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Did you read the title of this essay and hope I’d tell you exactly what to do and when to do it? Many people do - it’s the way we’ve been trained to learn since we were children. “Tell me what to do and when it’s due.” Sound familiar?
The ancient sages who first studied yoga were clear about the need for an individualized approach to the practice. Teachers undertook students carefully and worked with them individually for many years. The phenomena of group classes and certifications were a rarity until Western cultures spread their tentacles into the East. Let’s learn from the accumulated wisdom of this ancient path - there’s no one way to practice, as there’s no one kind of person! Let’s examine the four components I believe contribute to learning yoga:
Daily practice is the cornerstone upon which the entire endeavor is built. Without some sort of practice, whether 3 minutes or two hours per day, the benefits of yoga are transient. On a physical level, it’s vital that we remain consistent with the practice, if for no other reason than to accumulate the gains of core strength and flexibility. On the emotional plane, daily practice gives us a reservoir of calm and stability with which to face the vagarities of life. In the spirit realm, daily practice gives us a simple, daily ritual in which to recognize the subtler aspects of ourselves - those parts that tend to get damped in the haste of daily living.
Weekly classes allow us to share this dynamic practice with a group of like-minded people. The group class gives us feedback on what we’ve done and ideas to inspire the coming week’s practice sessions. “The whole exceeds the sum of its parts” aptly describes the class situation. The sounds of our breath, unified concentration and summing of our vibrations through chanting create a powerful and inspiring springboard into our daily practice.
Monthly individual instruction is where the bulk of the learning occurs. Since we come to yoga with our own unique history, constitution and learning style, it’s vital that we honor those differences. The individual session allows us to modify the practice to better match your needs/abilities, answer all the questions that arise through practice and suggest techniques to strengthen your weak links. When your practice is based on recognizing and accepting your individuality, it’s like turning the volume knob to 11!
Period retreats give us an opportunity to turn our attention entirely toward practice. Whether for a weekend or weeks, practicing without the phone ringing, without partner/kids demanding your time, nor even having to worry about meals is a tonic! We return from these with body/mind/spirit rested and invigorated so we can more fully provide for the very things we “retreated” from. It’s not a luxury to regenerate - it allows us to give more fully!
This subject is open to an enormous amount of interpretation! There are a myriad of yoga techniques to choose from with scores of teachers within each style. Your answer to this question becomes largely a matter of preference. Whatever form of yoga speaks most compellingly to you, there are a number of common elements within the various explorations of Hatha Yoga. Several books stand out in their clear and concise treatment of these techniques:
Scott Anderson brings Master energy through when he teaches yoga. He combines
that energy with his extensive knowledge of anatomy and a sense of humor. As
a result his sessions are energizing rather than exhausting or depleting. He
is one of the best body readers I know. His attention to strengthening physical
bodies is for the physical bodies in front of him, not an ideal in his head.
The physical work is just one aspect of the yoga Scott practices. He treats the person