Yoga beyond Instant Gratification
We are blessed to be living in an age where we have access to knowledge on our fingertips. There is an abundance of information available on techniques, teachers, and trainings to aid one’s personal growth.
Over the past few decades, there has been a significant rise in the awareness of various spiritual practices and paths. We are now witnessing a growing wave of spiritual teachers, gurus, healers, retreats, courses, and more.
This is good for the collective consciousness as we shift from ignorance to wisdom, from inertia to growth, from darkness to light.
But, in this transition, one is bound to oversee pitfalls and fall prey to the gimmicks, shortcuts, and false notions of spirituality.
The commercialisation aspect of any industry is helpful to bring more people on-board. Word of mouth along with flashy marketing certainly helps in spreading awareness.
But, this is often at the cost of dilution of the quality and essence of values, beliefs, and teachings. The demand for authentic sources of wisdom has become the need of the hour.
It’s all about the Body
It is great to witness so many people finding refuge in Yogic practices. A lot of Yoga enthusiasts are stepping onto the mat, even if it means for physical health and aesthetics in the initial phases - until the realisation dawns there is more to Yoga than sweating and stretching.
The trick behind intelligent marketing is that it taps into our core needs and desires, portrays a beautiful result, highlights the benefits, and guarantees that in the shortest duration possible.
So, a bendy body, glowing skin, toned abs are certainly more fashionable and tangible benefits of a Yogasana practice.
Now, who is to blame if most people are gravitating towards the physical aspect only?
Is it our insecurity, fear of missing out, fixation with the body, or constant pressure to keep up with the latest fads?
Or can we blame the businesses behind these marketing campaigns, yoga studios who fall under the pressure to sustain competition, or modern society which is all about faster-stronger-better?
I believe it is a combination of all - consumer’s desire, business goals, and social stigma.
But Hey! I am Certified
The shortcut approach is not limited to the body only. Even the academic aspect to these disciplines has become a booming industry.
Most of the Yoga teacher training courses are 30-40 days long and culminate with an internationally recognised certification.
There is surely a need for standardisation when it comes to the ever increasing number of Yoga teachers across the globe today. But, this has also become what most aspirants are chasing - the persona and certification of a Yoga teacher.
Chasing one certification to another, the Yoga industry has also become a rat race where most people are trying hard to keep up, find their identity amidst the noise, and at times compromise values to sustain financially.
Again, who is to blame here? It might be easy to find faults in the system and convince ourselves that everybody else is doing the same. But, it also seems to be our lack of discernment and clarity of core values.
I acknowledge that I have been a part of this process in certifying teachers, while doing my best to adhere to the essence of ancient wisdom with integrity. But, one cannot deny the fact that we are all part of a larger system which might be beyond our influence.
However, we have the choice to impact change in the most authentic manner we can.
It is sad but true that Yoga has become a shortcut, an instant gratification, a mere stress buster. Perhaps that is what humanity needs at the moment - to relax, be healthy and calm.
But, if you have experienced the magic of Yoga beyond the poses and techniques - I implore you to dig deep and see how you can practice or teach Yoga beyond the mat.
The certificates and shortcuts might work in the professional realm, but they have no value while you are on the mat.
The modern mind is agitated and constantly chasing something. The remedy for the same is hidden in our ancient scriptures.
In the Yoga Sutras, a treasure of wisdom on the human mind, Sage Patanjali offers an antidote to overcoming obstacles and achieving the state of Yoga or inner peace - Eka Tattva Abhyasa.
तत्प्रतिषेधार्थमेकतत्त्वाभ्यासः॥३२॥ tat-pratisedha-artham-eka-tattva-abhyasah (YS 1.32)
"The obstacles and their symptoms can be reduced or prevented by practicing and focusing on one method, technique, or essence."
An agitated mind is full of conflict and doubt. Hence, one may be running around in circles searching for the next high with experiences and achievements.
Most practitioners are following the whims and fancies of the mind, seeking novelty with techniques, jumping from one teacher to another, hoarding knowledge without integration, chasing the surface-level value of certifications, and constantly tweaking the approach and direction 'to keep things fresh'.
But, if we had to use the analogy of digging a hole to find water - would you dig 50 holes which are 1 foot deep each? Or would you dig one hole which is 50 feet deep?
I believe the latter would be the approach most people would resort to.
The same principle applies with Yoga. The mind will always crave novelty and variety. But, can you stick to only one practice, path, and source? Even on days when the practice seems boring and the mind saturated.
Rather than confusing the body with so many styles of asana, confusing the nervous system with a myriad of healing modalities, confusing the mind with various symbols and archetypes - sticking to one practice for a long time with faith and sincerity will help experience the true benefits.
The intellectual mind might argue that one should see everything as a teacher and learn from different sources to expand awareness. This is certainly true that we should be receptive to every experience, good and bad, for it is teaching us a lesson.
But, the scriptures and masters have recommended sticking to one source because they have realised the lower and higher nature of the mind.
On the surface level, it might seem lucrative to keep running behind the next best teacher, technique, and path.
But, the seeking and running has to come to a halt sometime when we have found a source that resonates with our deepest intention. We can then find the peace within that we are all searching.
In modern life, we are constantly moving on from one experience to another - be it with professional careers, romantic relationships, or life trajectory.
Imagine the inner strength we can cultivate when we persevere the challenges of the mind on the mat, and the challenges of life outside the mat.
This leads to strengthening inherent qualities such as patience, faith, commitment and devotion when we stick to one essence, one source, one path.
Yoga, in its truest essence, is beyond the techniques and practices. They can often become a means of stroking the ego in terms of physical prowess or psychic experiences.
Yoga is also beyond the instant gratification, shortcuts, obsessions, labels, certificates, and accolades.
Yoga happens when we cultivate the virtues and values through practice, which become a part of our expression and positively impacts our experiences in everyday life.
On the spiritual path, a simple approach helps in the long run. Less is more indeed. Above all, a calm mind becomes an instrument of peace.
“When the mind becomes quiet and peaceful, and there are less conflicts, then you can clearly see into the affairs of life. So first attain peace of mind and balance within yourself, then try to settle matters.” - Swami Satyananda Saraswati