Gone Fishin’

Earlier this month I attended a series of lectures by A.G. and Indra Mohan, both students of the late great TKS Krishnamacharya. These presentations covered yoga practice, philosophy and psychology.

Many of their teachings run counter to what’s offered at most yoga studios. Time and time again the Mohans suggested that asana is not yoga and Westerners, and the Indians who copy them, have fallen into a trap of thinking that they are one and the same.

I see this in myself. I continually struggle with difficult poses because I think I have to in order to have an “advanced” practice. I take too much pride in my Urdhva Dhanurasana because it is accessible to me and heightens my feelings of self worth.

The Mohans suggest we all “think outside the yoga box” we’ve created. They think we should use very simple breathing techniques and easily understood vinyasa sequences (no legs behind the head) to help us inhabit our own bodies. They believe the process of yoga is a “work in” rather than a “work out” and by linking the breath to our movement we can quell the fluctuations of the mind with the goal of finding more happiness and peace. They also say we should be vigilant about our diet…eating for health and adhere to the Yamas and Niyamas.

Since they were here,  I have added many of their techniques to my daily practice.  Next week, I am taking a break from my regular routine to “think outside the yoga box.”  In the summer, on vacation, I can be close to nature and the water and leave my achievement-oriented brain and desire for a buffed body behind.

By simplifying my life, I can reduce my dependence on take-out food, incessant emailing, and the desire to see the latest blockbuster. Without a teacher asking me to take Warrior I or Warrior II in a certain way, I can find my inner teacher who breathes more in line with the earth, the moon, the sun and the heavens.

This year I’ll be going fishing. Not fishing for trout or bass but fishing for answers on how to further my own practice and how to communicate what I observe in my body, breath and mind to others when I am teaching so that their experience of yoga can enrich their lives like my practice has enriched mine.

Simple goals, but not so easy to do.

–Brette Popper, Brette teaches at Yoga Union and UWS Yoga.

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