I do think that the world needs more yoga practitioners than yoga teachers. For me the same reasons I do my practice are the same reasons I would like to teach. I do believe that yoga practice, yoga sadhana, brings up many benefits, many of the values that are missing in today’s community, in humanity. This being: self-power, self-love, self-knowledge...
So why focus so much on the third limb of Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga, asana? Why start here? Why give so much attention to the root, to the body? Well working out the body we touch the more subtle corpses of our selves. Through Hatha yoga we regain force, power, feeling and sensitivity towards prana and apana. Prana the vital energy; Apana the downward moving of vital energy. By knowing how to move these, we become more able to control our mind. It is said in first verse of Hatha Yoga Pradipika that Shiva – purusha, all pervading conscience – taught Parvati – prakriti, the material existence – Hatha yoga vidya (knowledge), so that the most excellent Raja yoga (mind control) could be attained for those who wished.
To control the mind we have to become aware of the mind, of how it functions. Its like a computer, if we never became aware of how it functions we would never be able to control it. By moving the subtle bodies of our selves, through the movement of the body, through practice of postures along with breath we are enabling us the release of the toxins in our bodies; opening and strengthening our hearts and bodies for a bigger vision of the world and life. Bringing light to the darkest corners of our bodies and mind. Pathabhi Jois said that “Ashtanga yoga is perfect, it awakens the body, awakens the mind and awakens soul”. Through asana practice we prepare our bodies for higher levels of vibration, we prepare our bodies to become more receptive to life’s bigger purpose.
Our practice becomes a test, a mirror. Why do I want to teach this? In my own experience Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice has made me a more lively person. I have become more energetic, more strong, more flexible, more disciplined, more sensitive, more steady in mind and body, and more comfortable in my life and in my path, being able to face deeper truths. Ashtanga Yoga asana practice itself is of allot of worth. I’ve heard that if intelligence and body don’t share intimacy, a intimate relationship, it creates a deep duality, a separation. This separation can be observed and then united. And this observation of this separation creates challenge, fear of breaking the curtain of illusion… And a morning class throughout the same sequence all over again and again will make us become stronger and flexible towards our fears, challenges and frustrations. Allowing the union of inner and outer world. This is the beauty of Ashtanga Yoga! I see in yoga the practice of becoming aware of our potential. Of course living more our potential means we become with more self-respect, with more self-love, creating in our selves more well-being and more health for our potential to thrive with in us. Asana practice creates this body healthy and this mind healthy. Serenity in the body is sign of spiritual tranquillity.
Pathabi Jois said that a diligent practice of yoga would make us face the six poisons and, with this opportunity, with time, we would be able to neutralize them. This poisons being: desire, anger, greed, envy, delusion and sloth. So throughout the practice we will see this poisons of mind come up very easily right from the start. DESIRE, in the desires of accomplishing goals we set ourselves with, of attaining certain postures or getting certain bodily appearance, for example; ANGER, anger that arise when we don’t get our goals; DELUSION, delusion of the real goals of the practice; ENVY, when we see others doing other postures more easily than us, GREED, when we want it all now, trying to advance, trying to get things without giving space for breath, without giving time for evolution; and SLOTH, when we just stay lazy, without putting effort for our goals. These are the six states of spirit that we come across throughout all our lives, everyday, on the mat and off the mat, till some point when it doesn’t. With yoga practice we become aware, if we are able to observe ourselves, in repetitious practice, that what keeps us from attaining whatever goals we have are these six reactions. These six are the cause of our frustrations, our failures. By knowing these, we spread light over ignorance, and we are able to go above them.
Teaching yoga asana has to do with time and patience. The teacher who first brought me light on how to teach told me that the first thing to do to a newcomer to the class is to ask them be to present, to lose their connection to the agenda and focus on the breathing. This alone will make the practitioners go easier into a meditative state, into a profound state of connection with them. From here it is taught the practice. The gaze, the posture and the breathing system (Tristhana) are the first things to be taught. The yoga instructors’ objective in the class towards the new practitioners is to bring their presence into to the room, into the practice, into to the body… Make them aware of what they are doing, and as things move along they will reveal themselves the six poisons, moment by moment, one by one. And there, the yoga instructor should be able to recognize these and give the student the space for him to become aware and to guide them in the right way, either to face frustrations or to feel the anger, for then to relax the tensions and ease off from big objectives and stay first, with the small ones. Yoga path is made step by step, limb by limb. And the big flower only blossoms if you take big care of the root. “You only water the first five limbs (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara) and the other three just come up”, like Sharath says.
It’s a fact. In the practice (and outside) new people tend to be rough with them selves. Tend to be competitive. Tend to be harsh to make the evolution happen. This is so common in today’s society. People don’t respect themselves, to make change happen. A good yoga practice, even Ashtanga (of course), can teach us a lot about self-love than we could ever imagine.
I’ve learned that for us to act as good yoga instructor we can act as parents, and see this new practitioners as children discovering their body like if it was the first time, touching their own feet, bending themselves in strange ways, gaining more contact with their subtle forms. And us as parents what we do is guide them towards this experience, we keep them safe, we look after them, we take them further, we let them explore, doubt, ask and we will answer their questions. So why teach yoga? Well, I’ll not teach, only help you make the change with in you that will allow you to recognise that you are the whole ocean, more than just the mental frontiers that make you a wave in it.
Text: Sérgio Ramos