For all the fellow teachers and regular practitioners out there!
I’m going to get critical here. Not because I like putting people down, but because discernment is important. As teachers and students, we have a responsibility to uphold the yoga practice. That means to question it, how it is delivered and how productive or unproductive that is.
What I’m getting at here is how we talk about yoga.
The words we choose are powerful indicators to what this practice can offer. It’s only natural we try to communicate that verbally. But with all the time I spend reading about yoga, sitting with others who practice it and listening to teachers talk, I’ve noticed something deeply concerning. In an effort to find the language to describe yoga, we often fill space with buzzwords - unsubstantial, babbling, new age phrases that can be outright damaging and alienating.
I can’t tell you the number of friends who roll their eyes at yoga. Upon asking why, it almost always leads to this pseudo spirituality rhetoric so often used. I can’t blame them. At the end of the day, we know in reality, “spirituality” is muddy and messy. Not fluffy and comfortable.
Ten years into the practice and my “inner light” is more like a raging fire around all the injustice, hate and violence in the world. And no, I’m not at peace with it. Laughter ensues when I look back ten years. I wanted an automatic gateway to bliss. An ‘easy out’… facing difficulties was not my forte. At the time, I didn’t realize that what was communicated to me was a sugar coated pile of garbage. No teacher had the guts to get down in the mud with me and be real.
The language we use can set someone up for the real work required or convince someone that with a few tricks up their sleeve, they too can jump over, not work through, all that arises when we’re present with our breath and bodies. We should know better than that. This practice can be grueling, confusing and unpleasant. It can also be freeing, strengthening and invigorating.
If we aren’t communicating from a realistic, honest space, how do we ever expect others to grasp any understanding of this practice? Furthermore, how do we provide the space to work through the psychological changes that come with a regular practice of awareness?
I’d like to believe that deep down, we’re all trying to communicate what seems incommunicable – that yoga can really change your life if you let it… if you’re willing to put in the dirty work.
We should be holding each other accountable in our delivery of this practice. We should examine, question, and be curious about the language we use, how it’s transmitted and if that language is indeed helpful or not. The yoga practice, and how it’s communicated, will continue morphing with time and we need to morph along with it while maintaining a sense of integrity - in line with its principles. Honesty may not be popular or fill up a room but given its place on this path, maybe being real is what we need.