Naturally, during a teacher training, the question arises “What is yoga?”
I usually start by telling a story.
After several months of only saying “Namaste” to each other, I asked my teacher about initiation. He said initiation was a serious commitment, possibly mumbled some other things or perhaps I forgot what they were, suggesting that I talk with some other students about it. I believe I attempted to do so. They said little but it did not matter to me. I knew that it was true and the route to be taken. I did it!
One of the annoying things about life is that can be quite difficult to talk outside of your own perceptions and experiences. Even here I am trying to illustrate without being perceived as saying ‘I am so much cooler than you or know more than you do about yoga because I was initiated.’ Really I am trying to illustrate that I took this with a deep dedication and seriousness. Though I had the normal stressors of life that we all have, these stressors began to subside thus occupying less time. It is not to say that I was above them or beyond them or that they had no relevance in my life, there was just a different way of dealing with them. There was so much to focus on!
Still through meanderings I am trying to illustrate the application of the student.
The Hathayogapradipika illustrates, “The following six bring speedy success:– Courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company.”
During training programs, covering the first chapter only, it’s not all the names of the deities that alarms the students. In fact, outside of the pronunciation, we breeze right by this straight into dietary restrictions, travel, fire, women and where the yoga should be practiced and how. The mention of cow dung and practicing in a country where justice is properly administered gets quite a laugh out of the students and it still makes me laugh. There is validity in all of these things. Who am I to say a text is not valid due to time, place and situation.
Maybe that’s why I love this small piece of the Hathayoga system. It is pieced together in such a way that is clear and relies on the practice. If you look for it, with little trouble, you can find the faults of any text. You can find these same faults in your own practice and in other people. Somewhere in that straightforward dedication there is something that words do not quite capture and a quality which we can all relate to. Perhaps this is what yoga means.
“śrī-ādi-nāthāya namo|astu tasmai yenopadiṣhṭā haṭha-yogha-vidyā” – hathayogapradipika