Tag Archives: student

Is it Ok to Dip Toe in Different Yoga Pools?

Photo courtesy Salim Fadhley via Flickr

One of the first things people ask you when they find out you do yoga is what style you practice or teach.  I have always found this question to have a long answer.  In reality, there are few styles of yoga I haven’t practiced.  And over the course of time I have shifted in and out of certain styles/methods/and practices.  Can a style or a method be effective if it is only dabbled in?  Or does each style require that you practice it and only it every day for the method to work?

I started with Bikram.  I gained flexibility, focus, and health from this yoga. It is a very specific discipline and after a couple of years I wanted to branch out.  So I tried most everything, or at least what Yogaworks in LA had to offer.  I found vinyasa flow, Iyengar, yin, restorative, and anusara. And since then, Jivamukti, ashtanga, and hot yoga.  And to some of these disciplines I have committed a fair amount of time, mainly vinyasa flow.  And now, more and more, I find myself wanting to blend the styles.  I want to take from all these forms and make a kind of yoga fusion.  Perhaps that is what is so attractive about vinyasa flow.  It is a living style that is being influenced by teachers today. And in fact yin/yang yoga is growing more popular, a blend of vinyasa and yin, deep stretches.

Methods work.  They especially work when followed with discipline.  But since freeing myself of yoga discipleship, it’s hard to go back.   I would like to believe there is room to explore yoga in a broad sense and learn from many different kinds of teachers.  The intensity of what a teacher has to offer is correlative to the integrity they have for their discipline.  Perhaps a fusion of styles can be its own niche, and the blend becomes its own new thing. Or maybe instead of blending the styles together you practice different styles simultaneously.

I say, for the sake of self-expression and personal growth, yoga is to be embraced.  If the style feels right, if it builds you up and softens your edges, then its a good thing.  Branch out, build up, and be blissful.

8 Limbs of Yoga Made Easy

This lovely flowchart, made by Alison Hinks, demonstrates the 8 limb path of yoga.  Patanjali laid these steps out in the yoga sutras and thousands of years later we get a handy flowchart.  I think most people work well with visuals.

Asana is clearly the limb we most dwell in, and sometimes with a healthy marriage of pranayama.  I have always found the first two limbs fascinating: the restraints and observances, yamas and niyamas.  They bring up thoughts of discipline, habits, and behaviour.  Soucha, cleanliness, seems to justify my need to declutter. Ahimsa, non violence, I find beautiful and challenging.

As one moves up this tree, each limb seems to be a gateway for the next.  The times I have found pratyahara and dharana to be at my fingertips, have been when my yoga practice is regular and consistent.  In fact, I think the only way to understand yoga is to immerse yourself in it.  Practice often.  I say that as my very own practice is currently inconsistent.  Perhaps a lack of Tapas?  Return to ‘go’.

Pattabhi Jois says, “yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”.

Time to get back to it.  There are limbs to explore…

Embracing Ego

Since I started practicing yoga, I have been hearing that yoga is not about the ego.  It is not about what the person on the mat next to you is doing.  And in fact your ego will get in your way and tell you to keep going and move deeper, before you are ready, of course leading to pain and suffering.  The ego must be shed.

“Leave your ego at the door”, one teacher said before class.  Will my ego be sitting outside the door like a pet puppy, waiting for me to come back and walk it around town?  Do you mean I get to have my ego any time, all day long, but in this class?

I didn’t want to let go of the evils and trappings of my ego.  I wanted to do what the other guy was doing…something that looked awesome on his yoga mat. Harumph…

So I continued to practice.  And I practiced and practiced and have had many beautiful moments on my mat.

Now as a teacher, I see students of every shape, size, and ability all getting on their mats and having a beautiful dance with their egos, just like I did and still do.  I can’t imagine asking them to leave their ego at the door. (I’d hate to hear the whimpering throughout class). Instead I look to embrace that spark, that fire, that drive to push themselves, or to just back off and breathe in child’s pose.  I want to nurture the natural inclinations of students.  That spark is their individual doorway into expansion, and its not the same as mine or anyone else’s in the class.  If I don’t want them to have their ego, isn’t that serving mine?

The ego must dance its dance.  Sometimes it will feel like wrestling, and sometimes it will just sit down next to you and be still. Embracing egos reminds me how beautiful the human spirit is, and really I think they just want to play anyways.