29 January 2007
I have enough yoga and Buddhism books to read to last the rest of my life and into the next, but I've started reading "Enlighten Your Body: Yoga for Mind-Body Awareness", and I can't put it down. It's not written by a show biz yogi like Rodney Yee or by an old master like Iyengar, but by Linda-Christy Weiler, a relative unknown in the western yoga world. The depth of her writing and her understanding about pure yoga surprised me (well, OK, it shocked me) because I know her name through the fitness organization NETA (National Exercise Trainers Association), one of the organizations that conducts "become a yoga teacher in a weekend" trainings. I humbly admit it -- that was my own avidya....
Weiler writes about yoga from the somatic perspective, i.e., the body experienced from within (soma) and the science of experiencing the self as a body (somatics). This is something that I've come to appreciate over my years of yoga practice and teaching. I work with students on a daily basis who are disconnected from their bodies, whose minds are "out there" instead of "being here now." Sometimes people are so detached from their bodies that they can not literally feel the difference between a rounded back and a flat back. They have no idea how to drop their shoulder blades down their back because they have never been asked to connect with their bodies. ANY sensation to them, no matter how small, is immediately interpreted as "pain." They do not possess any filters, no varying levels of discernment, they either "fly" or they "cry".
I truly believe that many people in this modern world have lost the ability to "feel", both on a deep emotional level and on the physical level because modern life has so many things for us to attach to externally -- the media, the latest computer, the latest electronic gadget, the latest whatever it is. It is easier and more comfortable to go "with-out" than to go within and feel and intuit and explore. I remember being in a yoga class where the teacher said that to do yoga takes courage, because yoga teaches people how to feel and sometimes that can be a very scary thing. Some people know more about the insides of their computers than they know about the insides of themselves.
I've only read the first 30 pages so far but have found more value in it than in some of the books written by the bigshots of the yoga world. Some excerpts:
(Weiler quoting someone else): "The way you practice asana is the way you live your life." - I LOVE that! How many of us have seen students bully their way through a pose, lie in savasana with open eyes and tapping fingers, then are the first ones out the door after class leaving their mats and props behind for someone else to clean up?
"My duty is not to fix the world. My duty is to fix myself. And if by fixing myself, I have in any way contributed to fixing the world, then I have been
doubly successful." We can not love or have compassion for others, if we do not love or have compassion for ourselves.
"Today's trendy version of yoga have cute and clever names like Spinning Yoga, Yogilates and the uplifting 'Yoga Butt'...but I wonder if these programs provide
a valid mind-body experience. ...something essential to the experience of yoga asana has been forgotten...and this essential element is exactly what yoga asana is all about. It is the attention given to the somatic aspect of the experience. It is
the unfolding understanding of how we can apply the lessons of asana toward the evolution of the self..." As my journey to the heart of yoga in India taught me, yoga is truly about personal transformation.
"I no longer sympathize with yoga students who tell me that they don't have enough time in their busy lives to commit to a yoga practice or to eat breakfast or to get enough sleep, etc. When people say 'I don't have time for this,' what they are really saying is that they have chosen their priorities and 'this' is not
one of them. We can always find time for what we really want to do. Over-scheduling is the most blatant sign of a life lived without attention to
one's priorities... The time crunch mentality deceives us into thinking that our time should only be allocated to activities that result in a net gain. We believe that anything else is silly and insignificant..."
As my own teaching has morphed and evolved, I am no longer reticent about telling students certain things, such as that yoga is a committment, first to themselves, then to the deeper aspects of yoga -- anything less and they are cheating themselves. When people find out that I teach yoga, sometimes I hear "I heard it's supposed to be good for me, but I don't have the time..." or "I read that meditation relieves stress, but I don't even have 10 minutes to sit down..." I tell them that is exactly the reason why they should run, not walk, to their nearest yoga or meditation class. Why is it that people make so much time for other things and for other people in their lives, yet consider themselves so unimportant, so unworthy of nourishing themselves? I have noticed this particularly more so with women than with men.
It's a good book, and I look forward to diving more deeply into it.