I’m concerned. Wherever I look yoga is mutating. Just yesterday I received an email inviting me to join a wine and yoga class. The catch phrase? “Let’s stretch and get social.” Because we all know wine helps right?
There’s goat yoga, CBD yoga… I could go on…. When I asked one of my friends, a long time yoga teacher “What’s happened to yoga?” She gave me the look.
The look speaks volumes. It’s about not having students in your classes because you don’t use Instagram, it’s about not being invited to studios because 20 something newbie studio owners have never studied with you. It’s because in 2018 experience counts for zilch. It’s scary, demoralizing and downright depressing. No wonder long time yoga teachers are hanging up their mats, retraining themselves or moving to some island where the cost of living is negligible.
I for one refuse to give up! There are people out there who are longing for authenticity, meaning and tradition in yoga. And there are teachings out there that solve problems. I am talking about the real ones. When my partner and I found each other a huge sense of relief washed over me. It wasn’t because I fell in love, or that he rescued me from a failed marriage. It was his devotion to tradition, to sharing authentic wisdom and helping me to see that if there is a problem. I am the problem.
Listening with our hearts isn’t easy. As humans, we are taught to be analytical. To be convinced that something can help us, it has to make sense. If yoga was solely meant to give me a beautiful body and relieve my stress surely by now I would be a lithe, shining, flawless goddess. Um… nope…just yesterday I was a driveling mess…don’t even get me started.
The yoga that was handed down through a parampara-authentic teacher to student lineage-is not the yoga we practice today. Traditional yoga is not about handstands, heart opening backbends or ‘feeling your inner truth.’ It is The YOGA. Understanding that you are Truth, Oneness, Wholeness, Completeness. But we don’t want that YOGA. We want the yoga we’ve created. What we believe yoga is all about. We want heart-centered gooey yoga.
What struck me the most about studying an orthodox system of knowledge in India with an Indian teacher was the difference between knowledge about something and knowledge itself. As the lectures progressed I realised I knew a lot about Asanas and how to execute them, I knew breathing techniques, I understood the mechanics of meditation, I knew about Ayurveda and lifestyle practices, I knew about the history of yoga, the tenets of yoga, the eight limbs. I knew mantras, deities and yantras. I knew a lot about a lot of stuff.
But no matter how much I thought I knew and even how much I thought I’d experienced through practices. I didn’t know the one doing the practices. The experiencer, the knower.
Taking that one step further… I didn’t know my SELF. I’d even confused my understanding of this world SELF, thinking it was the idea I had of myself. Me, Rachel, yoga teacher. Halfway through the teachings, I began to get freaked. So if all the things I’ve spent years studying and practicing and teaching are not the answer what then? My first reaction was to go into denial. This teacher is shit, these teachings are shit. It’s too heady, it’s a mind f…ck. I knew I should have gone to that Tantra retreat instead. Get me out of here (well not quite but almost).
Lucky for me, I was in love. I’d look across the lecture hall and see my partner. He looked riveted. Not only that he was twinkling, nodding and laughing. He was positively joyful. We’d meet after class and he’d beam, “Aren’t the teachings amazing, enthralling, fascinating?”
I was pretty deep in my process, trying to figure out how logic could open my heart and help me with my deep-seated issues. I wanted to know the how, the process, the method. Wasn’t this just another philosophy lecture? Then something happened. It wasn’t earth-shattering, my kundalini didn’t move, I didn’t explode out into the universe.
I started to listen.
Instead of listening to my own thoughts and ideas about what was said I heard the actual words. Each word led to a sentence, which led to a teaching which was fleshed out with a number of examples to make its meaning clearer. The more I listened the more I heard until I understood exactly what was meant by each word. The brilliance of each words placement in the sentence. The beauty of being led through words to the truth. That all knowledge happens in this way. Starting with the first word I had ever learned. Putting the name and the object together.
The Upanishads are the oldest teachings of mankind and are about the human being. They name the truth of our existence. They are teachings that can only be revealed by someone who has understood the meaning in each word. The teachings can’t be read and understood. Because it’s so easy for us to misconstrue what we read. I might look at the word “I” and think that’s me when Upanishadic wisdom unpacks the word “I” to mean so much more.
Knowing the knower is the ultimate resolution of yoga and the deepest longing of the heart. When you know yourself, searching ceases, life is perfect as it is and everything is understood.
If you’d like to know more about these beautiful teachings join us in Australia for our 2018 teaching tour.