Yoga is a form of self-expression. Time on your mat or time spent in meditation is personal. It is time to get to know your body, your idiosyncrasies. It is time to learn about your breath and your thoughts and their patterns. Yoga practice is for you to explore your internal universe and find out what each moment of your practice means to you.
Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like we are losing sight of the importance of personal experience. Yoga is becoming about achieving advanced asana, the right kind of spirituality, following the right gurus. Yoga is being painted into boxes with strict rules about what you should or shouldn’t experience. Dogma insists that there is only one correct way to do things, and if you’re not doing that you’re doing it wrong.
Of course there are rules that we need to follow for safety – in all aspects of yoga but probably most obviously in alignment in asana. Otherwise I consider the ‘rules’ around yoga to be rather suggestions and encouragement to guide you in your practice but not to dictate what your practice should look like.
Do what I say not what I do…
Dogma in yoga is dangerous, not only in the physical sense of forcing our bodies into shapes that we are not ready for or are not built for, but because it can be very exclusive. It is not a comfortable feeling to be told that you are doing something wrong. Unless you are very secure in your practice you might either feel pressured into doing something or walk away from yoga altogether. Neither are particularly fortunate outcomes.
Not to mention how many leaders and gurus in the yoga world, who have created dogma around the practice they teach, have fallen from grace.
What’s your dogma?
Part of my yoga has been to become vegan as I learnt about the aspect of ahimsa – non-harm. I am very connected to my veganism as part of my ahimsa practice – it feels like my true expression of non-harm. That doesn’t mean though, that I think any yogis who are not vegan are not practicing ahimsa. We each find our own truth in every aspect of our practice and hopefully act from there. After all, yoga is about finding flexibility on and and off the mat, not becoming so rigid in your own practice that you leave others no room for theirs.
At the beginning of my journey into veganism though, I thought I had found the key, the way. I wanted everybody to follow and could judge them if they didn’t. None as zealous as a convert.
Don’t buy it…
While it is always important to listen to teachers in class, to learn from their experience and hear their insights, it is even more important to listen to yourself. Recognise when your body is telling you something is not right for you or you need to modify a pose. Listen when your breath tells you you are going to far. Steer clear of any ‘musts’ or ‘shoulds’. There is nothing to say you ‘should’ feel a certain way at any given moment, but learning to tune in to how you DO feel will be your greatest teacher. Knowing yourself intimately requires practice. So find your yoga. Do your yoga. Everyday. Breathe.