Yoga is only yoga, so long as it is yours. So long as it brings you to a deeper understanding of yourself. A good teacher will tell you not to idealize or imitate him; to learn his methods and then over time make it yours. A good teacher will show you the way toward yourself, not to being codependent on their wisdom and expertise.
Your yoga practice is your own. It's not about idealizing, fantasizing, or romanticizing the practice of another teacher. Stay on your own path. Half the work is staying true to ourselves, in spite of the distraction of the spiritual marketplace around us. Be in your body, in your mind, in your heart––and care for yourself wisely. Be self-assured that you are as brilliant and magnificant as anyone else, and that your journey is equally worthy of love. Know that yours is a story worth telling. Believe in your yoga. A good teacher will tell you that.
A mature teacher will tell you to be clear about the authenticity of your path. You are one of a kind. Your life experiences, your childhood, your family karmas, your physical needs, your nutritional needs, your emotional needs––everything you need to stay alive and in balance is original, and as unique as the fingerprints on your fingers.
You are like no one who has ever lived. I know we are not Hindu gods or goddesses. Unless you were born Hindu, you are not Hindu. You can't self actualize by trying to be the Buddha, or Krishna, or Jesus, for that matter. Not even I, in all my teaching and wisdom, can make you realize you. To self-realize, you must realize yourself. Meaning, that we are all real, we are self-aware, we are complicated and fascinating subjects to self-reflect upon, and one day, even fully understand.
To know yourself, it is not required to speak in Sanskrit or wear a bindi on your third eye. You needn't put your feet behind your head, eat raw foods, be vegetarian, look sexy in yoga wear, or post selfies in handstands on social media. Those are objectifications, and in the deeper world of yoga they are dangerous distractions. You don't need to change who you are to become enlightened—true enlightenment is to embrace your core self, and your family karma that makes you uniquely you. To practice your yoga, you must remember that you are already perfect just as you are. You are complete in a humanly incomplete way, which gives you room for growth. You are deliciously flawed, and that gives you rich character. You are more beautiful than any rishi could have ever imagined, so there is no need to feel insecure around ever again.
And as unpleasant as they may seem, you were meant to have difficult experiences so that you can grow. These challenges do not go away when we change our name or who we think we are. They just dig in deeper. The greatest form of yoga is a life lived in balance. Should you run into your shadow along the way, know that you’re definitely on the right path. Work with the shadow fearlessly and compassionately, with your eyes wide open. The only faith required is in yourself, for the divine is only as beautiful as you feel you are. On your path, authenticity is spiritual power, as it is the highest expression of faith in yourself. Without faith in ourselves, we can not generate faith in anything else. Be fearless in your potential, and authentic in your practice. An older teacher will tell you that.
But most importantly... Just be you.
Photo courtesy of James Bailey