Swami Satchidananda often used to say this at his Satsangs, “Everyone wants to be a Guru. No one wants to be a disciple.” He continued to explain that if you looked under the Guru section in the phone book, there were countless listings, but if you looked under Disciple, there were none.
Today, the number of Yoga teachers has grown at a rapid rate. It takes only 4 short weeks to become a qualified Yoga teacher at the 200-hour level. Teacher training programs from accredited Yoga schools carry the standards to ensure that the programs are credible and authentic, however, Yoga is a life-long study and discipline. Something that cannot really be mastered in 200 hours. I took my 200-hour training over 10 years ago, and many other programs since then, but I am still learning.
I recently completed Sonia Sumar’s Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 & 2 training programs. I had already completed the Basic 1 training before, but decided to take it again this year. By going back to the basics again, I confirmed to myself that there are no short-cuts to Yoga practice. Sonia even reconfirmed that students cannot learn from someone who doesn’t follow the principles that they teach. My other great teacher, Nalanie Chellaram, said, “Giving advice that one doesn’t follow oneself is a perfect recipe for evoking arguments.”
There is value in being a dedicated disciple and relearning the teachings over and over again. They become a part of you, regardless of whether you teach yoga or not. Knowledge can easily be re-assembled and regurgitated, but the hardest part of a yoga practice is the constant attention and application to it’s teachings in every aspect of your life. It’s very easy to talk the talk, but is it easy to walk the walk? How many yoga teachers have a dedicated practice and study? How many yoga teachers practice what they preach? How many yoga teachers follow the entire eight-limbed path (or even know what that is)?
Yoga is not a competition because we are all starting from different places. We are all constantly evolving. Some Yoga teachers are strict vegetarian and non-drinkers -- straight as an arrow. Some take the occasional glass of wine. Some smoke pot. Some eat meat. Does it really matter to the students? Many teachers have come to me with this question, and I tell them exactly what my Guru said to me, “Keep your practice. Practice, practice, practice. Put in the good and the bad will naturally fall away.” I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of many that I have had the opportunity to serve.
I’ve also seen first-hand the effect of a disciplined practice has on a teacher. When adversity hits, they are centered. They do not lose their cool. I’ve seen teachers that have struggled to maintain a personal practice and they get tossed about by life. There is little peace in their minds. I’ve seen teachers with a strong practice and seen how they have risen above their challenges, come off medication, fix broken relationships, heal their hearts and serve the world.
I have been lucky to have had a living Guru as my guide in my early life. When you have learned from an enlightened Master, everything else seems... well, a bit diluted. I’ve also been very lucky to study with many teachers from around the world. You can tell right away when someone lives their Yoga.
Yes, I teach yoga, but I’m not going to tell you to do something unless I’ve done it, seen the benefit, then broken the rules and fallen, then started up again and seen the difference in my body, mind, emotions and spirit. It’s what I have been doing for over 10 years. I’m not going to tell you to do it for my sake, but experiment in your own life for your own sake.
True Yoga is in the entire package... not just the asanas or the fancy names or forms. The authentic practice of Yoga doens’t really have a name. All traditions and forms are valid, provided that it remains pure, no-frills and honest -- the whole package deal -- from the roots to the tips. Is it yoga if it’s not fully practiced?
The practice is simple, but whole-hearted. In the words of Sri Swami Satchidananda, “It’s very simple. Keep your body as clean as possible, your mind as clear as possible. That’s all you need. Do it in anyway you can, in your own way. It doesn’t matter.” But practice, practice, practice. Follow all the limbs of Yoga in your life and control your mind. Don’t stop and all will be added unto you.