Life experiences are made into ornaments.. .. things that we glorify and hold on to.. things that we attach to for self esteem and identity.
As a teacher of yoga is it my responsibility to smash the ornaments.. or is the class room a place where students learn to put the ornament on the shelf, and, on occasion, when they observe themselves polishing it, to have a jolly good laugh and to smile with compassion?
Personally, I believe it is my responsibility to facilitate a space where students come to re-cognise themselves – to learn to reflect on their actions and the outcomes of the actions. My students though, I suspect feel that sometimes I smash their ornaments, or at least shake the shelf upon which they rest. Some cry with relief and others in grief as they have invested years of their lives in beliefs that ultimately are stories, that they told themselves about who they must be to be loved.
It is an ethical issue for me, that I understand the role of teacher and student.
It is always good to remind ourselves that when we attend classes, we are not paying for Yoga, because Yoga Is.. Yoga is not a commodity. Payment for classes covers the cost of having someone who has walked the path of practice for a long time, available to share what they have learnt. A teacher of yoga, teaches the practices of Abhyasa and Vairagya: Discipline and Renunciation. These practices develop clarity of perception. Over time practice equips the body/mind/breath instrument such that it is an instrument capable of meditation. Stillness of mind is how we open the path to walk in the power of our own presence. Practice gives us the opportunity to steady the mind upon an object; to then evidence the condition or state of mind; then practice becomes an instrument we use to pause or silence the mind. As the mind, as we know it, witnesses the pause between the rise and fall of thoughts it, the small self mind learns its greatness: the vast intangible reservoir of unimaginable beauty that is Life.
I sit within the Iyengar tradition and practice Raja yoga.. the Royal path: twining of head (Jnana/intention), heart (Bhakti/devotion) and hand (Karma/action/service). Practice teaches that a huge obstacle to peace and living a meaningful life is that I/we make experiences into ornaments.
Once we learn to stop just polishing our ornaments, practice becomes an instrument for transformation. The mind arrives into a state of "pause". The postures function to change the chemistry of the body and the nervous systems, making experience conducive to meditation. As we step our toe into this process, practice functions as an instrument: we go to our mat because we practice encountering ourselves within situations (asana); we study ourselves in these situations and develop skills that help us get clear. Practice teaches us how to put down the 'ornaments' (experiences that prop up the ego). If we don't have a practice - a process of putting down the ornaments that we have made out of our experiences - life will most certainly throw them to the ground where they smash into a thousand pieces. We are not who we think we are and life will keep asking that we learn this lesson. Life can only be lived in moment.. each moment what is asked of us, can we engage clearly; can we act rather than re-act? We are being asked to feel, to become present at increasing levels of subtlety.
Mind is trained through practice to function as dharmendriya.. we practice to locate ourselves in the here and now of life. To become present. In this way mind functions as a sense organ. Just as the nose smells, and the ears hear, mind locates.. to locate ourselves in the embodiment, in each moment of experience, is to align with peace. We can live with a clear conscience when our actions arise from presence.
If you are interested in linking asana practice with the study of Yoga philosophy you will enjoy working with Polly on retreat. Follow this link to Anama Cara Studio our retreat center in Woodgate Qld.
Yoga provides a context in which teens, living in a sea of peer pressure, performance stress and emotional change, learn restraint and self reflective awareness. This course for teenagers aged between 12 and 15 years of age, will both challenge and nourish them.
Facing the Gestapo at his door, the man spoke with confidence and authority, “No Jews here”. The man was of course lying. A family of Jews had been living in the basement for many months. An exploration of why internal clarity and inner authority is necessary to navigate life.
Due to poor balance I had never consider yoga was for me as the images most often seen in posters and magazines show perfect bodies with amazing balance. October 2014 a few weeks before my 71st birthday I walked into my first yoga class. I have been asked “is it worth all the effort at your age?" My answer is “YES” yoga is even more important as we age. Seniors have experienced a life time of stress, raising a family, paying the mortgage, working at our chosen careers as well as balancing a family household. We have all experience grief, loosing grand parents, parents, aunts and uncles now at age 76 I am loosing cousins and life long friends. Our bodies have endured a life time of wear and tear from injuries, poor posture due to sitting and working at desks and repetitive actions such as housework and gardening.Yoga is ideal for all seniors even those with physical limitations, in our classes it can be quite normal to have several variations of a pose to suit individual needs. Learning to work with your body not against it is the same challenge regardless of age. Nursing several old injuries I do not want to add to them, I am very grateful to have well qualified teachers who are attentive to my needs and dedicated to keeping all students safe whilst practising. Yoga is not a quick fix for all ailments, I still experience some back and ankle discomfort but now rarely need to take pain medication. Today I am sleeping more soundly but occasionally still have a restless night. My time management has improved although at times I still talk to myself and loose focus. The big difference is I feel I am in control of my afflictions they are not controlling me. I am coping better and with my regular yoga practise I hope to prevent my health concerns from becoming chronic. Hopefully I can reach savasana with less suffering and with more dignity than my mother. Joan