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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finding the Teacher Within

Were you tired, did you lose concentration, were you dizzy?

Knowing you had problems confirms this - you do need to start studying yoga.

I want to emphasize that you suggested it, not me. In yoga this voice is called 'The Teacher Within". We all have that teacher inside us. A good class will teach you to bow to the teacher within. That teacher is everywhere; from it one can learn anything. As long as you agree that the teacher within you is your master, I can serve as a guide.

Now I'd like to say I'd have been extremely surprised if you said you counted your breath for four hours with any degree of success. That was an extremely difficult assignment, but I meant to gauge your level of fitness and concentration by your reaction. A kind of test. There's no pass or fail in such a test. It just saved us a lot of time! And you yourself proposed the next course of action. Top marks.

You will have to work to try and find a good yoga teacher. It may not be easy.

You want a yoga class that emphasizes the breath, and correct alignment, and posture. I cannot emphasize these two things enough. Unless there is careful attention to alignment, you could waste years of work. Such a beginner's class may seem ridiculously easy, and there may seem like too much talk about how to hold the back, or the neck, or the shoulders. This is good. Remember anything you learn in class is meant for you to practice at home.

Also the teacher will have you work on transitioning from one pose to the next. If she or he does that with an economy of words, so there is a calm pervading the whole class, that is good.

Look carefully at how serious the other students are. How focused. This is also important. Study where students are serious about studying, not necessarily where students exhibit talent.

The breath is the most important. A good yoga class will teach you several different kinds of breathing exercise, and will strongly emphasize the integration of the breath with each and every pose that you do.

Take classes once or twice a week, and work at least three other days at home, alone, calmly. At least try to!!

Vinyasa, or movement between poses, is good, so long as it is relaxed and not hurried. There should be a ballet like grace about the whole experience. You should go home relaxed and feeling wonderful, not stressed out like after a step-cardio.

Good yoga can be tiring, you can be winded, and you can and will break out in sweat sometimes, but more than anything you should have huge energy after the class, and not be at all injured. Sore sometimes, yes, but never injured.

Find out where your yoga teacher studied. This is only so you know your teacher. He or she may have learned from the Teacher Within.

This means also that relaxation should be used as a technique. Savansana (corpse pose) is essential. The teacher should not rush 'final relaxation'. If relaxation is used several times during the class, even better.

Downward dog, one of the basic poses in teaching hatha yoga, should be very carefully taught, and you should do it a LOT!

Briefly, if it is a good introduction, you will be schooled very carefully in basics. It is a class, and you are meant to try to do the same work at home. In fact the real work is there, at home, doing your own practice, working with the teacher within.

So, study hatha yoga. Study the breath. Practice what you've learned and do it alone. I know this is hard. But try. Remember there is a huge difference between trying a thing with discipline . . . and not trying. Trying starts the learning.

Gaining control over the breath, and learning the power of the breath is key. It the place where our study of tantra diverges from yoga. Paradoxically you need the strength and calm of mind, and focus of breath from yoga, to undertake tantra. . . but they are different courses of study.

Tantra is a craft for learning divine love. It too has many approaches. Chanting, diagrams, mathematics, geometry, rituals, these all are as powerful as working with another person. Chanting, and yantras (diagrams of divine energy) are ritual behaviors that bring us to the realization that divine energy is crystalline . . . pure, and universally symmetrical . . .

Yoga has this recognition built into it also. A well taught yoga class emphasizes the left as much as the right, the up as much as the down. . . the difficult as much as the easy.

Symmetry is divine!

"What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" William Blake,

Yoga seems like a physical undertaking, but at the core it is not. Also realize that hatha yoga, is only an introduction to yoga. The primary teachings go much further than the physical. Be an open minded student, especially if there are things in the class you differ with, such as chanting in Sanskrit.

Anything that freaks you out is likely to offer the most good for you, especially, if you can do them without judgment.

Note things, don't judge them. You may find some of it very difficult, or daunting. Try. Always listen to the teacher within. Never force your body beyond the warning point of pain, but by the same guidance, be willing to go to that point, or near it. That is where the breath works its miracle.

Your meditation sounds positive, but I have no idea of where you are with your practice or with the breath or with calming the mind. . . or other aspects of what is taught.

Yoga will keep you busy for many many years, your whole life hopefully. Do it sincerely. Do it humbly. Practice at home. At core it is a spiritual undertaking. One of the benefits is much improved health, and happiness.

Go to it.

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