The irony of my life in yoga or for that matter, my earlier years in ballet is not wasted on me. Both practices have their foundations built on established traditions, and anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of traditions. The minute I hear someone start to expound the wisdom of the ancients, I can feel my eyes roll back into my head.
I’ve studied Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Paradipika, I’ve read the Bhagavad Gita and B.K.S. Inyengar’s Light on Yoga, along with a countless number of books on yoga positioning, aryurvdic practices and yogic philosophy. What have I learned? That there are a lot of different life styles out there – which isn’t much of a surprise. What surprises me is when I hear someone quote one of the texts word for word like it was the road map for life. Seriously? Can someone honestly tell me that one person, one life style, one culture, one text is one hundred percent correct?
I do appreciate the tone of these volumes and practices, and I appreciate the general messages that they impart, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty day-to-day living, there is no way I am going to start living my life as they did hundreds of years ago. I’m happy I don’t have to live my life as things were sixty years ago when I was born. In the world that I was born into blacks were segregated, gays were beaten and jailed, mental patients were left to rot in hospitals surrounded by high fences and a woman’s worth was tied to the man she married and the children she produced. While there are still countless injustices around the world, my little corner of the globe has improved and for that I am grateful.
One of the older practices of yogic living included elephant stomach cleansing. In the most basic of terms, it involves regurgitation which in my mind is the equivalent the ancient form of bulimia. I’ve unfortunately been around bulimics my entire life (welcome to the world of ballet) and even attempted to become one at one stage of my life (happily I failed) but can you imagine the impact this practice could have on a person suffering from bulimia? To have their self abusive lifestyle expounded in an ancient text? Not everything we read is relevant to our lives and what is good for one person might be deadly for another.
I don’t trust majority decisions. Historically that hasn’t been a wise choice. I honestly don’t have a problem with history’s demonic dictators (Stalin, Idi Amin, etc.). There are deranged and delusional people around us every day. What I do have a problem with is the hundreds of people who supported and ratified these whackos. One delusional person by themselves is an annoyance, one delusional person with a strong man is a problem, one delusional person with an army of supporters is a disaster. The majority choice is not necessarily the right way to go.
So building on my distrust of the majority and the fact that I don’t think anyone is one hundred percent perfect, I tend not to take the directions of teachers, authority figures, etc. as the final word. They are simply presenting an opinion that allows me to understand one facet of a whole. The only teachers and colleagues who have my full attention are those who teach with humility, knowing that what they are imparting is not good for everyone and that what they think today might change tomorrow as they themselves learn more. That’s the way I teach. If what I say works for you – great! If it doesn’t work – ditch it. Maybe remember it because as your life continues to evolve, perhaps it will help you at a different stage of your life…or not. Everyone’s life journey is unique.
With all this skepticism I am still not sure how I am to fit into this tradition based world of yoga, but luckily for me, I have once again landed into the perfect environment – one that embraces a myriad of personalities, including skeptics.
One post note: My only exception to this life of skepticism involves my mother. My mother is always right and I am always wrong. It’s something we’ve agreed upon and it’s the only tradition that I happily follow.