Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yoga For Beginners – Are You Taking The Wrong Approach? by Yogacharya Michael

With so many images everywhere of extraordinarily pliable people in striking impossible yoga poses, advertising "yoga for beginners" does help to take the fear down a notch or two for the newcomer. Unfortunately, that hurts the image of yoga more than it helps it.

Carving up yoga into levels of physical difficulty, does not give the right impression of it. It sends the message that yoga is about how well conditioned and flexible your body is. In case you didn't know ... that has little to do with yoga.

Rarely do I meet anyone who is not a yoga beginner, actually ... and that goes for some extraordinarily flexible yoga teachers too.

The modern yoga class culture would seem to suggest that physical mastery of some yoga exercises is the gauge we use to assess a person's "level" of yoga.

If that were true, though, then we'd have to consider many athletes, world-class dancers and even circus performers as advanced yoga practitioners too.

They're not though. In the overall science of yoga, those physical abilities don't really count for much ... at least not on their own.

An advanced yoga practitioner is someone who can demonstrate impressive things with much more than their body. They can demonstrate an uncommon level of calm amidst chaos, and an unshakable poise while navigating through the challenging storms of life.

The advanced yoga practitioner is one who demonstrates, by example, what it means to live a dignified, compassionate and selfless life; things not so easily emulated by the average person, I agree ... but someone who hass reached the advanced level of yoga is no longer an average person.

With that in mind, I'm afraid to say that most modern "yogis" I meet don't quite fill those shoes. OK, rarely have I actually met anyone who even comes close. Most yoga teachers today don't seem to be immune to any more trauma and drama of modern life then their students or their neighbors are.

But they should be ... if they are in advanced to any degree in yoga. Yoga is a science with limitless potential to transform our lives.

But that has to start with a greater awareness of yoga as something more than just a system of physical exercises ... and teacher can play an important role in creating that awareness in their beginner yoga classes with a more comprehensive approach.

I'm hopefull that the current fixation on yoga exercises will eventually yield to a much deeper exploration of this profound science of life. When that day comes, and I know it will, then we'll surely start to see a lot more genuine "advanced yoga practitioners" emerging into this world ... and that will surely be a good thing.