So I’m re-reading all my texts and notes, slowly, from my yoga teacher training at the end of last year. I have been wanting to do this for a while.
In The Path of Yoga, Feuerstein ends the chapter “Happiness and Moral Foundations” with this paragraph:
“The importance of Yoga’s moral foundations cannot be over-emphasized. […] the traditional yamas and niyamas are critical to harmonious inner growth. All too often, Western practitioners of Yoga ignore the moral disciplines, because they are rather inconvenient and because the postures (asana) are far more alluring. Little surprise that contemporary Western Yoga practice remains embroiled in a body narcissism, which makes the traditional value of spiritual freedom a distant and unappealing goal.”
It has been fascinating, and fascinatingly difficult, to talk to people about my training experience, but also about my experience over the past five years, ever since being “bitten”—that, the softest of bites, that was received during—but only truly noticed just after—the first class I took.
I feel so far from knowing how to respond when it’s my physique (that has, indeed, noticeably changed) that people notice and comment on first. Part of it is the immediate and observable nature of my person, and that recognition is harmless and/or well-meaning. But it is a surface through and through. I have gained much solace and confidence in how to cope with physical pain through physical practice, but “embroiled in a body narcissism” is something I want for no one. More so, it’s something I’d like to dispel.
It’s funny, during the philosophy and history lectures we’d have, I’d often internally be trying to relate the moral and spiritual concepts of various yogic traditions to modern or ancient Western thought, in a comparative fashion, summoning Plato, Marx, Nietzsche, whomever, despite my maybe cursory-at-best understandings of them and their ideas. I did this to help understand esoteric aspects or simply to absorb and orient myself and my beliefs to the new material. It’s funny, to me, not because this approach was irrational, but because like I was using existing beliefs as a defensive mechanism, against change, against vulnerability to my intellect. Part of how I hope I’ve grown is to use less sophistry, to use ideas less as weapons, but instead as nourishment. I think provocative ideas have their place, especially to change minds with force and energy, but not as wielded by me.
I have gone off course, both here and in my life so far! I started this post because the quoted paragraph hit a nerve, in a good way, with what I believe to be a candid & accurate of the current state of how this system of knowledge gets portrayed and used. I’ve maybe posted only a handful of photos of myself in asanas, but if I ever seem like I’m doing it in a misrepresentative fashion, please, tell me. I want to strive to represent yoga and what it’s done—and is doing—for me in an honest way, and I’ll continue trying to do that by: practicing, mispronouncing Sanskrit, asking you to attend classes with me, reading reading reading, breathing “funny,” falling over by doing a hokey pseudo-pose, and by writing long, long posts from time to time.