It is always interesting to me how the philosophy is really contained in the practice but then, being human, and having a brain that wants things to be one way, easy to understand, we end up trying to rigidify practice into sets of rules about right and wrong when really practice and reality are about experience and being conscious, connected, aware and letting things flow, not grasping onto things and trying to make them concrete when they are really transparent...liquid. But that bipolar manner in which our mind works, wanting things to fit into simple categories, good-bad, right-wrong, up-down, hot-cold, we only think these things are real but they are perspectives, they are relative terms.
One of the ways I try and explain this has to do with the Hot Yoga Center I teach at. You walk into the lobby of the Hot Yoga Center from outside and invariably it feels hot in the lobby. You change and walk into the practice studio and it feels hot
. When you are done practicing you walk out of the practice space and into the lobby and the lobby feels cold
. Now the temperature of the lobby has not changed. So is the lobby hot or cold? The obvious answer is that it depends on your perspective which depends on how you are looking at it and where you are coming from. Which means that hot and cold are not absolute terms but relative ones.
So with a lot of styles of practice which settle on one specific way of doing certain things, my experience is that if you stay within that style and go deep, the style will work. The versions of things that have been chosen for you will be beneficial and useful and have their applications. Often, the style will have a reason for the choices that have been made and they will help you go deeper. And interestingly, even when the style does not seem to have much reason, or such intelligent reasons, for the choices that have been made, the style still often does something useful.
However, if you are serious about practice and if you do go deep enough you should get to a point where the limits imposed by the style or any style are holding you back rather than helping you. Ultimately all styles are there to be transcended. So you use them while they are useful and then leave them when you have entered that territory of your own authentic journey, whether that journey is within asana
practice or the deeper aspects of practice. Ultimately these two categories (asana
and deeper aspects) are not really separate.
So the idea I am getting at is that when one style does things one way, and another style does the same things a different way, a lot of the times, people want to understand things as right and wrong: which style is right? Which one is better? And a lot of the time when you have different styles or systems that have made different choices, a better question to ask is: What does each variation do? What is each system emphasizing? What are the benefits to these different techniques and methods?
When you do this and try and examine things in this manner of openness and exploration (rather than judging and choosing), you can understand the application of different techniques and methods and the ways in which they are beneficial without being stuck or attached to a particular method.
And in the end, practice is about freedom. The freedom you obtain in your body with asana
is only a metaphor to help you try to find freedom in other aspects of your life. Although, having a body that moves in a variety of ways and is flexible and healthy is also beneficial in itself.
If your physical practice, your seated practices and your in everyday life awareness practices
are open and not stuck on right and wrong, if you use your time during practice to open to the experience within which you are currently immersed, interesting shifts and transformations will unfold. Really, they are unfolding whether we realize it or not. But if the process is about awareness, more consciousness, cultivating that deepened awareness, we may see more of what is actually unfolding. And there is so much in each moment that it is worth making practice about initiating that process of cultivating consciousness. But with a soft touch and an open heart; trying to be present without being judgmental: of yourself, of others.