The practice of yoga was traditionally passed from teacher to student. The teacher moderated the flow of information based on what the student was ready to learn. Today, a 24-hour yoga studio is employing teachers and practitioners around the world to open the floodgates. This studio is called the internet.
The internet is drowning the general population with information about yoga that is flawed, untrue and unearned. Students and seekers of the great truths underlying our existence are flailing amidst the waves of words, images and videos constantly crashing onto their screens.
When it comes to yoga, access to information is not a right. It is a privilege. The teachings must be sought and procured from credible and trustworthy sources over time. The teachings must be earned.
I showed up to my first yoga class to stretch my hamstrings and to strengthen my core. I never would have dipped my bare toes onto that mat if someone had told me that I was about to embark on a transformational voyage, one that would make my life more difficult before it would make it easier. I had not earned the right to know that yet.
I concluded from classes, trainings and books during the following years that yoga would make me happy. If I learned how to do a handstand, confetti would rain from the ceiling and wash away all of my problems as friends and students cheered for me and my achievement.
But, five years into my practice, I was not happy. I was dispirited, lost and confused. Life became a void, with not one drop of confetti on the ground.
When I began practicing 10 years ago, yoga was not as popular, especially among men. Trendy blogs were not glorifying its effects, and social media was not pimping out its most arresting aspects. I was able to stay relatively clean in the information that I was receiving – and I still felt misled and miserable.
Today, inundated yoga consumers are being set up to sink faster and farther. Overfiltering the images that we post is making the process appear easier than it is. Underfiltering our words is propagating irresponsible and inaccurate publications.
It took years of swimming upstream through rough rapids and murky waters for me to earn the right to learn more. It required studying with a teacher who could select the lessons that I was ready for to reach a calmer body of water. It demands daily dedication to remain anchored to its tranquil depths despite the storms that disturb its surface.
Unlike the trend of yoga, the practice of yoga is a systematic approach to understanding how to work with ourselves to develop balance, presence and equanimity. In this sense, it is a science.
Just as in school, we must layer on over time the knowledge required to cultivate these qualities. We must demonstrate continued effort and growth to unlock the deeper knowledge.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is ready, bigger teachers and teachings will appear.
Even after the teacher appears, it does not mean that we have earned the right to know everything. It means that we have earned the right to know what we are ready to know now. When the teacher senses that the student is ready, the lesson will transpire.
The internet proposes that these lessons will make us happy. But they have a tendency to make life more intense and more uncomfortable. Eventually, yoga can unleash the waterfall of joy that exists within you. But first, it might fuck you up.
This vignette is not as flawless as a photo of a radiant yogi doing armless headstand on a cliff at sunset in the latest active couture or as carefree as a fact-free blog post. But it is beautiful, and it is real.
The beauty in my naiveté was that it allowed me to step onto the raft that would carry me to that calmer body of water. The reality in my struggle soaked the truths that were buried in its bed in value.
When we have no idea what lies ahead, we stay open to the information that is meant for us. When we pour time, money, energy and tears into our process, we value the knowledge that they yield.
A serious student and I recently have moved from more structured to more fluid sessions. As he has begun to unfold his own self-knowledge, there is no plan to adhere to, no curriculum to follow, no goal to achieve. All there is, is the patience required to realize the truths that this student is meant to discover.
This can feel aimless and uneasy. But, with less access to the answers, the student can begin to ask his own questions, to find his own answers and, ultimately, to become his own teacher.
The same is true for you. Keep diving for deeper layers of knowledge. Be willing to swim across the spectrum of your practice. Realize that it will take as long as is necessary to discover the truths that are meant for you.
It may take one more moment, or it may take one more lifetime. The realizations that we are searching for will come to us at the exact moment that they are meant to. We will begin to receive them when we have earned the right to know.
What are you ready to know? Only each moment can show you.
Ready for yoga to shake you up? Come and get the teachings that are ready for you.
A Maur Unity collaboration, edited by Maura Bogue