In the NYT, journalist Suketu Metha writes, “In this sense, the greatest teacher of yoga is not Iyengar or Bikram, but Gandhi. “The yogi is not one who sits down to practise breathing exercises,” he wrote in his interpretation of the Gita. “He is one who looks upon all with an equal eye, sees other creatures in himself.” That’s one pose that will truly reduce your stress.”
[This is from a round-up of responses I’m compiling in the Yogawillwreckyourbody-hullabaloo.]
In my quest to catalogue what some of my favorite teachers have to say about the meaning of yoga, in a personal quest to figure it out for myself, I like what Bryan Kest of Santa Monica, CA has to say. I’ve only taken one class with him, but I loved it.
[Aside: My yoga crush further deepened when I found this AMAZING video. His hair is Kenny G incredible. His press to handstand is bad ass. His cut-off acid-wash denim pants make me giggle. The jilty editing is endearing. And the teaching is accessible. What I like about Mr Kest is that he speaks plainly, so as to allow a simpleton like me to understand what he says about the yoga.]
Anyway, from his website, this is what he has to say about yoga and asana:
There is no enlightenment at the end of a pose…It seems to me in a general sense we as a society are enamored with the mystical, mysterious, the unseen and Continue reading
I taught my third group yoga class last week, and boy do I have a lot to learn about teaching. At one point a dude in class asked loudly, in frustration, “What leg should I use?” A few minutes later he said again, “I don’t understand what to do!” I guess I wasn’t providing clear enough instructions. At the same time, an older, overweight woman who was taking yoga for the first time started to walk around fanning herself and saying, “Wooh, I need to rest.”
The rest of the class proceeded without interruption, but I realized how much I take for granted as a seasoned yoga class goer, how much I better I could communicate as a teacher, and how strange the yoga world must seem to an outsider. This is the advice I’d give to a yoga newbie:
1) Find a basics or beginners class. Even if you are an athletic person, and can do demanding things with your body, you don’t know the alignment, or the sequence, or the poses. Find a class for beginners. You’ll benefit so much more, because the teacher will slow the sequence down, explain things more, and create an environment in which you’re less likely to injure yourself. You’d be cocky to go to an advanced level flute class having never played the instrument before even if you were already a maestro on the piano. You’d probably pick up the flute quickly, if you tried, but you still need to learn the basics: how to purse your lips, regulate your breath, and the physical configuration of the notes on the flute itself. Yoga asanas need time and space for learning. Basics doesn’t have to mean “easy” though. Basics classes can be physically challenging, and can even be more so than an “advanced” class–because when you hold poses for a while and with proper alignment, you are using muscles you normally don’t use. This is hard. Which brings me to my next point.
Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield
Who is Prasad Rangnekar? I don’t know. He’s an Indian dude with wisdom to share. I’ve very much enjoyed two of his posts on elephant journal. The latest one (No Clarity, No Direction, No Problem), in particular, speaks to me, as holidays approach, and I have no plan 8 months after quitting my job (yikes). I am in perfectly fine spirits (we’re getting a dog! I have time for yoga, to cook, to sleep!), but boy oh boy do I want to do something. What? how?
Mr. Rangnekar calls this the “Arjuna syndrome”, these moments in our lives when the only thing the brain is filled with is confusion, frustration and dejection. Continue reading