November 12, 2013

5 Precepts for Non-Serious Yogis.

Namaste, y’all.

Yoga is a huge part of my life. I’ve practiced for 20 years, earned 300 hours of official training and had 12 years of teaching experience.

Long ago, I was a member of Yoga Alliance, but I discontinued my membership because it was of no value to me, especially now since I’m an expat.

Recent articles about the present-day yoga scene have been making me think, Wow… I’m glad I’m not a yoga teacher or practitioner in the United States right now!

A decade ago, I was teaching yoga “full-time” in the San Francisco Bay Area and definitely could not make ends meet on yoga alone. Later, in Austin, I taught yoga part-time in addition to my career as a school teacher.

For the past few years, I’ve witnessed the yoga scene only briefly on visits home. In general, there seem to be more studios and inexperienced teachers all the time, and classes are bigger and bigger, sometimes packing in 60 or more practitioners.

I urge beginners—if not everyone—to seek out small classes where you can get more individualized attention from the instructor.)

I currently teach yoga twice a week, usually to three to five people. The classes are small and intimate, which allows us to follow these five precepts for non-serious yogis:

1. Lighten Up—Laugh More.

I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we, as yoga teachers, shouldn’t preach to our students. I try to incorporate a theme and offer gentle reminders to be mindful, present and compassionate as we practice.

I am mindful about what I say, and I don’t usually say all that much during the class. A few direct alignment cues can get the job done.

I occasionally make jokes or tell brief stories—and I encourage attendees to speak up during practice if they want to say something. It’s not like we’re chatting the whole time, but if someone has a question or wants to request a pose, I’m all for it. Many of the best classes I have taught (and attended) have involved copious amounts of laughter.

2. Honor Your Body—Just Say No.

(That is, unless you want to say yes.)

I always give lots of modifications for the poses. I tell people to go only as far as they are comfortable. To not cross over the discomfort line into pain. Say no to an advanced asana if your body is not ready for it yet.

Say no to sweaty, fast-paced, Type A yoga styles if you don’t feel like doing them on any given day (or ever).

Say no to vacuous New Agey jargon and silly affirmations and visualizations, if they don’t suit you.

Say yes to what your body wants and needs.

3. Don’t Get Wasted. 

Key word: Moderation. (In all things.)

In other words, avoid the excessive ingestion of substances which lead to intoxicated heedlessness. These substances include people, drama, smartphones, and TV as well as drugs and alcohol.

Still. You are a non-serious yogi or yogini. So, by all means, have a beer (or coffee, etc.) or two if it suits your fancy. 

4. Say Kind, Honest, Necessary Things—Don’t Gossip.

Even non-serious yogis should practice mindful speech.

In my third grade classroom hangs a sign that says, “Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K!” Those letters stand for truth, honesty, inspiration, necessity and kindness. It is a continual, lifelong process, but bringing more of these qualities into our speech (and writing) continually makes our communication more mindful.

Also: refrain from talking about others behind their backs. We humans love to gossip but it’s really a mindless and harmful activity.

5. Break the Rules—But Keep Practicing at all Times 

Maybe someday I will be 100 percent decaf, vegan, free of all addictions and the grower of organic vegetables in a backyard garden, but.. I’m not quite there yet.

In the meantime, I do what I can. I meditate and practice yoga regularly—although some days I only squeeze in 15 minutes. And for the access to the teachings and the luxury of being able to practice, I am grateful.

“Serious” or not, yoga is about how it affects your whole life—all the moments—not just the ones spent in formal practice on the mat.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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