I always ask them, why did you come to yoga today? Most of them stay silent hoping I’ll ignore them or just do anything, anything other than demand an answer. Today a couple of folks wanted a body mind connection.
You will move your body. You will breathe with intention to inspire that movement. That will connect your body and mind.
But your mind is a tricky construct created between you and impressions of the world. It is both your protector and foil. You want to connect to more of yourself than that. But the mind says there is nothing more. This is the work. And the work is intimacy that you were trained to avoid.
We are a network of nerves.
What does that have to do with your yoga practice? You came here expecting to move in familiar ways. You came here expecting me to tell you to breathe as if that was the measure of your endurance or consciousness, as if that done with precision will mean the yoga is working.
We see, hear, taste, smell, touch and think of that which comes in from an outside source. We have another sense of our movement in relation to space. Simultaneously, we have internal senses that measure impressions of the world within. These senses dictate our behavior both consciously and automatically. We are a matrix of nerves wired to compute 24/7.
We are not familiar with all of ourselves because all of ourselves is vast beyond present measurement.
People come to yoga for relief and they try to blow past sensations like a suffering laborer bearing a birth.
What is the work of the yoga teacher as modern yoga’s timeline plays out in outdated studios that dot our cities like coffee shops? Statistics prove that despite the volume of Americans populating fitness centers, they are more overweight than ever. And despite the volume of yoga studios, people seem less aware than ever.
At the university where I teach there is a never ending stream of yoga devotees that come and go with their changing schedules. Many of them frequent local studios as well. But they are less present than ever. The eyes seem lit by flickering candles when I’m looking for high beams. Not all, not always but….
Yesterday I asked my students if they were stoic. I told them, we are trained in this country for stoicism. Pull up your bootstraps. Do the work. Don’t complain. Don’t feel. Just do it. It’s not just the first settlers, those uptight pilgrims. We bring it from our individual cultures. How would anything get done if we sat around getting in touch with our authentic feelings? We don’t have time for that. In a room of twenty plus students, most of them nodded their heads.
Yoga is a difficult intimacy. It is confrontational. It provokes. Your mind pushes back by demanding more breath to trick your body toward self satisfaction or self loathing. This is delusion. Yoga master takes on a dark meaning.
There is a worthy job for a yoga teacher. Guide the students toward sensitivity Ask for slower movement, for less movement, for more precise movement. Ask them again and again to stop and notice. Incite them to regard their reactions. Invite them to extend that to personal habit.
Create the yoga, the yoking, the marriage of philosophy and physical by entwining all manner of movement. Weave the present into the past and the past into the present and invite the ever evolving story of the person to unfold.