Blog offered by Ed Wood, Founder and Director of Yogafurie and Lead Teacher Trainer at Yogafurie Academy.
Yoga offers a framework of self-evaluation. Look at your movement. Look at your breath. With honesty. In this, it helps to have a neutral teacher that simply reflects (tells you) what’s there. It demands a lot of energy to persist unhelpful movement and breathing patterns. They can cause injuries elsewhere – making them even more energy-expensive. That’s energy that’s not available for the living of your life, by the way.
Yoga offers remedial methods, tools and techniques. Eventually, the energy of remedy is greater than the pattern’s energy; it begins to subside. Students think that they are getting better at postures. In fact, a host of movement problems – most of which they weren’t consciously aware of – are in decline.
Unhelpful movement patterns are observed in the function of muscles and joints. But, unless there’s an actual injury, the real problem is deeper. Somewhere in the mind, we think that’s how we’re supposed to move. This will go back to self-image and what we think we’re “allowed” to do. It’ll depend on cultural norms and what we make of those. Childhood and later memories of social situations and outcomes will feature in the unconscious recollections guiding our default patterns. In a nutshell, it’s our personal “funk” and when we practice Yoga regularly, we’re working on it.
Teachers need to know this. It’s a position of significant responsibility. Students always had the power to work on themselves, and they always knew that as an idea. But when it actually happens, it can be a big deal. Students can attribute their progress, healings and personal transformations to their teachers. Teachers can get big egos. Sure, the teacher gave the right feedback at the right time – but if progress comes, it’s because the student did the work. Yoga tradition talks about asteya, which is translated as non-stealing. A good teacher won’t steal the achievement to prop up their ego… if the student evolves, then the teacher was just doing her or his job right, right?
That’s just one of the ways it can go wrong. Even if the relationship between student and teacher is clear, functional and healthy, students can still go a bit wrong working on themselves. A person can get addicted to punishing practice. We can all be a bit “holier than thou” when we’re excelling at health-related practices. And it’s easy to get lazy and let the practice intensity slip for this reason or that. Again, Yoga tradition offers some insights to help us frame what’s going on. Tapas infers the urgent need to get on with the job in hand at all costs, with pace and intensity and get the work done. Santosha is quite the opposite: delineating the need to calm
down and take it easy, to never be dogmatic, never forcing, instead taking care of ourselves and others.
The student walks the line between the two – a balanced practice (with the help of a neutral, in-person teacher) will enable you to make sometimes remarkable transformations. People can remedy the most intransigent of problems. In my career as a Yoga teacher, people have often told me how practice has helped them deal with stress, sleep problems, or anxiety. A number of people have shown me “before and after” X-rays and MRI scans of spines and joints and pointed out incredible improvements. These people did it right: not too much, not too little. And again – they did this for themselves: my role was simply to provide the space for it to happen.
However, there is a “but”. Problems might seem to be eradicated, but sometimes, they are simply dormant. In the case of the X-rays and MRIs mentioned, the student is at a pivotal stage: they’ve remedied the physical symptoms, but not necessarily the movement habits that caused the symptoms. It’s almost as if a seed of the problem remains. When the conditions are right, the seed can germinate. Different stages of life, different people and players, but we find ourselves repeating previous situations in a new way. We say, “same old same old” – I guess because we accept this to be true.
In Yoga parlance, this is a karmic effect. It’s got parallels with genetics. Take a look in the mirror have you got your mother’s eyes/ father’s brow/ etc? Take a look in the mirror. That’s how it is. Genetically – and karmically – that’s how it is right now and that’s how it will continue… unless and until something changes. For example, the way our genes act will depend on the
environments we put ourselves in – how we act today changes how our genes build our tomorrow, and we call that evolution. On a broader scale, evolution has changed more primitive mammals into human beings like you and I. At once, we’re clearly versions of monkeys and there’s no going back: in this lifetime, you or I can never again be one of those former animals.
Clearly, fundamental change is possible. All the patterns our bodies and minds carry around can be permanently eradicated and that experience will change us forever. Until then, keep practicing! Especially if you feel you don’t need to today, or if it seems like there is no time for it today.
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