It takes a medical student 5 years to acquire a minimal qualification, namely the M.B.B.S., upon which he/ she is qualified to be a doctor of medicine. Even after 5 years of rigorous study, such a doctor is only qualified as a general practitioner and may not undertake surgeries or specialized medical care, for which advanced degrees, such as the M.D. are required. Even at this advanced stage of medical care, the M.D. is implementing his/ her science only on the anatomy of the human body, and no more.
Yoga, at its most basic level deals with five levels of the human, with only the first level being concerned with human anatomy. Now, if a doctor needs 5 years to acquire minimal knowledge in the field of medicine that pertains to human anatomy, how much more time should a Yoga practitioner need in order to be qualified as a Teacher or Master.
The second level of the human, as per the view of Yoga, deals with the sentient life-energy body that acts as an active blueprint for the anatomical body. At this level, the student of Yoga must learn, practice and experience the laws of the Life-force science. The third level is the psychological plane, in which plane contemporary cognitive and affective psychology have made major strides. The fourth level is the plane of intuition, which cannot be approached with the laws of the third level of the intellect. The last level is the so-called ‘spiritual’ plane of the non-subjective Overmind. These are the 5 existential planes of the human, without minimal knowledge of which, no person may be called versed in the foundations of Yoga.
Reducing this vast and deep system of knowledge to a bunch of physical exercises and superficial jargon masquerading as theory is in itself ridiculous, if not a risible act. Going even further, and teaching this kindergarten version of hoary Yoga as a 1 month course, and then certifying the attendants of the course, as Teachers of Yoga is ludicrous and laughable. It would be quite similar to making a 1 month synopsis of the 5 year MBBS, and then certifying the 1 month students to become Doctors!
But this is exactly what the plastic fantastic Yoga Alliance of the USA has done.. ‘Yoga Teachers Certification’ franchisees operate, globally as tendrils of the Yoga Alliance corporation. In the name of convenient capitalism and the greater good, Yoga has been converted from an aesthetic science to a consumer good a la Lulu lemon, Manduka and myriad other players in the global market of Yoga accessories and products.
No serious or authentic Yoga lineage or school would of course be a part of the ignorance being perpetrated by the Yoga Alliance, but given the traditional reserve displayed by the Indian institutes in countering the misguided Yoga Alliance, it is up to the students and practitioners of Yoga from outside India to take on the personal onus of penetrating into authentic Yoga.
Help, the sort of help that counts, never comes from outside. Knowing, from within, what is right and what is not, it is up to the individual students to find their way to the reality of Yoga. Away from the candy floss and politically correct idea of ‘yoga for a beautiful and fit body’ lies the reality of the authentic Yoga whose raison d’etre is the cessation of all future pain, physical, emotional and psychological. At the end of the road of pain lies lasting joy. And there’s a word we have for that kind of lasting joy, bliss.
The aesthetic science then, whose objective is Bliss, for ourselves and others, and which is called Yoga, can never be attained through a bunch of physical exercises only, without the passion, without the view, the perspective.
Asanas, or the physical postures and the breathing exercises, called Pranayama, by themselves or in combination are not Yoga, if they are not combined with the Heart and Mind of Yoga. And doing all of this as one whole, in union is Yoga. A grand science, internalized and experienced through consistent practice over decades, let us not mistake Yoga for what it is that we are all doing at present, which is Hatha Karma.
If we wish to plumb deep from this platform of Hatha Karma, into the depths or soar up to the heights of that which is called Yoga, authentic Yoga, we have to leave something behind. Going somewhere always means leaving someplace.
What we leave behind is the idea of who we think we are, and this includes our ideas of 1 month teachers programmes and other such delusions that inform our prejudices. The prejudices we collectively term our personality, and our personality reflects the common quality underlying all prejudices, limitations.
So, when we enter the path of Yoga, we undertake to leave behind the past self, past loves, past hates, all of our past reference frames that kept us bound to limited ways of being. To be unbound is to be free and to be unbound is not everybody’s cup of tea. And so, we practice Hatha Karma and turn our faces away from the freedom of Yoga.
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