Home' Nova West : May 2010 Contents In the Footsteps of
Once you choose your yoga path, follow the example others have set with true
commitment, says Chandrika Gibson.
© NOVA MAY 2010
The precise positioning of the
feet is crucial to the proper
alignment of the body in any
yoga asana, especially standing
postures where the feet are the sole
foundation of the pose. Like any structure,
the potential to reach up into the sky is
determined by the strength and stability
provided by the foundations.
Paying mindful attention to the
feeling of bare feet on the rubber mat
is an important exercise in awareness,
which helps to draw the attention in
from the normally outward focused sense
organs. Paying attention to the feet and
the sensations within them brings subtle
awareness to the many small muscles at
work to keep you balanced and upright.
The messages from the proprioreceptors
of the feet and legs are entering and
exiting the brain through the nervous
system and making constant tiny
adjustments. What seems at first to be
standing still is actually a dynamic and
fascinating process of alignment.
In standing poses the feet may
be together or apart, symmetrical or
asymmetrical. Whether it is virabhadrasana
1 or 2 (warrior poses), trikonasana
(triangle) or simple tadasana (basic
standing posture), the rest of the
form is dependant on the feet. A small
adjustment to the feet can bring the
feeling of groundedness, firmness and
a stable base, which is the definition of
asana. With the legs and feet secure, the
upper torso and arms can reach up or
twist with relative ease.
This unification of apparent dualities
is a crucial part of yoga; the balancing
between lower and higher dimensions,
between our mundane reality and the
supra-mental or higher spiritual reality.
The purpose of yoga can be manifold -- to
improve the health and firmness of the
physical vehicle and simultaneously to
prepare the mind for the bliss of cosmic
oneness. The ancient yogis taught, as
modern teachers do, that firm foundations
are essential for sustainable growth.
So what then constitutes a firm
foundation for spiritual evolution? It
may depend on what lineage you are
talking about. Some modern yoga paths
emphasise the physical practice as the
foundation for inner growth and outer
transformation. This suits some people
extremely well. Through the tapas
or discipline of a consistent physical
practice, mental neuroses are "burnt up"
in the heat of self discipline. The body
is detoxified and becomes strong and
supple. The nervous system learns to
work hard and relax appropriately. This
lays a solid foundation for the higher
practices such as pranayama and
meditation. As the practitioner of a
physically disciplined path of yoga
progresses, the techniques become
refined as the physical body and mental
consciousness becomes ready for it. The
proper use of such a systemised approach
requires at least some supervision. It is
difficult to learn in isolation and potentially
dangerous to self assess and push too
quickly ahead. The need is clear -- a
teacher is required.
Yoga has traditionally been passed
on this way, from teacher to student
in a personalised way. Even when the
techniques are structured, the pacing
of development can be catered to the
individual student's needs and abilities.
When problems or obstacles arise, this
trusting relationship is well equipped
to handle them. Depending on the
proximity of student to teacher, lessons
can be delivered regularly or with greater
distance if the student practises diligently
away from the teacher with intermittent
reviews. This is the system as it has
Yet, increasingly, Westernised yoga
is not like this. Now there are so many
teacher training courses available that
students quickly become qualified to teach
and then go off to teach others without
a sustained link to a lineage. This creates
a weaker foundation than the traditional
way. It means that teachers may be handing
on incorrect techniques or misrepresenting
their teachers' instructions as they are not
in close contact with them once qualified.
It can be seen to be a positive thing, a way
for yoga to evolve rapidly and for students
to develop confidence in their ability
to teach without supervision. Certainly,
there is also an established history of self
taught masters in yoga.
continued Page 24
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