Yoga Teacher Training: Why Bother Looking At Yoga History?

Breaking The Chains Of Tradition

Arguably, the power of today’s society is that is has broken the chains of tradition. We no longer have to do things just because “that’s how it’s always been done”. And so we have the scope for new freedoms – often long-overdue freedoms like equality. Science, with its secular approach, isn’t concerned with making moral judgements: by observing and understanding the world around us, it works to transform our tools and techniques. We’ve been able to dramatically improve the living standards and life expectancy in many societies. Abandoning traditional religion is central to this secular approach: as Steven Weinberg said: “Science doesn’t make it impossible to believe in God, it just makes it possible not to believe in God”. Why should Yoga be any different – surely holding to the past would just hold back our practice?

Where Are We?

Of course, the secular approach to technological development hasn’t come without a price. We’re all aware that our lifestyle improvements have caused climate change – and our leaders now seem powerless to prevent serious climate disruption. There is great inequality in healthcare across the globe, illustrated by the reluctance of rich nations to really share the covid vaccine supplies equally. Many of us also would be concerned at the developments in genetics: often there is a positive contribution to healthcare, but each discovery could be – or perhaps even already is being – misused by governments and defence agencies. Our technology has also given birth to nuclear weapons, and now hypersonic missiles which travel so fast, there is no hope of ever stopping them hitting their target.

We seem to have lost our way – today’s advancement seems rudderless. Some would say this is because we have moved away from traditional religions. 

The Good, The Bad & The Moral.

But, our prior moral systems would not have protected us from these unwelcome developments. Indeed, they did not protect us: our modern world was born from the classical world of before. The problem is that there has never been any accountability. Developments are ushered in whether they are beneficial or not, and religious systems have supported this historically. For instance, we might consider the Inquisitions of the Medieval world, or the oppression of the Colonial world. These lend weight to another of Steven Weinberg’s quotes: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

Returning to the original question, what does all this mean for Yoga practice in today’s world? I think we have to appreciate that the approach of Yogis over the centuries gone by was very different to the mindset of today’s practitioner in two very important ways…..

Firstly, Yoga’s traditions emerged in a time before external technology proliferated. All of the work of the Yogi was on his or her internal world. It is, by nature, an introspective practice that asks the practitioner to look first and foremost at themselves.

We are challenged to be honest with ourselves, and to improve ourselves not by adding material wealth, but from within. Yoga practice offers the chance to become the best version of oneself, with no external additions.

This is very different to today’s model of the successful and wealthy consumer as the pillar of economic activity.

Secondly, Yogis studied, worked on and mastered their practices before trying to evolve new techniques. This is a necessary consequence of working on oneself first. There’s no point in trying something new until the old has been exhausted.

Evolution in Yoga has not been stifled. A basic overview of its history and development can be found on the web. Practice methods have changed and evolved over and over again, but this has always been based on a thorough exploration of what already exists, by people who have mastered their own minds. If a new technique worked, it was included. But, it had to work – and it had to work in the context of whole-person development. 

Moving Forwards With Yoga

There have been many recent scandals, which seem to demonstrate that respected Yoga teachers are often very damaged criminals. I would argue that this is not the true Yogi and does not represent authentic Yoga practice – in the same way that “research” by some WW2 Nazi scientists was not true science carried out be authentic scientists. 

Yoga’s traditional approach of rigorous self-examination and introspective personal development is the way forward. Whether we wish it to be so or not, the ways of “then” are the methods we need for the future.

It’s from this standpoint that Yogafurie has developed it’s study modules for Yoga history and Yoga’s theories of the subtle energy body. There are many related practices for the latter that we include, because students need to understand these theories experientially and not just as ideas and concepts. Yogafurie in Bristol, UK underpins teacher trainee development thoroughly with an appreciation of what went before. Yogafurie includes detailed and practical anatomy study as well, because this is how the world of science understands the human body. Our graduates are ready to take their place on the crest of Yoga’s ever-moving wave and to play their part in the evolution of Yoga and Hot Yoga, which never stops.

Find out more about training as a teacher with us – visit our teacher training web pages or give us a call on +44 (0) 117 403 1678.

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