There was certainly a lot of great information and advice to ruminate on after Davids wonderful workshop here at the YogaYoga. So much of his viewpoint was new an refreshing to hear, and much of it simply reinforced thought processes that I have been harboring for quite some time. The major one of these thought processes is that your yoga practice should be an enjoyable, elevating, healing practice that should be approached with an eye toward simplicity! Seems like an obvious statement, but when I tell many students to RELAX to deepen their practice and that it shouldn’t be a frustrating goal oriented process, they sometimes look shocked! “You mean I can just relax and not push constantly?” Indeed! For two weeks after his workshop I tried to get students to create a silent verbal contract both with themselves and I. Something to the effect of…
“I am giving myself the freedom to not compete with myself or others. I am giving myself the freedom to alter, modify, or skip postures I intuitively know are not making me feel better. If i come out of an asana feeling worse, than I am doing it wrong! I have the freedom to verbally question any teacher concerning what they are asking of me and how they are physically assisting me. I am here to feel better in every breath! I will settle for nothing less than this!”
“I will do everything in my power to give you a healthy, compassionate, and comfortable environment in which you can let your practice grow in the directions it needs to. Anything I ever suggest in a class is entirely negotiable. You have the power to NOT do anything you know is a bad idea for your body or mind. I will never physically assist you in any way in which you could possibly become injured. (If you are injuring yourself in yoga, you need to approach it differently or find another teacher that understands and has compassion for human anatomy. Seriously, question your teachers actions, motives, and methods. Injury is %100 unacceptable!) As teachers we are not always in the right. I am open to any questions, ideas, suggestions, and changes out there. I am still learning constantly as well!”
The best quote I got from David over this weekend relating to this is, “We are doing cave man exercises.” I love it. Think about it.
“What can I do with the tools that I have to make me feel better and give me a longer, happier, healthier life.”
Before the advent of any modern medicine, besides the practice of eating random things and waiting to see what happens, we had only breathing and movement to experiment with. How can we make ourselves feel better using just the tools of movement and breath? Stop making it so complicated!
Wether you are pointing a foot or flexing it, wether we are rolling around 9 times or 5 in Garba, wether we are doing the invocation together or call and answer, what’s the difference? The questions to be asked are so much simpler. Does this teacher have my best welfare in mind? Do I feel better after each breath? Do I WANT to practice as opposed to HAVING to practice?
I understand and respect tradition, but if the tradition is not making you better than you need to question it. There are certainly a lot of traditions that we no longer take part in that some crazy person came up with and then some “bad” person thankfully questioned.
The bottom line for much of this for me is that it was so good to finally hear a senior instructor lay this out plainly. I have often felt to be in a minority and jokingly called myself an “anti-ashtangi”. I have in fact had my wrists slapped by other teachers telling me that this line of thinking is not Ashtanga and that I need to go to Mysore to “fix” it. Well if injuring people and putting asana in a box so it cannot grow according to peoples needs is Ashtanga… than Ashtanga is not yoga and needs to be put into its rightful place in the gym. Ouch. Might have gone a bit far there, almost offended myself! To truly understand yoga, its origins, and its theory we should all read and re-read in order of their creation, The Upanishads, The Gita, Yoga Sutras, and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, or in my line of keeping things simpler, just experience your practice and constantly question it!
“This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga.” -Upanishads
“Even as a burning fire burns all fuel into ashes, the fire of wisdom burns into ashes all works.” -Bhagavad Gita
“The practice of Yoga…must develop our capacity for self-examination…” -Yoga Sutras
“Hatha yoga is the greatest secret of the yogis who wish to attain perfection. Indeed, to be fruitful, it must be kept secret; revealed it becomes powerless.” -Hatha Yoga Pradipika = this blog is for your eyes only and will self destruct in 15 seconds.
Disclaimer: All of the above is truly just personal thought and inspiration from Davids workshop meant to create thought and discussion. Nothing is meant in the least to offend or judge others who believe or feel differently. We all learn and are inspired by different approaches toward the same ends! Practice inspired, simply, and compassionately!
“How can I practice today so I can still do this when Im 100 yrs old?” -David Williams
Matt Borer with David Williams
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