Thursday, June 10, 2010

yoga rant

Since last fall, I've been co-teaching a pranayama/meditation/dharma discussion group on the first Sunday of every month. We started out strong with about a half dozen participants, but quickly the number dropped, and this month no one showed up. My ego wasn't bruised much (I wasn't really expecting anyone to show up, based on the great weather and the low turn out in recent months), but the more I think about this, the more frustrating it is. I also teach moderate and "advanced" yoga classes. The moderate classes are definitely the big sellers, but there are always students in the advanced classes as well, so clearly there is local interest in advanced yoga practice. And what is more advanced than moving past asana practice and working on the other seven limbs? Where are my "advanced" students on Sunday night, when we're doing the real advanced work? Everyone wants to look good flopping around on a sticky mat, but no one wants to sit still and work. It's a lot easier (I know this from my own experience) to be driven to work hard physically by an external task-master (the teacher) than to have to sit and deal with your own insatiable internal task-master (the mind). So I understand why no one shows up for our first Sunday sits, but it frustrates me anyway.

I'm going to be teaching classes this Sunday morning. I'm mulling over my options for the "advanced" class. Option one: business as usual. Option two: work on pranayam and sitting for 75 minutes. Option three: start by asking everyone, one by one, what "advanced" yoga practice means. Option four: tell everyone to roll up their mats at the beginning of class, put their shoes back on, and go outside to pick up litter from the street while contemplating saucha. Probably I'll stifle my frustration and go with option one. I can't force my students to do advanced practice. But neither can I stop being bugged by the fact that what we're calling advanced practice really doesn't amount to much more than calisthenics with Sanskrit names.