This morning I woke up to the post in a Yoga Therapy group on Facebook, where a young woman, yoga teacher, was asking the group for the resources of doing free Hip Hop Yoga classes that were ‘’not too slow or too boring’’. This post triggered many comments from the members of the group. Some were insulted by the lack of respect to Traditional Yoga and some were angry that they were trying to make a living with teaching yoga, which shouldn’t be expected to be provided for free. There was a big backlash from yoga teachers and yoga therapists suggesting the poster was showing lack of respect to the profession by mixing it up with ideas about yoga that were more controversial and not necessarily a true yoga. Others were happy to offer free recourses and implied that those comments were not inclusive.
As I scrolled through the comments I began to reflect on my own values, opinions and beliefs, I started asking myself how do I feel about it?
I was always drawn to classical teachings and deep traditions, and I do hold those teachings in high regard. I spent thousands of dollars on my education and many many hours on self study, and know how valuable the offering of these knowledge is. My own journey to India to complete my studies and yoga teaching work solidified my resolve about how I personally wanted to help myself and other people to “unite”, which is the true meaning of yoga.
First, it’s important to differentiate and break down one important thing when we are talking about yoga. Yoga Asana is the practice of physical postures currently very popular in the Western yoga studios. When we talk only about a physical aspect of yoga, which is asana, we also tend to call it ‘’yoga’’ or ‘’yoga practice’’ or ‘’I am going to practice yoga now’’. Usually it’s referred to the physical aspect of Yoga. For your information, the physical aspect of yoga traditionally has not been given much attention at all.
However, yoga in it’s real terms doesn’t mean asana, it means “to unite” or “union”, and it is primarily about bridging material and spiritual existence, about embodying your own Soul into the physical body, about self realisation and mainly about realisation of yourself as a spark of God or Divinity. This practice takes lifetimes after lifetimes to master, because it means living your life in unity, which is much harder thing to do than even do splits or a handstand. I spoke about this topic in my previous article “True Yoga – what do we practice?’’
So let’s not confuse the two terms as, although they are a part of the same thing, they are not necessarily the exact same thing. On the bigger scale we are all part of the whole, the absolute, however, in this third dimensional world, where energy is compressed to the degree that we manifest as physical beings, we are living in a perceived separation from everything around us, identifying with our separate bodies as ego self. True Yoga practice literally bridges this sense of separation, however, this practice requires constant mastery.
Now back to the original story, what made yoga teachers and yoga therapists so offended and what made them create certain judgements about the original poster? Was their point correct?
And is it possible to hold space for both – the traditional and the contemporary approach to self realisation and, ultimately, liberation? Can the two worlds coexist and be allowed without judgement?
In other words, can we have Hip hop yoga, Beer Yoga and Goats yoga, just as an example of modern Western approach to exist, and possibly to a degree be healing for the people who are very early on the their path of awakening, and need that step to take them further? And can we respect deep traditions, yoga teaching as a business and a profession for those who have progressed already and are looking for something bigger?
If I was waiting at the train station for the train to take me to beautiful Alps in Switzerland, but to take this train I had to switch the stations somewhere in Germany, and the only way to get inside that train was to take the one that was arriving at the current station in Italy, would I not take it? Our life journey is like taking different trains that eventually help us arrive where we want to be. Maybe we are lucky and there is a direct train that can take us there, but this may be another topic for another day.
So why was I saying that yoga teachers are the worst? Because in my experience yoga teachers, despite having tremendous spiritual knowledge, still tend to identify with their roles as healers or teachers. Any false identification of the ego, therefore, keeps you stuck in bondage. Many are still in separation and haven’t yet united the parts of themselves, which in essence is true yoga. Ego, which is false identity, may feel threatened and will do anything to defend its position to stay in control.
You may say they might be dressed in yoga pants and have great knowledge and wisdom in words when they talk about yoga, however, unless they live it, or embody what they teach, they haven’t really progressed all that far. Spiritual ego is the most dangerous kind of ego, because it is masked oh so well behind the spiritual identity that yoga teachers, healers and energy workers tend to create. It gives you an illusion that you have transcended, however, behind it, in truth, you may have only switched your clothes.
A person may not consciously be a yoga practitioner or identify as a yoga teacher, and they may have never even attended a yoga class, however, they may be much closer to their true self, than many yoga teachers and spiritual leaders, who are gripping tightly to their ego created identity. Don’t be fooled by your ego’s attempts to bind you. I have been fooled over and over again.
The original poster could potentially be on their own path to healing and integration, and maybe for them, where they are currently vibrationally speaking, doing a hip hop yoga that is offered freely or based on donation is the next best thing to bringing them closer to the Self. Some experiences are also necessary as a stepping stone on our journey even if we look back later and think to ourselves: “I can’t believe I used to do that!” Some experiences help us to differentiate what is right or wrong for us personally, simply by experiencing first. Judgment comes from ego’s attempt to keep you separate. Holding many perspectives simultaneously is yoga.
I do hold high regard to traditional yogic teachings, and I do value yoga as a profession. Receiving monetary or other form of compensation or exchange is necessary for yoga teachers to continue to teach. Surely, it may also be true that free content can diminish the value of the teachings of those who rely of yoga teaching as full time means of sustaining themselves.
However, it is also true that once a student realises the value of what they are about to learn or the service they are about to receive, they will happily pay for it regardless of all the free content that exists alongside these offerings.
This post thread made me wonder about my own insecurities. I reflected on my own journey so far and remembered all the times of my life when I both paid for yoga classes and attended them for free, when I sampled non-traditional styles of yoga and in the end chose tradition as it resonated with me personally based on my own experience, when I judged and when I held higher perspective. Life is offering us a variety of experiences to sample. Sometimes we will choose something and enjoy it and sometimes we will decide it’s not for us. It’s important to be able to choose experiences without judgement and make space for others to do the same.
Everything in the Universe has value, even though not everything has a value for us personally. Values also change throughout life, just like seasons change. What held no value to us one day suddenly becomes incredibly valuable! Does it mean that what we previously valued has no right to exist?
One of the Yamas of Patanjali Yoga Sutras is Ahimsa, which means ‘’do no harm’’. We can harm ourselves and others with words, thoughts or actions. When we practice Ahimsa we practice the state of allowing everything to exist and have specific place in the Universe. When we say something must be eliminated and we must get rid of it, we project harmful thoughts. When we allow and observe our thoughts without judgement we practice meditation. Life is a paradox.