Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love Yoga's Philosophy on "Teaching" Yoga

Authentically teaching Yoga has it’s roots in living Yoga. Kristina and I designed the YogaLife program with this philosophy at the heart of the matter. The entire program is designed to assist each student’s better understanding of and application of Yoga - yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, yogic science, yoga practices of breath and movement - in his and her day to day life.

If one is to teach patience, it’s best to practice ‘being’ patient. For many of us ‘patience’ must practiced day in and day out. For many of us this means cultivating moment to moment awareness of our behaviors, actions, reactions, thoughts and words. Over time the practice of 'patience' yield great reward: we are less reactive, calmer, more compassionate, better listeners, etc. And, additionally, through the very act of being patient we will teach others patience.

Yoga is similar in this way. Yoga is learned actively through the daily application of ethics, cleansing practices (for mind-body), devotion, Self reflection, and meditation. It is not learned through passive reading or purely intellectual study. Yoga is not learned by mindlessly following someone else’s choreography (though we may be introduced to a surface layer of the practice through this experience). And Yoga, in its wholeness, can not be taught if it is not being lived.

How do we “live” Yoga?

Firstly, we must stop pushing and shoving our way through the crowd claiming to be ‘patient’. We must slow down and examine (with a magnifying glass and the Truth) our current behavior. We must be willing to see ‘whatever’ is. For many of us when we arrive on the scene of our own behavior we’re shocked at just how hurtful, life-depleting, self-lacerating, out of control, judgmental, unconscious, unkind and impatient our behavior is.

At first consciously witnessing the self can be a bit like watching the same train wreck, over and over and over again. It is good to have a very loving teacher in these early stages. Someone who can remind you just how miraculous you are even when you eat the whole pan of brownies, binge drink, get stoned, wake up next to Mr. What’s Your Name Again?, yell at your mother, buy things you can’t afford on credit, etc. I kid, sort of, but you get my point.

My initial 'conscious witnessing' (waking up) period involved the end of my engagement, the healing of a 10 year struggle with bulimia, the direct confrontation with a pattern of habitual lying, the painful realization that I was utterly mean to my self and unable to esteem myself, and so much more not-fun-stuff. The Lauran Janes train wreck, really.

Kristina was one of my first teachers during these early stages of awakening. In her words: "The inner Witness is the Source of Love itself. And this Love is more powerful than any negative outward behavior and therefore, is the greatest protection for humanity. The practices of Yoga soften the roughest edges of the world and brings you back to behaviors that stem from Love."

Though we may feel very far from Love when we first begin to witness ourselves, don't be fooled. For interwoven in the very act of witnessing the self is the Source of Love.

In addition to WITNESSING THE SELF, the art of ASANA as a daily practice is an integral part of living Yoga. Asana is a practice of ‘cleaning out’, ‘undoing’, ‘pushing the re-set button’, ‘getting back to Love’, ‘finding the happy place’, ‘calming the mind’, ‘tapping the unconscious’, ‘unsticking’, ‘gaining strength’, ‘increasing confidence’, ‘becoming excited about the body-mind’, ‘practicing non-violent actions’, ‘witnessing thoughts’, ‘expanding my boundaries’, ‘playing again’, ‘focusing on anything other than the chattering-list-making-machine of the mind’ and more.

Asana assists our movement out of the head and into the heart - physically and literally. We move our attention to something greater than the ‘jumping beans’ between our ears and we literally expand the tissues around the heart. We align the skeleton as a means of strengthening the scaffolding of the ‘playground’ of the body. This process opens brilliant channels of energy to flow from heart to mind, toes to hair, Love to all.

Additionally, to live Yoga it is extremely helpful to better understand the SCIENCE OF THE MIND. Just as we can learn how our digestive track works (and feel the body’s varied reactions to what we consume) we can also understand how the mind ‘digests’ the constant inward following current of information. In our YOGALife program we study how the mind receives information, creates perceptions, sensations, and feelings. We study how the mind reacts to these feelings and how these reactions give birth to our underlying “story” of self. We study how our deep attachment to these stories hinders our sight. Experiencing life with hindered sight (through the veil of our mind's story - ego) is like driving with a foggy wind-shield. Though we can still drive, we are very likely to cause harm to ourselves and others.

More to Come...