The Point of Yoga
The misconceptions about yoga – Mysore practice with Peter Samson
The Mysore Style is the traditional way of practicing yoga as it was taught in Mysore, India, by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. The student is taught a sequence of postures through one-on-one instruction which allows each student to practice and learn in his/her own pace.
The yoga-shala is packed with students, several waiting outside for others to leave the room so that they, in their turn, can start their practice. The room is hot with steamy windows and you can hear the sound of ujjaii and the encouraging voice of the teacher, Peter Sanson. It is Mysore practice in Yogashala Stockholm and Peter, one of the most experienced teachers in the Ashtanga lineage, is the guest teacher for the second year. He has studied for over 20 years with Gurji, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and is one of the few in the world to hold an advanced B certificate issued by the Ashtanga Yoga Researched Institute.
When he speaks about how Guriji had the ability to read every student on a deeper level I think that we, all of us in the group, have experienced that Peter also has this remarkable teaching talent. We have practiced each morning for 8 days and Peter has been teaching us in the absolute best way imaginable. Ashtanga Yoga, the practice and the teaching, has become his life mission and it is clear that he loves his students and has a deep understanding of the method.
In recent years he has become very concerned about the problems we are facing with the many misconceptions about the practice. Peter talks about the yoga practice as the most beautiful thing, where we come back to our natural state of being. Unfortunately it has become completely misunderstood and turned to something very ugly in the west. The process of yoga is about coming back to that state but we are far from it being too much caught up with competition and concern about the physical body. Yoga is about moving the energy in the internal channels, the nadis, of the body. This understanding is something that has disappeared in the west, said Peter. We do not use the internal actions in a correct way in yoga anymore. The energy collapses and we get exhausted. The first goal in yoga is to work with the energetic body, to breath and move consciously with the internal work of the bandhas. The nature of the practice is about the cleaning and clearing on an internal level. Everybody is caught up in a misconception about the importance of the perfect pose and about stretching as far as possible. Everybody wants to do more and more and people do not even have a connection with their energetic body. What is the point with doing more if you do not have that connection? What will be the end result, he asks us.
How it was in the beginning
Do the sun salutes to get the energy moving. If it doesn’t come after a good number of sun salutes and you feel tired then you sit down. This was the way he was taught and this is what he recommends. Never force anything in the practice, that will only break you or get you exhausted. In each asana we create a circuit to get the energy moving, we grab the toes or put our head to the knee or ground. We then hold the pose and breath and at that moment we will start to learn something Peter explains. We slowly experience how the energy starts to clear. Staying in the position and working with the circuits is clearing the channels he said. Clearing the physical body is the least of the work we do as the clearing happens mainly on the other levels of the body; the energetic, the emotional, the mental and the spiritual. He thinks that yoga has become a circus, where we are too much concerned about competition and about the physical appearance. What we do on our mats today can not be further from the true yoga. He talks about how people came to Gurujii in Mysore for help with serious conditions in the beginning. Rarely where they young and fit people like today. Most people who came were suffering from serious health problems like scoliosis, recent surgery, heart problems or mental problems. The practice was designed to help in a therapeutic way to heal, strengthen and open the body from the inside out, not the other way around. Then he talks about how to approach the series and he explains that we need to gradually work through it. We first make sure we master the sun salutes and then the standing poses and let it take the time it needs. We need to learn the series step by step, that is crucial or you will miss the point Peter said. If you do not work gradually you will break yourself. We learn how to stay in the pose and we get the clearing. It can be uncomfortable but we need to work it trough, that is the point. We have missed the point when we are rushing through a pose or skipping it altogether just to get to the next one.
Yoga is about overcoming obstacles
Yoga is about dealing with your restrictions and overcoming obstacles, this is what you are learning and your physical body is nothing compared to your mind. Think about how many different excuses it can come up with for not stepping on to the mat at all. If we are ignoring the blocks we meet nothing will be solved but if we focus on the blocks they will start to clear, emotional and mental imprints will dissolve. What is stopping people from clearing the blocks is that they have an agenda in yoga, as well as they have an agenda in everything else they do. They want to accumulate asanas and they want to be on a certain level. This is what we want to move away from; we will instead look at what is right in front of us, right now, right here.
How to approach Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga is a strong practice and we need to focus on it in a step-by-step way according to your specific patterns and imprints. It is irrelevant how your yoga practice looks to other people; it has no relevance what so ever. Everyone has their own journey and we are all different so the practice is unique for each and everyone of us. Sadly people are beating themselves up with this practice, it has become a sort of punishment and we need to step away from that. The ancient practice of Ashtanga Yoga is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Practicing in the proper way, as it is meant to be practiced, is a very powerful way to self realization. NAMASTE Are We Missing The Point Of Yoga? By Catarina Lacayo