Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My Yoga Odyssey

Edited version of my previous article to be published, to be published in Yoga Magazine (www.yogamagazine.org) in their Reader's Story section - a two page spread! The U.K. edition comes out in August 2011, and in September 2011 for the U.S. edition.


I’ve resolved, after 15 years of practising Yoga, to do my Yoga Teaching Certification. Why have I’ve waited so long? There is no simple answer and a hodgepodge of reasons for it: time, cost, looking for the right place and the right teachers, the level of confidence in my own practice, etc. A major reason that I have balked from getting my Teacher certification is because I feel Yoga has become diluted and commercialised in the main stream; a fashion as opposed to system of beliefs. Through the many Martial Arts I have studied, I also witnessed this lack of theoretical or philosophical substance. I absorbed many of the writings of Aikido founder Morihei Uyeshiba regarding to the philosophies behind the Art and manipulation of ki, but classes were purely physical experiences with no teachings being shared. I found this to be true in the other Martial Arts classes that I have taken in Tae Kwon Do and Judo. With the exception of two intensive years of study with an amazing teacher named Elfriede Meyer, my Yoga experiences have been similar.

Gandhi stated that we should “be the change that we wish to see in the world”. As I take the step of becoming a Yoga Teacher, I carry these words with me. Taking on the role of being one’s spiritual mentor completely terrifies me on the one hand because I simply could never envision myself thus. I am so far from perfect that it’s not funny! I suffer from bouts of PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders. I am often stressed and often give in to impulse. On the other hand, as a Teacher, I see myself as being a catalyst for another’s catharsis. An imperfect role model, perhaps, assists us in accepting our own imperfections. In the end, my role would be as a facilitator; to present directions, but allow my students to take their own personal journey. It is not about “being like me”, but to encourage others to “be who they are”.

I started doing Yoga in 1997. I would tape this show on the local cable network hosted by Gerta Krebs. Through my collection of episodes, I began my practise. I started reading a lot on Yoga and Eastern Philosophy at this time. It was a year or two after this that I began to study under Elfriede. After just over 2 years of working with Elefriede, my new career as a Correctional Officer, doing shift work, ended my tutorage under her. From this point, my reading list expanded, and I would do the occasional course or drop-in classes around the city.

I received my first taste of Teaching Yoga this past August when I took a Teaching Yoga to Children course. This class put me off in some ways, but also gave me some insight. The turn-offs lied in the fact that many of those taking the course had taken little or no previous Yoga. This clearly illustrates one of my main points of contention with the fashion Yoga presently permeating itself through Western culture. It’s the same as these Martial Arts places awarding black belts after only a couple of years study. The physical sides of Yoga or Martial Arts can be easily learned, but this is an incomplete mastery.

The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” bringing the body and mind together into one harmonious experience. The system is based on: exercise, breathing, and meditation. With ideology founded in The Yoga Sutras by Patañjali and The Bhagavad Gita. In my opinion, to truly reap any kind of benefit from Yoga, one’s practise must include every aspect outlined above.

So, as a Teacher, where would I recommend that a student, new to Yoga, begin? I would first state that Yoga and its benefits are a lifelong pursuit and, just like our lives, ebbs and flows, taking us down several different chutes along the way. It will be a constant challenge, but is not a competition. Take in what is presented to you in books and by teachers, and synthesise that which resonates with you to be what you wish to become and what you feel to be good and correct. I’d recommend that a student visit different Yoga studios around town, to get a feel for the different styles of Yoga. Inevitably, students will come to have a favourite style: Hatha, Ashtanga, Yin, Moksha, Iyengar, Kundalini, etc. This is good, but we must, in our practise, be open to other forms as each has their place. I, personally, have a strong preference to Iyengar and Hatha styles, and dislike many of the flow Yoga’s such as Ashtanga. This is largely because I lack grace flowability. But this is good and tells me that I need to challenge myself more, pushing away from my comfort zone.

As a new student gets their feet firm on their mats, READ! This deepens one’s knowledge and opens discourse. Recommendations include:

“Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar

“Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness” by Erich Schiffmann

“Yoga for Beginners” by Mark Ansari and Liz Lark

“The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings” by Thich Nhat Hahn

“Light on Yoga Sutras” by B.K.S. Iyengar

“The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff

“Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche

These writings will offer contemplations on our perceptions of the world and our selves. Once indulged, explore the writings of authors like Eknath Easwaran, Jon Kabat-Zinn and the texts referenced previously. As a person, I tend to be rather cynical and do not like the fluffy or flakey writings that are filtered through many of the books written on Eastern ideas. The authors that I have recommended here are largely indicative of my preferences.

The last recommendation I would make is to download a few different guided mediations focusing on deep relaxation. There are many good ones out there, and also some pretty horrible ones. I have come to enjoy doing my meditations on a Shakti mat. Like a bed of nails (www.shaktimat.com), I was first introduced to it when I was teaching in Slovakia by a student. Uncomfortable initially, over time, the Shakti becomes very pleasant and provides an endorphin rush. Everyone will respond differently, of course, but I swear by mine!

In closing, I look forward to deepening my practice by through my Teacher Certification. It is perhaps serendipitous that Gerta Krebs is one of the teachers of the program I will be taking – a bit like going back to the beginning, which is what I am doing by taking this course.

1 Comments:

  • At 8:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Cool Ed! Perhaps after spring break we can take a class together?
    Justin

     

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