It Is The Practice That Teaches Not The Teacher

Practice 2013

I have taught Ashtanga for years now and have trained in it extensively. I know the practice beyond the postures just because of the practice itself. That is what I’m teaching.

I know some “Ashtanga” teachers who do not practice it and therefore do not know the practice as a practice. They do not know the intricacies of it.

These teachers bow to the pressures of students’ to add postures which do not belong in the series, make it harder or easier by changing the posture rather than the intensity of the original posture itself, and let go of the rhythm of the class to appease those who just want to give up or make it easier so the ego can feel better. This is to the detriment of the practice, Ashtanga.

I have had great difficulty teaching Ashtanga after these teachers because students are not being educated in it.

It is the nature of the ego to make things easier – to stay in the status quo, to not push boundaries or get out of our comfort zone. But what is practice if it is not doing that – it is just exercise. It isn’t yoga if it isn’t challenging you to observe your need for: comfort, perfection, placating.

Yoga doesn’t placate – the teacher decides to do that and then it is just exercise. And don’t be fooled, just because you’re in a class that kicks your ass because it’s fast and you do every difficult posture in the yoga spectrum, doesn’t mean that it is challenging your ego – in fact that feeds your ego as well. The minute you say – oh look at that shiny thing – that’s when the ego is engaged.

I challenge you to get really bored in your practice – to strive for something else besides a good ego fix. Yoga is about personal, spiritual growth. It is to stretch you in a different way. The way that is most beneficial. Flexibility in every aspect does not necessarily manifest only in the body. Just because someone can bend over backwards, doesn’t mean that they have cracked the code of yoga. If it comes easily to you, I challenge you to find a place where you have to work for it.

Christine xo

There’s A New Film Out About . . . YOGA!

This film is an American yogini’s look at what . . . YOGA IS. I guess you can say it is the documentary to the personal bio of Eat, Pray, Love. It features all the big names of the American yoga industry (and fashion world – ok let’s just say it – celebrities) with a few glaring omissions.

Some of these people have been on magazine covers for years and are featured at every yoga conference around the US. I suppose that’s how she might have initially got exposed to yoga and what these teachers teach. These teachers are the ‘Stars’ of yoga. Celebrities in the Yoga world (North American and some Europe).

I only watched the trailer and it seems it is saying the same things that are always said – “the world needs yoga now more than ever before.” (why? do you think we’re in more turmoil now than a decade ago? 50 years ago? 100 years ago? I would say the exact opposite!) “Yoga is connection.” – Connection is yoga. Yoga means connection. Same word. “You can find your True Self.” That is true – yet I have a feeling that what they’re talking about is asana-centric – yet again. Really – I wonder . . . without asana practice would these teachers be as popular? Would they understand their True Self without it?

I ask this question, because I do question the emphasis on the physical practice in all of the yoga movies/docs that come out and in our interpretation of yoga and how we tend to talk about it. Could we talk about yoga without talking about asana? Georg Feuerstein, states as it was told to him through his guru and his own practice that “Everything must be dropped. All philosophy, all practices must be let go of in order to realize YOGA.” They haven’t done that yet.

I feel there is nothing being said that hasn’t been said before – not that in our yoga practice there is anything new to talk about because they got it right the first time. But I mean in depth of understanding that is beyond words . . . I don’t hear it from any of these teachers. I’m not sure that “Yoga tastes good” says it for me or helps in any way. In fact it’s a bit of a throw away. Yoga tastes good – what the hell does that mean?

The general public are routinely lulled into believing that their True Self is the self that can do postures well, or at least advance in them. Or when you sit in a serene and lovely place with a small smile on your face is connecting with your True Self. Or you’re there because you always laugh after you say something non-sensical. That is not what yoga is about to me. It is not how nice you are. Nor is it how calm and relaxed you are. Or is it how well you do the postures, how good you look in them or how many you can master within this life time. Yoga is a state of being. So I look inward for the truth.

The ‘practices’ of yoga: asana, meditation, selfless work, pranayama, studying, sitting with your guru, are all to either discipline the body and mind or they are to expose the truth of who you think you are by bringing you to such a state of vulnerability that none of the defenses, identities, or attachments you have built up or clung to over the years can survive. In this work it’s about rebuilding not fortifying. Therefore, the Self is beyond all the idiosyncratic behaviors we manifest in our practices, in our lives. It is there  – yoga IS when all of this halts; When it stops being about you.

Yoga is simply there whether you know it or not. The practices, whatever they are, were devised to open you up to seeing this: To take the veil away, to peel the onion, to burn you up, etc. . . . Once you see it, you have no need for all the other stuff. They are practiced to maintain connection; to maintain Yoga because in our fast paced, cold, calculated, threatening world the connection can be lost easily – just ask anyone coming back from a meditation retreat.

I do hope that the movie is better than the trailer. If it is, then the trailer does not do it justice – to me anyway.

In Yoga, you eventually become your own guru. This film is for those who are still actively seeking outwardly. I guess I have moved beyond needing to look outward to find inspiration. I don’t need to hear this stuff anymore from these teachers or these celebrities. The student has become the teacher.

I do acknowledge and respect my teachers I was exposed to during my decades of practice. Without them, I would not be able to be my own teacher. I have to say though, in all honesty, the teacher that taught me the most and whom I still see on occasion, doesn’t even do asana, and has a rich deep practice that is filled with Divine Inspiration and Deep Connection. I honor him and thank him.

I thank all of them.


There’s A New Film Out About…YOGA!

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore (well I’m mildly perturbed…haha)

Most of the time when I search for yoga sites for someone to follow because there is a resonance with their approach to the yoga practice: that, it is true and unencumbered, I can’t find any. Pages upon pages are full of people doing ‘stunt’ yoga like that’s where it’s at or all about.

I’m getting really tired of it. You’re just a bunch of showoffs. Really. Big deal, you can bend over backward and kiss your own ass. Big deal that you can put your leg behind your head. Big deal that you can do a handstand! Any circus freak can do what you are constantly bombarding us with on your websites and your blogs. And I don’t think they’re (the circus freaks) doing “yoga”. They’re creating a spectacle that is the circus.

Yes, I can do most of it. There are still things I struggle with daily. But that’s what teaches me.

Yes – it looks pretty. BIG DEAL. Do you even know what yoga is? I don’t think you get it. Yeah yeah, you’re so impressive, that you can do that. Whoop! But that’s what it’s really all about for you isn’t it? You crave for attention. For people out in the world to look at you and say, oh, I want to follow you. You’re gorgeous or remarkable (because they are saying to themselves, I can’t do that – so you must be great.) And stop blogging the perfect beautiful photo of yoga. Take a picture of yourself doing a pose. Yeah! That’s part of the teaching. Would you dare to show yourself in a not so perfect pretty pose? Would you? The real learning of yoga is to get over that…as a individual, as a business, and as a culture.

Show me you’re not perfect. If you want to keep showing those pristine shots on your website, then that’s fine just don’t call it YOGA! It’s not yoga.  For crying out loud. Enough already! It’s fooling around with what looks like yoga postures. And please don’t write me about how a yogini wouldn’t get mad. I am channeling ‘Kali”. You know Kali – the hindu goddess of creation and destruction! Sometimes things must be destroyed to create something new. And it’s about time!

Please send me your not-so-perfect-yoga-asana-pic, I’d love to see it!