The yogi seeks expansive awareness of self and everything, and while it neither means retreat into a cave or attending every available yoga class or spiritual course, it does imply a life path commitment. In the yoga lore this path is a golden middle way of Union, of All That Is. Such a yoga is less prescriptive, more informative and inspiring, undogmatic, but requires commitment to explore and apply its ancient wisdom to the cutting edge of the present time.
Intensives to understand yoga, Yoga, and self and Self
My interest in yoga is very much in the knowing that the main thing, going on in the background, or upfront, and everywhere inbetween. “It is it”, Yoga Just Is.
To explore the yoga of the background, underlying Everything, yogic on not, must begin with the modern, recent or centuries old, interpretations of the classic Upanishads.
Yoga is a lifestyle choice for many, and has been incorporated in many ways into many mainstream cultures. Lifestyle is however, not the same as Life Path, and while a general awareness of yoga as a practice with deep roots in ancient India exists, and its rituals and mysteries are often apparent in lifestyle yoga practice. This is not the type of yoga of any Yoga as Union intensive.
The yoga of self-realisation is a lesser explored aspect of yoga. Entry into the deeper understanding of the Yoga necessarily includes an understanding of its philosophy, and usually not in a mainstream accessible way. In a busy world of things to do, stuff to acquire, everyday distraction of survival and achievements, an interest in self-understanding is not the default setting of the ordinary world.
Rooted in the roots of yoga with inspiration and insights from our modern times
Reference to yoga metaphysics and indications of what to do, or not to do, provide a yoga practitioner opportunity to connect into a rich source of practical life wisdom with accurate techniques.
● The Upanishads, the oldest printed texts in existence show “yoga” as a philosophy with a metaphysics of meditation and spirituality and its interaction in the bodymind, with the world and universe. The Bhagavad Gita mentions such yoga, not primarily as exercise. The Sutras also acknowledge asana as an integrated part of yoga practice, to prepare the bodymind for meditation. Asana, or meditation, or philosophy, in isolation, is simply not yoga.
● Patanjali is said to have compiled the Yoga Sutras around 400 CE from all known older traditions, an excellent vantage point of “ancient” yoga for the modern times. It outlines a concise consideration of what Yoga and “being yogic” is. It provides concise, specific instruction for yogis.
The Sutras suggests five niyamas or “personal observances” that relate to one’s inner world. This is applicable for anyone committed to yoga in context of its greater spiritual and
philosophical meaning. (Sacha) purity, (Santosh) contentment, (Tapas) self-discipline, training your senses, (Svadhyaya) self-study, inner exploration, (Ishvara Pranidhana) surrender (to God). Any quest for self-realisation has to start from here.
The first of five yamas or “things not to do” is “ahimsa” or non-violence, a quality strived for, in yoga, and life itself. Applied to asana the practical lesson is “safety first”. Don’t hurt your body, or the bodies of others, with ambition or ego, and follow the natural flow of life. The second principle, truthfulness, suggests a way of integrity and transparency, an important ethical orientation.
In a Yoga intensive we perceive “what yoga is” and how it may be experienced, practiced and shared
Training teachers or next level practitioners is to acknowledge that anyone that serious about yoga is on a personal journey to greater wisdom. And that a course is only the tip of the iceberg of the greater practice. There are many checkpoints for a list of qualifications of an authentic yoga practice of understanding, but the following three helps define a solid approach to yoga teaching:
● The techniques of hatha yoga as a “whole yoga” in deep consideration of what the chakra system and the ancient knowledge it holds, when fused with modern holistic and medical scientific research, technology and other advances, as well as innovative therapies, may combine in a whole new understanding of body-mind-spirit wisdom.
● Teach from beyond yoga, from self-realisation – a principle essence of why we practice yoga. To go “beyond” yoga just is to not mistake the technique or anything else in yoga or life as the goal. The “ultimate” in yoga is to constantly explore personal evolution of greater consciousness.
● A personal yoga practice in view of teaching a deeper understanding of yoga must be based in a deep immersion into the essentials of the greater yoga. Such a teacher must walk the talk and be the path, not only look the part, and not present an incomplete, misrepresentation of what yoga is.
Take an advanced yoga training intensive or teacher training with Johann Kotze at his studio in Cape Town.
Please contact me with your enquiries.
Photograph of Johann by Kevin Rack, at a yoga event, Muizenberg, March 2018.
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Additional notes on the wisdom of understanding
Because yoga is a vast discipline it is impossible to learn “all of it” quickly. A solid grasp and firm working knowledge with solid confidence of the basics is always a good place to start. Simple techniques with sound application founded in an understanding of yoga is preferable over a flashy but unholistic practice. Sound basics gets the job done, and prevents clutter and overwhelm in the face of multitude techniques, theories and histories.
Inspire to elevate with simplicity
In Yoga the unfathomable depth of the meaning of life is grounded in solid, common sense life skills. Yoga promotes simple, universal principles and techniques to elevate everyday well-being. While the hidden aspects of yoga may be more for those interested in the yogic goal of self-realisation and a bigger universal picture, it is always rooted in the undeniable fact that our life on the planet happens in the body, and in ordinary, everyday reality.
Any teacher or practitioner or teacher of yoga, beginner or advanced, can only benefit from a deeper understanding of the simple truths of authentic yoga.
● Teach only that which you know well and have mastered yourself
● Strive to be what you teach, else your teaching will have little authority, integrity, may appear shallow or unconvincing
● It is the understanding of the yoga teacher that matters, not only the doing of yoga, rituals, phrases spoken, and image of yoga
● Be who you are, don’t pretend you are more, or less than you are – be humble, and honour yourself, know your current ability and acknowledge your potential
A non-ultimate teaching
Any yoga practice is a personal interpretation or representation of yoga. No one teacher or system is the ultimate authority.
Yoga as a system is meant as a representation of the “greater union” of “all that is”. It is useful to keep an eye on the fact that any wisdom that is imparted via yoga is really an energy – call it prana or chi or consciousness – that comes “comes through one”. No-one, yourself or another, is the ultimate guru.
● Yoga has to be in context of an understanding of the greater yoga for it to be Yoga
● All learning is unique to the learner
● All yoga should be practiced with individual consideration
● Facts should be verified and applied in a personal wisdom
● Wisdom comes when knowledge is throughly understood
Share when you teach, and keep on learning
On a practical point remember that when you teach you are teaching, not doing your own yoga. The focus is on the client or class. And on yourself, honing your teaching skills, not your ego.
Push the envelope within yourself. Make time for more study and innovation, expand, question, research and study. Just keep on learning. And keep on sticking to the basics and basic truths. Be guided by the yoga energy or Prana, life itself, and you will get the job done and grow in your own understanding of yoga.
When we share from our own experience our yoga is authentic.
Photograph: teaching a yoga course for personal trainers at the international ETA institute of sports science.
Yoga for non-yoga modalities
While it is in favour of yoga to have its techniques incorporated into other modalities and disciplines it is also important, not for the sake of preservation, or authenticity, to maintain awareness of its greater holism. Crossover training such as yoga for nurses, for massage or sports and other modalities, cutting edge sports science and integrative medicine is important in that it shares holistic yoga information and bodymind wisdom. But crossover training should also include the bigger yoga understanding, to not dilute the “real message” of yoga teacher training as briefly stated in preceding notes.
Yours in Yoga,
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