One of the requirements of this yoga teacher training program is to read 4 different yoga books, then submit a brief report/reflection on each one. I have finished my first required text: The Heart of Yoga by T.V.K. Desikachar; and what follows is my reflective report. Enjoy! :)
“In reflecting on the whole of T.V.K. Desikachar’s text, The Heart of Yoga, I identified three main themes that I value and appreciate, and that I will work to integrate into my yoga practice. The themes are:
- Meeting people where they are.
- Simplicity in yoga practice.
- Viewing yoga as a whole path (i.e., physical, mental, and spiritual), and remaining open to all expressions of practice of this path.
Meeting people where they are: Desikachar stresses again and again that a safe, effective, beneficial yoga practice must be tailored to the individual; that every yoga student must begin exactly where they are at in this moment, and progress from this point. I appreciate this wonderful flexibility that Desikachar not only offers us, but indeed commands us to accept. As a yoga student, my inclination is to push myself beyond effective (and sometimes even safe) limits, and to grow upset with myself when I perceive I am far from where I “should” be. This first theme of The Heart of Yoga reminds me that where I am is a perfect place to begin; offers me relief from over-striving; and allows me to experience joy in accepting myself exactly as I am right now. Of course I can (and likely will) always work to get better – but while I am improving myself, I can also appreciate myself. These two ideas are not competitive, but rather cooperative.
From a teaching perspective, I’m coming to understand that my (current) personal goal in instruction is to make yoga as accessible and attainable as possible for anyone who wants to learn it. Meeting each person exactly where they are, and giving them “permission” to be fully accepting of that space, feels like a wonderful way to encourage and support each individual to at least inquire about (if not fully investigate) the yoga path.
Simplicity in yoga practice: Desikachar explains that yoga “does not have to be such a profound practice” (p. 117); that indeed, people sometimes want to make yoga concepts, theories, and actions much more complex than they need be. I am quite skilled at making things more difficult than they really are (and than they really should be); and while I am consciously working to let go of this habit, frequent reminders that things really can be simple are welcomed and appreciated. The mindset that yoga can be simple (not necessarily “easy”, but simple) is also another wonderful gift to be able to give a new student who may find yoga intimidating or overwhelming.
Viewing yoga as a whole path: Early in my practice, I thought yoga was all about physical flexibility. Bending myself into twisty poses, feeling new stretches in old muscles, I assumed yoga was a way to help a body remain supple and healthy. Infrequently I heard a teacher chant a round or two of “om”, but I thought that was just some trendy thing to do, just like saying “Namaste” at the end of each class. Only very recently did I become aware that asana practice was simply one part of yoga, and historically a small part at that. Reading Desikachar’s text, I became informed of the deep spiritual and emotional components of yoga – how amazing! And while the final goal of every “classic” yoga path is true liberation, I also appreciate how Desikachar explains and emphasizes that they are many different ways to reach this end result. “All roads lead to Rome”, the saying goes; and I value that Desikachar not only articulates this sentiment, but appears to truly believe it.
As I continue down my own yoga path, I need not worry that I might be following a “wrong” way; as Desikachar affirms in his closing line, “If we really follow one direction in yoga as far as we can go, then it will lead us along all paths of yoga.” (p. 140) Again, this inclusivity is liberating and soothing to me.
As a teacher (and as a human), some days I might become deluded into believing that *my* way, *my* path, is the right/best/true one. But if I hold that perspective, I potentially inhibit people from learning about and benefiting from yoga – which is clearly the exact opposite of my previously stated teaching intention. Remaining open to not only my path, but to all paths, will likely produce the best results for all people – myself included. And interestingly, remaining open to all paths and all people feeds right back into the first theme, of meeting people right where they are. Circular energy is beautiful.”