Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Most Powerful Alignment Details

I would have to say that by far, the most important details when it comes to alignment in yoga practice, are the yamas and niyamas. Hands down. Without a firm foundation in the yamas and niyamas, it's not going to matter if your leg is straight in Triangle or your sitz bones are even in Dandasana. Granted, you start where you are and if where you are is in a pose it may lead you back to your life and to the yamas and niyamas, however, our culture (and probably not just ours) loves to leave the yamas and niyamas behind like they're some archaic remnant of earlier teachings. Not so.

The yamas and niyamas are so current and so powerful that it's no wonder people shy away from them. When people start practising non-harming and telling the truth and simple things like that, their lives change. And nobody wants to go to a yoga class and have to start changing their lives. We don't want to start being considerate of others or stop stealing office supplies from work. Who wants to be responsible for their own pain and peace of mind? Nobody! We want the government to take care of it or other people or start a new business or find the right partner, maybe even in the next yoga class we go to.

If your yoga teacher doesn't know what the yamas and niyamas are or hasn't had a practice of them that they can tell you about, I'd say you might be in a stretching class. I'm just saying. Because lengthening your hamstrings and relaxing your shoulders really isn't going to make a bit of difference without them.

After being a part of the teacher training for years now, I can confidently say that the most transformational piece that people get is what they see about themselves through the practice of the yamas and niyamas. That's the part of yoga that will blow you away and make you so grateful you were led to the practice in the first place.


anna said...

As a teacher, I actively work with the yamas and niyamas, though I haven't quite gotten the cleanliness Niyama down.

Being a stand-up person with integrity covers so much of it, and I really strive to do that.

So would you say that a teacher who works with them honestly (but has not mastered them by any means) is leading more than a stretching class?

It's very interesting - as a Bikram teacher you are so often literally leading a stretching class, since there is no room at all for any real spiritual talk. I find that sad, but I also know that the philosophy behind that is that further deepening of yogic study and lifestyle comes once you develop a physical asana practice that you attend to with devotion.

Great thought provoking post!

Jamine said...

Thanks for your thoughts Anna. I agree with you - your practice of the yamas and niyamas doesn't have to be perfect - how could it be?

With that said, it just seems it's overlooked in our culture. I know with the Bikram class there's few opportunities to share a wealth of yoga knowledge beyond the dialogue. That doesn't mean that practice is lacking either, but sometimes our teachings aren't increasing awareness but continuing to support a big avoidance.

I'm in the inquiry too, so I really appreciate your comments!

anna said...

Luckily I practice at a studio where the dialogue is seen as nothing but a jumping off point. So we have lots of freedom in that respect. However the class is quite full of asanas to complete. We are able to create an environment with words that encourages honesty and acceptance, being true to oneself rather than gutting things out.

I also enjoy teaching in the worksite as part of a wellness program that has members across Vermont.

In this setting as well, I don't really broach yoga in a spiritual sense. My aim is more to create an environment wherein someone could have a spiritual experience and become curious about that feeling of well-being and relaxation that comes from exploring the body in a safe environment.

Anyway I'm always curious what things would be like if I had more of a setting to talk at the beginning of class about the foundations of yoga - the 90% beyond asana. Thanks for giving me a chance to think about it!

I liked the pic from your afternoon class as well. Looked fun.

anna said...

I linked to you...