A classic in paraphrase: Yes, you will find a great variety of yoga, but it’s not a big deal. Trouble is that, in addition to the more or less conventional formal systems (Ashtanga-Vinyasa, Iyengar yoga, Swami Sivananda yoga therapy, Swami Satyananda Saraswati Bihar yoga, Kundalini yoga, Dhirendra Brahmachari yoga, etc.), there is a number of new signature schools created with reference to proprietary methodologies. Hence the difficulty! Moreover, there is a cohort of experienced yoga teachers marching under the common colors of Hatha Yoga. And no one can be sure of a perfect yoga solution for the beginner maha-yogi.
“People think that the best is what they have a willing for”
The broadening kaleidoscope of modern yoga triggers two most common reactions among practitioners. First comes the disire to give “your” yoga a flair of exclusivity and prestige. Such point of view only prompts controversies and inflates the winners’ ego.
Second, confusion and frustration come with understanding that it’s impossible to choose a “true” and “universal” yoga. People go through significant stress as they switch yoga teachers, try new techniques, and brave different schemes of practice with their characteristic speed, rythm, and excercise. Indeed, it may seem that anyone who feels like it invents yoga haphazardly, on the go. I hate to say it but it’s true in some way.
The evolution of the yoga path
For centuries, yoga was governed by the approaches of karma and bhakti, which correspondingly instructed the liberation of human spirit through the implicit obedience to duty and humble service to God. Parampara (a continuous chain of successive teachers) and sampradaya (a school, where spiritual wisdom passed down from the teacher to the students) were regarded as the only efficient mechanism securing the safety and authenticity of knowledge.
Guru used to play a role way more significant than its todays interpretation as something anywhere from mentor, college teacher, fitness instructor, astrologist, and a shrink. Hinduism views God as a source and guarantee of authentic knowledge transfered in parampara. Absolute spiritual realization is a precondition for individuals recognized as Gurus. In addition to safeguarding true knowledge and values, the secrecy of traditional yoga is at the very least justified by safety concerns.
With the onrush of technology and science, raja and jnana approaches came to the forefront of yoga, claiming that divine realization could be achieved through learning. According to the earlier tradition, students chose one teacher and one school for life while, for the last decades, the evolution of yoga went along the path of synthesis.
Nowadays a yogi can crystallize multi-dimensional experience by studying various practices and accumulating knowledge received from several teachers. He is free to use dance, martial arts, chi gung, exercise therapy, psychology, etc. Yoga teachers may choose to represent one of the renowned yoga schools, develop some understudied fields, or create brand new branches of yoga.
“There are two kinds of Surya Namaskar: a good one and a great one”
That’s great news. Given proper motivation and competency, each yoga teacher can contribute to the general evolution of yoga practice by enriching it with unique experience. Experience turns information into knowledge, eliminates delusions, optimises sets of exercises, and cuts time on the way to the set goals.
There was a time when people hunted for the grains of knowledge. They were guarded as the greatest treasures. Should we waive the opportunity to integrate knowlege available today merely on the pretence of sham purism, which some formal yoga schools and teachers indulge in? Hopefully, antagonistic moods won’t take roots in the field of true yoga, which essentially means “union.”
As one kung fu master used to say: “I believe there is no best school of kung fu. You only find difference in skills. Competition helps to uncover weaknesses and leads on the way of self-actualization and purification. For we don’t have any enemy other than our own self.”
“It seems that our greatest problem is that we perfect methods while getting confused about goals”
Chitta Vritti Nirodha is an essential aim of yoga. On the way to this state yogi completes a range of subtasks aimed at developing dharana (attention) in different aspects of live. Asana (physical exercise) is merely the third stage of the classical ashtanga yoga. In this respect, the diversity of experience built on different types of practice (in group, in pair, or individually), teachers, approaches, and contexts (yoga studio, home, outdoors, yoga-tour, etc.) can serve as a great additional challenge.
Diversity in general, and physical exercise in particular, evokes attention. You are bound to focus, be present in the moment, and analyse the unfolding processes with greater zeal. It is difficult to “activate” automatism when completing an unusual set of asanas. Considerations of efficiency and injury prevention make you more attentive to your body, internal feelings, and teacher’s instructions. Don’t go over the top. Try to be realistic about your capacity to perceive new information and go into the “digestion” mode once you are brimful.
Try to practice on your own. You might notice the way your attention incessantly wonders to people around you, clothes, music, draught, phone, alternative activities, thoughts, emotions, memories, or birds and sounds outside your window. Don’t get upset. Simply become aware of this fact and get to appreciate one of the important aspects of yoga teacher’s work, i.e., summoning your attention in “here and now” during class.
Developing concentration is as difficult as working on other qualities. Depending on innate tendencies, this process might turn out to be even more energy-consuming than managing splits or a hand-stand. For some reason, people tend to accept own physical limitations with greater understanding and compassion than imperfections of attention. However, attention is only one of the instruments available to a human being. Without due training, this tool kit gradually wears out and breaks down.
In routine, mind tends to lose touch with reality and draw on imagination or experience. While working in the “power saving mode,” sharpness of perception fades away. New things and activities seem exceedingly laborous and stressful. Intellectual numbness blocks the ability to learn, adapt to dynamic circumstances, walk through live, and evolve.
Imagine a person, who has accumulated a great deal of extra weight. Even the thought of buying sports wear and signing up for a yoga class turns into a heroic deed. Direct measures aimed at amending this unhealthy situation get close to internal revolution. The task of physical transformation is obviously gigantic. The task of developing dharana (attention) is equally complex, but not self-evident.
A shortcut to yoga
Every type of practice has the right to be. The only thing that defines your personal choice of yoga practice is whether it resonates with you or not. Correspondence does not mean that your should feel comfortable when performing physical, breathing and energy exercises. On the contrary, the more effort you invest in class, the greater progress you can gain. Correspondence means that yoga you practice clearly makes your life better.
You know how it works? First, you confront with strong inertial pushback in the routine lifestyle. Resistance is so strong that you hate to attend the class and come up with a million reasons not to go. But to get over this impulse and come to complete the practice. And suddenly, you feel a lot better than the moment you stepped on your mat. This feeling that your life with yoga is a lot better than without it motivates you to attend classes regularly, overcome, and move on when it gets unbelievably hard. You definetely found “your” practice when the distance to the studio, weather conditions, cost, alternative activities, and laziness stop to matter.
If you don’t have this feeling, or if you get injured a lot, yoga practice kills your mood, gets you depressed, consumes all of your energy, and pushes you in negative thinking, then, for some reason, this practice is not good for you. Just face it and go on looking further. Luckily, there is a great deal of yoga out there. You are sure to find one to your liking.
Good luck on your way!