With the growth of yoga as an American multi-billion dollar industry, 16 million people in the United States practicing yoga, and the studios filling every corner of every town like Starbucks, clearly ideological and pedagogical differences between teachers will be emphasized as those who want to distinguish themselves teach in a saturated yoga atmosphere – especially in an environment where copyrighting and trademarking can up revenues. For one man to rise, he often comments on the slew of others out there. It’s become like the conflicting studies for any product “Milk is bad for you” one study says. ” A life-saving whole food that might cure the plague, Milk! But only our brand” says another study. I have read article after article in major newspapers, magazines, and journals by recognized yoga teachers and associates who define their “style”, their novelty by cutting down some of the oldest and most unknown traditional masters, who will never retort because the yogi who has been meditating for the healing of the planet for years isn’t interested in style. People ask me how I could offer a studio with different “styles”, doesn’t that dilute the teaching of one particular brand or another? I remind everyone that “yoga teaching” has become proprietary in the last thirty years, though yoga has been around for milenia, one could argue since the beginning of time, not just in India, but in a philosophical sense right here in the United States spoken of amongst the poets and philosophers we all read in school days. (Not to mention that some yoga concepts can be found in certain practices of those who first inhabited this land before Europeans came over).
“There is a certain wisdom of humanity which is common … and which our ordinary education often labors to silence and obstruct. The mind is one; and the best minds who love truth for its own sake, think much less of property in truth (of owning truth). Thankfully they accept it everywhere, and do not label or stamp it with any man’s name, for it is theirs long beforehand. It is theirs from eternity.”
There is no such thing as stealing knowledge, especially when we are talking about knowledge of the Self, of the Oneness of all humanity and every living being, Om.There is no way to steal something or own something that is in essence everywhere and everything. There is no division in the Great Heart of hearts. That is what all of the deepest spiritual teachings in every spiritual and religious traditions say. So why now? Why the styles?
If it were up to me, there would be no name to a yoga style – but it’s not so I label everything to avoid confusion when people call the center looking for a brand. What I am more interested in is authenticity of teachers. Students can feel it, when a teacher is present and aware. However, there are very little words that can describe authenticity. It’s can not be defined by saying what we are NOT or negating someone else. An authentic teacher may truly and deeply honor the lineage of their teachers but there’s more to it than the simple structure of class or the coined phrases. An authentic yoga teacher knows of Oneness and tries to bridge what seems to be divided – shines a light on illusion, sometimes so subtly and repetitively that the student makes the revelation on their own in a wide legged forward bend. My favorite teachers taught me to be patient and persistent, to be humble but have faith in myself. As we get to know ourselves, our tendencies, our preferences, our approach to life, and we refine it to be more compassionate, more loving toward ourselves – suddenly there is less division between us and they man or woman one mat over.
I highly encourage reading about yoga, not in the modern papers only, but good old yoga, “The Yoga Sutras“, for example, but also those great philosophers who believed in Oneness, in order to keep a perspective in these seemingly divisive times.