Last week I lectured to my yoga class about the different paths of yoga practice. All seven had the same outcome: to reach enlightenment and oneness with the Divine. Each path takes a slightly different approach to how to practice and six of the seven intersect in Raja yoga which is considered the most complete or “royal” path. This is the one that contains the 8 limbs that I have been studying in the Gates book and most often refer to in my practice.
However, it occurred to me over the weekend that of late I have been spending more time on Jnana yoga (the path via knowledge and study). I have a lot of questions in life, I guess that’s another way of saying that I’m a human. And recently the questions I’ve had have been about my own life, but also how to practice yoga better. How to be a better me and a better yogi. I’ve been reading different books this summer on yoga (May, July, and currently started The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation and Commentary by Georg Feurstein) to further my education and constantly thinking about what my future entails.
The other night while preparing for my lecture I thought about how I’d really like to advance my yoga training. To do this I have to choose one of three routes. I either need to find a physical discipline of yoga that I want to adhere to and submit to a training that costs thousands of dollars and a good chunk of time away from my family to complete. Or, I can choose to get a second master’s degree in order to label myself as a yoga therapist (see a really great opinion on this topic by Leslie Kaminoff here). Finally, I could just take a purist approach to yogi and find a guru to follow and devote my life to the study. I kind of choose the latter option with a tinge of the second and maybe someday concede to the first.
This leads me to believe that I have not come anywhere close to reaching enlightenment as I feel like I’m still needing to learn so much. Perhaps I’ll never feel complete in that sense. The eternal student if you will. I want to continue to study on my own, but welcome feedback and insights from others. If you want to sign on to be my pseudo guru, please, I welcome your knowledge. I also believe, unlike Kaminoff, that there needs to be some standardization in teaching yoga in the fitness setting. There is way too much liability out there in practicing yoga without a safety net (see W. Broad’s book here).
The bottom line is this. I’ve heard a lot of people say that yoga is just not for them and really, I was there 10 years ago before I started my journey. The journey has been slow and has taken many turns. It has started as purely a physical practice (the Hatha path) and has evolved as I have grown as a person. It has been there for me through many challenges in my life and helped me celebrate when I’m up. I encourage you to give it a try and to seek out as much information on the practice as you can. Yoga can be life changing and is changing mine every day. I would love to be there with you when your life is changed and I would love for you to share your insights into how to better mine. Gates says in his Day 17 reading regarding yoga, “This is not a test, and you will not be found lacking.” (p.23) In yoga you are you, you can be whole, you are not judged, you are welcomed and loved.