As a teacher I absolutely love watching a persons transformation on the mat. A person can go from exhausted to energized in half an hour! From disturbed to peaceful, from stressed to relaxed, ect. I could go on for days with examples! This transformation for myself is what made me want to become a teacher, and as a teacher watching my students do the same, I am time and again so inspired to be the best of myself.
However, I am noticing that many keep this type of transformation solely on their mats. Once out in the world, and many times as soon as they step out of the room, the transformation takes a u-turn and the person is sent back to a blank reality. I have seen attitudes, angry looks, negative language, negative energy, and sometimes down right nastiness. I ask myself whats happening here?! These are not the yogis in training I have so affectionately placed in my heart! Why the drastic change?!
I think to myself, what can I do? As a constant student I am always looking for the answers. Im a scholar of the mind and heart and for this I need knowledge to gain wisdom. This is how I like to lead my students, inviting them to ask questions, to look deeper, to search and learn. But is this the way all teachers are? Lately what I have encountered is that many of them teach on a surface level. Meaning, they only teach about the body and nothing else. When I look deeper into this it is because many of them don’t want to loose students on account of teaching too much “spirituality” in class. This to me is a very backwards way of thinking, given yoga in its true origin IS a spiritual practice! Mind you, I am a relatively new teacher, so I am not saying I am a wise and enlightened being myself. However I know that the goal of yoga is not exercise, its Samadhi (enlightenment). Teaching solely on the body means the mind can never transcend to a higher state of being. A person practicing asanas alone will never learn how live wisely and consciously. The studios might as well call them Asana classes rather than yoga classes! But maybe what is needed is a reminder that spirituality and religion are two very seperate things. This is something that brings many people confusion, and if you are one of those people, you are not alone! While religion can be a beautiful thing, it is also misrepresented and can feel quite exclusive. Spirituality is a very inclusive practice, it is of the soul after all. A bit more exploration into this and you will find that spirituality is very much based on selflessness and deep connections with yourself and those around you. While religion can do this as well, spirituality is unique in that you don’t have to believe in any one thing, just a deep respect for yourself is quite enough.
But lets go back.
What would the Sages say?
I think the answer to this is clear. If you are a person looking to get the full benefits of yoga, learn how to be a Yogi, in every sense of the word. Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a philosophy or exercise. Its living beauty, breathing wisdom, moving energy into the daily dance of life. Its being peace, not just talking about it. Its acting out of the heart, not just saying so. And if all of this is what you are trying to attain, then why the attitude?!
Before you release negativity out into the world, the mind has to create it. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it stems from a single thought which is fed by the ego. So if you don’t want to be negative you must learn how to keep the ego in check. This is where yoga is there to help. It teaches us how to understand the ego, to look at it like a toddler! You must not hate your ego, you must manage it. Give it no attention when it tells you to give someone a piece of your mind simply because you don’t like something they told you or they don’t do what you want. Desire is ego, expectation is ego, wanting is ego. Putting this into terms of asana practice you can see how the body doesn’t relax until the mind tells it to, until you breathe deeply so the heart rate can slow down. But if you only keep this frame of mind on the mat and not when you’re stuck in traffic late for work, then you’ve just missed the whole thing!
So next time you’re in class, ask your teacher how to manage life using yoga. She will be so happy to hear this!
And while you’re at it, be nice to people, yeah?! Leave the attitude behind!