Student - taking responsibilities
Are you a good student? How much responsibility do we take for our yoga practice ? How often do we blame the sources, texts, teachers and input from social media for our practice ?
In the modern yoga world, there is an immense amount of responsibilities on a yoga teacher but the consumer is always right attitude does not serve well in the path of Yoga. If I claim to be a teacher, my job is also to point towards the responsibilities of my students. If we believe Yoga is a practice of self realization ,We need to shift the narrative from Client to Student and Workout to Study.
I do not remember much about my education when I was young but looking at my kids who blame me for pretty much everything unpleasant in their lives, I assume I was that kid too. As an adult, I soon realized, not only am I responsible for my life but also for my practice as a student. I spent lots of time arguing in my head about which of my yoga teacher's method was best in yoga poses as they would slightly differ. Should my stance be shorter in downdog ? is heal to heal a better alignment in triangle pose? What is the exact alignment for my body in general yoga asanas. What does Bramhacharya actually means? What is the best breathing practice while doing postures? Which is the better translation of Bhagavad Gita?
First, I was hesitant to question my teachers as that was novel concept for an Indian students
(we never questioned our teachers growing up) but I also did not know how to frame my questions.As a new student , like a sponge I would gather as much information as I could and believe everything my teachers taught. But as my practice evolved, my curiosity grew which invited too many doubts . The gift of consistent, diligent practice was an immense amount of patience and thirst for clarity. Soon, yoga became path of discovery rather than expecting answers directly from my teachers. Like me, If being a good student is your goal, let me point you toward what the ancient Indian texts say.
Yoga practice is based on discovery not merely beliefs . To be in the path of that discovery, Ancient Indian texts indicate 4 qualities/ 4 practices/ 4 means of salvation as a student.
These means are called Sadhana Chatushtaya - the "four means of salvation" - Viveka, Vairagya, Shad-Sampat and Mumukshutva
These can be broadly translated to objectivity, discrimination, dispassionate practice to attain mental clarity to form a deep commitment for self realization and liberation.
Viveka : Viveka is our ability to recognize what is true and what is untrue, reality vs fiction ,what is impermanent and what is eternal. Viveka is also defined in Patanjali's
Sutra 2.26 : viveka-khyātir aviplavā hāna-upāyaḥ - ignorance can be removed by Uninterrupted discriminative discernment .
It is not only our ability to distinguish between what is red and blue but also recognizing the shades of blue and further refining our perceptions by understanding the stories of our mind by the inputs received by the external world.
2. Vairagya : Viveka further refines and becomes Vairagya. Our ability to see the things as they are, not from our our colored personal perceptions and preferences but what they really stand for. This brings about a certain objectivity and establishes further in clarity.
Vairagya is mentioned by Pantanjali as
Sutra 1.12 abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām tad-nirodhaḥ - Mastery of those (tat) – the activities of the mind – is cultivated through practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagyam).
3. Sampath : With Viveka and Vairagya ( both outwardly bound) in our arsenal, we begin to gather these qualities
a. Shama - Mental tranquility or mindfullness
b. Dama - mindfulness in our everyday activities / control of the senses , behaviors and actions
c. Uparati - mindfulness in choices, desires to attain a sense of contentment
d. Titiksha is the power of endurance and acceptance .
e. Sraddha is intense faith in the practice and study. It is not blind faith but is based on accurate reasoning, evidence and experience.
f. Samadhana is a commitment to that practice alone and not to be distracted by other things, practices or objects.
4. Mumukshutva : is the intense desire to be free or liberation which can be achieved by constant study, contemplation and meditation on that subject.
My personal goal has always been to a good student. Even as a teacher, I strive to be a student. I share what I notice, share my revelations and also my own practice . In the age of google, access to unlimited information , we can only strive to be partners in discovery.