As I travel along my spiritual and yogic path, I continue to meet a lot of interesting and enlightening people. I have been blessed by many opportunities to study with great teachers and have enjoyed a number of profound ‘aha’ moments, in which my mind and my heart have been cranked open wide, making space for an even wider perspective on life, spirituality and yoga.
Recently, I was exposed to a new and mind blowing understanding of the origins of the yoga practice and traditions while attending the Race and Yoga conference at the University of California, Berkeley. It was here that I learned of the many paths and origins of the yoga practice and came to realize how little we truly know about the evolution of this tradition and the cultures and people who conceived and nurtured it.
There is a profound energy within this practice, which we as practitioners and teachers inevitably plug into and embody.~ Dianne Bondy
Connecting with so many scholars on the subject of yoga helps to shed light on the varied and complex paths one must consider when exploring where and how the philosophies, practices and applications of yoga originated. The cultures and people attached to this practice have imparted their own ancient wisdoms and ways of life.
Despite the many paths, their mysteries and their complexities, when we truly open our minds to the idea of supreme consciousness, we discover that all things are possible – and in the end, all things are one.
The Dangers of "True Yoga"
I believe it is important to be open to different ideas, cultures and ways of life. On my path to becoming a yoga teacher, I had a wonderful experience with Anusara Yoga (at least it started out that way).
For me, Anusara was a heart-centered love affair with yoga. At the height of its popularity, I was enticed by the philosophies of the practice, the unique approach to alignment and the charismatic teachers that conveyed these messages to the masses. However, as I continued to immerse myself in the Anusara practice, I caught myself developing a self-righteous streak.
I started to believe that this yoga was the only “true yoga” and any other approach or tradition was less important. Anusara teachers are taught to believe that they are the best yoga teachers in the world – a title that they are proud to assume. I took this sentiment too far…all the way to self-righteousness.
I didn’t recognize this streak within myself until the scandal and the ultimate collapse of the entire Anusara community.
Breaking Free of Self-Righteousness
The collapse set me free from the limited beliefs I had come to adopt and from this freedom, I was able to figure out my own path to yoga. I stepped further away from the confines of trademarked systems of yoga and was able to start exploring my own understanding of yoga’s teachings and traditions. I began to see how self-righteous I had become and I began to notice that same streak of self-righteousness in the teachers around me.
Teachers who had come from different backgrounds, lineages and traditions, had become so entitled with their knowledge of yoga that it was spoiling the experience for their students and the community at large.
These teachers were so full of themselves and their lineages to yoga, that they had forgotten about the messages being sent to their students. Collectively, this was creating an exclusive club that few people could belong too.
Seeking Connections Through Yoga
Our practice of yoga is a mirror that reflects our world and our beliefs. In my constant practice of self-study, I am always checking and examining my beliefs, opinions, and emotional connections.
Do I belong in the group of individuals creating a hostile and negative space in which yoga isn’t free to grow, evolve and flourish? Am I pushing my values and feelings of superiority on others? If so, do I have a right to do this? The answer to all of these questions must always be a resounding “NO.”
Our practice of yoga is a mirror that reflects our world and our beliefs.~Dianne Bondy
As human beings, we are naturally seeking a connection with others, and sometimes, the approval and acceptance of the group. We want to be validated for our beliefs. We are so passionate about sharing our knowledge, that it can sometimes come at the expense of others.
We have become so entrenched in our personal experiences and beliefs of yoga that we have forgotten that others have had similar, equal, and equitable personal life experiences related to the practices and philosophies of yoga. These experiences have great value in the organic evolution of the yoga practice as it relates to the individual practitioner.
Many Paths, One Goal
One student’s yoga practice could possibly help others in their own practice as well. Our understanding or trainings as individuals have merit and power. Yet, if we continue to forget and minimize each other’s individual experiences, journeys and stories, we limit the growth of the experience of yoga.
We create an exclusive club of yoga rather than a one-to-one relationship and a personal connection.
Yoga, in all its many diverse lineages and adaptations, is a part of the collective known as supreme consciousness. There are a set of universal truths in our experience of humanity and we must remember that all experiences are valid.
We must understand that there are as many paths to asana and the traditions of yoga, as there are paths to living a life of awareness.~Dianne Bondy
There are many ways to do things, to embody things and to experience things. When we don’t truly examine ourselves, we create a sense of privilege and entitlement that allows teachers to become critical and hostile of other experiences of yoga.
A Worldwide Lineage
I see this in the denial of the multiple origins and influences in yoga. Every ancient culture has a spiritual practice. Some of these cultures are outside of the Indian or South Asian perspective, and they contribute greatly to the modern day yoga that we are experiencing around the world today.
It is evident when we see illustrations of yoga in the tombs of the Kemetic people of Africa and in the practices of South American cultures. It is important to honour the South Asian traditions of yoga, while also remembering to honour the other influences that shape yoga as well.
We must be humble and remember that we don’t know everything, and therefore, it is unfair to dismiss the experiences and wisdom of others in favor of our own superiority. When we do this, we limit ourselves and each other.
The practice of yoga is about following the path of your own heart, discovering your own truth, honouring your own soul, as well as shaping conscious, lifting the world upwards and connecting to the Divine spirit.
When we are being critical and self-righteous, we are not serving humanity. It is when we are humble, open and inquisitive, that we serve the greatest good through our practice and experience of yoga.