Sometimes we forget. We forget we’re not teaching yoga. We are teaching asana. And we forget Patanjali’s teachings: that asana is just one of the eight limbs. Most classes called yoga focus their intention on asana. Pranayama receives a cursory mention. The other six limbs – yama, niyama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi – are left dangling in the breeze of our ujjiay breath.
I think that as asana teachers we find ourselves caught in trends. From practicing postures on paddle boards to holding shapes in slings, fitness trends are fine but they are like rainbows. Beautiful, fun and illusory. As fast as one trend disappears another arcs across to fill the sky – or the yoga industry – with light and color.
I’ll be honest. There’s a part of me that would love to be that teacher who enthusiastically embraces every trend and explores its possibility. But you won’t find me practicing asana on a paddle board – even though it looks like fun. And you won’t find me hanging in a sling or holding dhanurasana while balanced on the soles of my partner’s feet.
More than anything I would like to begin a new trend. I want to begin the trend that sees asana teachers coming back home to yoga. I want those of us who call ourselves yoga teachers – including me – to be yoga teachers.
A few nights ago I attended a class. A yoga class. You read that right. Not an asana class. A yoga class.
When I told fellow teachers and friends I was going to John Berg’s Intro to Yoga class on Tuesday night at Samyama they looked at me a bit funny. “Don’t you mean his Vinyasa class?” Nope. I meant what I said. After thirty years of practice and nineteen years of teaching I was a beginner. And, as a beginner, I wanted a beginner’s class.
In ninety minutes we sat, we stood, we practiced vrkasana, we breathed. In between we reviewed the eight limbs. We listened to a brief talk on yama and niyama. We spoke of intention. And forgiveness. I spent that hour and one half in a state of moving meditation, grateful to John and his teaching but equally grateful that I followed my heart through the studio doors of Samyama.
I believe, as teachers and as students, there are times for expansion. Times when focus on heat building asana is the right path. But I also believe that we abandon ourselves when we fail to listen for the quiet times. The times when we need to step back – contract – and remember that as much as yoga is about the body, it is about so much more.