- being.  After all you are paying for the service. Demand quality.  3 – Don’t chose a yoga teacher based on their entertainment skills alone, or the brand of clothing they wear, or the brand of yoga they teach.  Look for experience, depth of knowledge and substance. Look for someone who actually lives what they preach, as much as possible. No one’s perfect but some people are really off the mark and off the wagon all together. 4 – Don’t relay on the Universe to find you a yoga teacher. The Universe is too busy being a Universe and you should learn to rely on your own Self….that’s what yoga is ultimately about.