The other day I was approached by a new student of mine who asked the following:
I have gone to different Yoga classes and sometimes I hear one thing from one teacher and another from a different teacher. With conflicting information, how am I to know which one to follow?
I smiled and told her that was a great and incredibly important question. The answer is that you should listen to all of them, but you shouldn´t follow any of them.
Let me clarify. You should only listen to those that YOU feel in tune with. Yoga is about YOU becoming your own Expert. Yoga is not about following someone else’s idea of perfection nor is it about creating factions and divides based upon one guru’s teachings or another’s. The beauty of Hatha Yoga is that it is trying to teach and get each individual to recognize what their soul, through the medium of their body and breath, is trying to manifest.
Finding a good Yoga teacher is extremely important as you pursue the art of Yoga, but your teacher is not God. God (Shakti, the Universe the great I AM…etc) is essentially within you and you should be listening to whatever that voice, that pain, that emotion, is telling you. Any good yoga teacher should know this and teach this principle.
If you want someone telling you what to do, go to a doctor. If you want to be autonomous and responsible for your own well-being and health, listen to yourself. Follow a practice that encourages this relationship with yourself. This does not mean that you can’t seek advice and guidance from other ‘experts’ but at the end of day, the only ‘expert’ advice that really matters is your own.
So take in what the teachers, the guru’s the professors, the doctors and swami’s all have to say. Search these things out in your heart, your mind and bring them into your body. How does it feel to believe or do X,Y and Z? Allow your breath to guide the decision and pay attention to what your belly says, how quickly or how slowly your breath responds to a thought. Pay attention to your body in a posture. Does it feel like the posture is opening your body or closing it? If it is the latter, go more slowly, pay closer attention and find out why. Inform your teacher. There may be an alternate posture or some props to help you out. Let yourself become accustomed to the change you are bringing a about. Explore different forms of Yoga, explore different religions and thought patterns. We are here not to ‘get it right’ but rather to experience and enjoy the gift of life. This is all the more intensified if we can learn and listen to the language and words our spirit, that energy at the core of all creation, is telling us.
So breath. Stretch. Find your balance and pay attention to what is going on inside. Find a teacher and teachings that encourage you to do this. If you can do this than the difference in teaching and philosophy you find will not matter as you will be the expert of your own mind and body. There are many people in the world who claim to be experts in one area or another, myself included, but this is all bullocks at the end of the day as the only expert that truly matters is yourself.