Dear Yogis,

We are going to once again examine our yoga classes (taught or learned from). 

There is way of teaching yogis and students that begins from learning the asanas right away with no balancing theory.  No anatomy and physiology, no philosophy..  The theory being that a student will only keep attending class if  they feel like they grasp the physical of  yoga quickly and easily.  That they need no understanding of the foundations. Teachers of this style will say that theory is not necessary.  That their students “don’t like it”.

At first it may seem logical to teach a newbie ONLY the asanas they will need to swing easily through a class.  Why not do this, especially if it seems you can achieve success from this method? Once you rely entirely on the asanas there is no way out.  You can spend your life studying the physical, and you will have learned nothing, and more importantly you will have no appreciation for the value and beauty of the philosophy and theory that lies at the heart of yoga.  For those who only learn asana YOGA BECOMES ABOUT RESULTS – AND PERFECTION.

These students talk about the asana as if this is yoga.  They think they are yogis because they can do the perfect down-dog or whatever.  They focus on what comes easily to them, and ignore the subjects that are harder.

The end result is that you have a student or teacher who refuses to move from asanas.  They look fantastic, they become more and more intense.  Their bodies become leaner, tighter, their lycra more eye-catching, their diets weirder.  They avoid challenges, but eventually life catches up with them.  Their confidence is fragile and rests on the physical.  On this path, faltering is always a crisis and not an opportunity for growth.

Success in this style of teaching is an illusion.  There seems to be a never ending supply of  people wanting to learn asana, and only asana.  For this teacher, there are always more beginners waiting, as those yogis disillusioned with asana which they understand as a fitness regime,  go elsewhere.

The problem here is that if a yoga student (or a ballet dancer or football player) is taught that their self-worth is entirely wrapped up in a perfectly skinny body that is always ready to perform, how can she/he handle injuries or life after they have experienced what will be an inevitably short career?

Those times that are the most difficult, that are most challenging in every respect, are also the opportunities packed with potential.  What will keep you on the path is a love of learning that has its roots in the guidance of a good  (fearless) teacher.

In my career I have seen many people in many fields take the “process first” (asana first) approach.  They turn this into an excuse for never putting skin into the game.  They also may pretend not to care about results.  These people claim to be egoless, to care only about yoga, but really the superficial yoga they do and teach is an excuse to avoid confronting themselves.  The road to understanding is not easy.  The only way to swim is to get into the water.  Growth comes at the point of resistance.  We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.  Let’s dive in.

When you do reach a new level of understanding it will be for you.  There is no euphoria, God will not speak from the heavens, there will be no applause. The world will be the same as it was the day before.  You will still like cooking, playing with your children, and flying a kite.

In this special and faraway land, yoga will happen from the place of pure energy. You will be more YOU.  The concept of “I” will change and you will do yoga (no matter the style) from the point of absolute flow…