Recently in our advanced yoga teacher training, I was trying to convey the idea that we need to be careful about how we use the word yoga. More often than not, when Americans say the word yoga they really mean asana. Asana is the physical practice; yoga is the spiritual practice. Asana makes our body stronger and more flexible; yoga gives us a connection to the Divine. It is true that asana is part of yoga, but it is only a tiny part. There are zillions of “yoga teachers” out there, but many of them would more correctly be called “asana teachers,” as they are simply teaching postures and not anything about the greater teachings of yoga. Yoga is a much broader practice than just asana, and to limit it to asana is to misrepresent it.
In fact, I often say that the more I learn about yoga, the less I know. When I first began the practice it seemed to me that the practice was a physical one that happened to help calm the mind. When I decided to learn more about it, I realized that it is much larger than that. I saw how the knowledge I had about the full scope of the practice was minuscule. Every time I learned one more piece of information about yoga, it became apparent to me that I could spend my whole life studying that one thing and never know it all – and that there are endless aspects of it!
The more I learn about Yoga, Ayurveda, Vedanta, Tantra and Jyotish, the more excited I get about their practices and the less interested I am in focusing on asana in my personal sadhana and to some extent, my teaching. There is a whole new world of knowledge available to us, but if all we do is focus on the physical practice, we won’t see it. There are so many ways of connecting to the Divine within us and around us, and it thrills me to learn more about them.
My vision is to create a group of people who are as excited as I am about going beyond the physical practice and learning about some of the more esoteric teachings of Yoga. It is from this intention that I have begun offering a new class at the studio called The Secrets of Yoga. Rather than simply being another asana class, it will instead be discussion-based. We will meet on a monthly basis, and each class will have a new topic – anything within the realm of yoga. Each time will serve as an introduction to a new idea or practice, and my hope is that it will be inspiration for further self-study and sadhana for the students. In my mind, this is what it means to be a yoga teacher in the truest sense of the word.