Sit and Listen
I believe that one of the core principles in yoga is to sit and listen. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that the foundation of yoga is simply in sukhasan or cross legged pose. In the ancient text it is stated that once "established on that seat, concentrating the mind on one point, and controlling the activities of the fanciful faculty and the senses, let him practice yoga for self-purification. —The Bhagavad Gita VI:12. The simpleness of our meditation practice is what allows us to be open to hearing and feeling things that are soft, subtle, loud, big, unnerving, uncomfortable and that challenge us. And yet, I often don't see this utilized off of the mat.
I have been making it a point to be more authentic and show up for my own needs. I have worked for years to try and sit and listen to sensations that are informing me of my experience in the world. This is hard. Really fucking hard. Everything in me has tried to resist and break me down. Sometimes it feels so much easier to walk around the world dissociated or compliant but this in the end doesn't serve me. Just showing up to a yoga class lately has felt unbearably difficult. And I am starting to recognize why...
Yoga teachers don't listen. I see yoga teachers coming in with their agenda and not being present or listening to the needs of the student. They are promoting that the teacher knows your needs better than you. It is invalidating and creates more of a shame spiral. The ego that takes place in a yoga studio has played a huge role in why I don't like to practice in a studio anymore.
I had an experience where I reported a need to a teacher of mine and instead of feeling validated and heard, I felt disregarded and made to feel like I don't know how to take care of myself. This is not okay. We all deserve to be heard and seen, ESPECIALLY in a yoga class.
I took a risk stating my needs to this person and every part of me wants to curl up in a ball and pretend like that need didn't exist but I am going to sit and listen to my own self. I am going to take the lessons I have learned and gathered from yoga and I am going to honor and validate my own needs.
How might you state your needs or listen to yourself this week?
One thing that stands out to me as yoga teachers is that we take an oath of “do no harm.” And yet, Ahimsa seems to be missing from modern yoga. Instead we have adapted yoga into a westernized capitalized product that is still running under the pretense of patriarchy, whiteness, thinness, and wealth. When was the last time a person of size was on Yoga Journal? Never. When was a transgender individual represented in Yoga clothing? Never.
This new capitalized form of yoga has been “purchased” and manipulated by the dieting industry and is now under the pretense that yoga will help you lose weight, “love” your body and be happier. But what do we know about diets? That 99.9% of diets DO NOT WORK. That the shame and manipulation of body is in fact creating more harm than good. Therefore, many yoga teachers are in fact teaching shame and harmful practices.
To me, yoga has to be about social justice and inclusivity if we really want to practice Ahimsa. And what we learn from HAES, is a do no harm practice. If this new capitalized version of yoga is actually DOING HARM than why are we still do it? Because we as a culture are desperate to be accepted and to fit in.
HAES is radical. Yoga at one time was radical (that’s a whole other story). Yoga was about creating relationship/union with our body. And HAES principles is exactly that. How can we know ourselves from the inside out? Through recognizing what health is for our own selves, NOT what health is for your yoga teacher or Yoga Journal, but our own individual bodies need.
The only way to be a yoga teacher in my opinion is to practice Ahimsa ALL THE TIME. It means having to sit in our own discomfort, our own privilege and to take off our blinders.