In our western society we have “modernized” yoga. It has become a trend. A way to get in shape. A way to physically feel better. Maybe even just an hour a week to have some time to ourselves to get away from our busy lives, family and responsibilities. Even some of the most committed yogis don’t fully understand the potential yoga has to offer. They may have been practicing for years or even decades and are able to do the most complex asanas (postures) and crazy back bends that look amazing on Instagram, but very few truly know what the heart of yoga really is.
American studios these days certify teachers in a matter of months or even weeks. These teacher trainees don’t have to understand yoga. They just have to show up to class, put in their 200 hours and they “earn” their teaching credentials, and with everything going on these days this can be completely done online. These students don’t even have to set foot in a yoga studio! We as a society accept this and we go to classes in studios taught by these certified teachers thinking that they know what they are teaching. These teachers teach their own agenda; certain asanas (postures) that they personally enjoy; and some even just teach from a memorized script. Just because a teacher can cue smooth transitions or say every pose in Sanskrit does not mean that they are true yogis. Very few can truly teach yoga because most yogis do not deeply understand it, nor do they live it. In order to really teach yoga, a teacher needs to embody it, not just practice it. We need to learn from teachers that ARE yoga, not teachers that simply practice yoga; otherwise we will miss all the great benefits that yoga has to offer.
Yoga is more than just physical postures. True yoga incites something in us. It breaks down the barriers of our mind and psychology and it reveals to us our true nature. If truly embodied, it can reveal to us our pure unlimited potentiality. Asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work) and dristi (focus) are just part of the practice. A teacher who embodies yoga can guide you to learn how to move beyond these physical aspects into something deeper. Yoga can transform us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Through yoga we can overcome our hang-ups and sorrows. Yoga has the potential to heal us from our traumas and lead us out of our compulsive behaviors. Yoga can be our path to inner peace and bliss, if the practice is truly embodied and if we have the right teachers to guide us.
Studio and gym yoga have their place in the physical fitness world, but true yoga is not taught in these such places by part-time teachers. I know from personal experience, that the teacher really does make the difference. A true yoga teacher can push you, guide you, and help you to grow because they can see something inside of you that you can't see yourself. Their teachings become the living embodiment of their own practice and their own lessons learned on and off the mat. Unfortunately, in our society for many teachers it is just a job, hobby or accreditation; and for me this is heartbreaking to know that something that has the potential to completely change someone’s quality of life is being treated as just another pastime or occupation.
For me, yoga is life. It is every breath I take. It is every conscious thought that I have. It is every moment that I am present. It is every moment of stillness and peace I experience. Yoga does not just happen on the mat, it exists within me. Yoga is what I am.
It is my hope that everyone practicing yoga can come to realize this for themselves too.