Teacher Training: What is Yoga?

On my drive down to SLO, I spent several hours listening some seminars by Amrit Desai as some make-up hours for my Yoga Teacher Training Program. My favorite two sessions were focused on the Wisdom of Yoga and of the power of intention. His philosophy makes so much sense to me, that the time flew by as I was driving back home today.

But, I think what struck me the most was his description of what Yoga is. I have hard time putting it into words, but this sums it up completely.

Yoga is not the physical practice of exercise. It’s true, this is a very important component and it’s great for people to do as a way to stay healthy. To do Yoga, you must establish your intention that you will integrate the principles in your life that prevent you from: comparing, self-judging, fighting or fleeing from what you encounter (what you’re afraid of), and learning to relax and breath to find new ways to cross the boundaries, to be released from your pre-programmed belief system that holds you back.

To do Asana, or to go through the poses, is only one part. But it’s the actual act of trying to not compare or judge yourself in a pose. You can hear it in your head: “Am I doing this right? Theirs looks better than mine. I’m not straight enough. I’m not strong enough. I can’t balance. ” All these thoughts are things we hear in our heads not only when we’re on the mat practicing yoga — but also in your day-to-day lives. At work. At home. Out shopping. Everywhere. We all judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others.

To put intetionally put yourself  in this situation, time again, it helps train your brain how to focus and deal with these thoughts. How to breath and relax in times of stress or discomfort — physical or mental. It’s the repetition of this technique that re-wires your brain and changes your habits.

Just like any other hobby or skill or craft — you have to rehearse and practice in order to do it well. To train your brain how just the right time to swing to hit a 95 mph fastball. To speak a foreign language. To  speak in public. After a while — your brain just knows how to handle these situations. You don’t think about it. You practiced it enough that it’s automatic.

So if  you can train your brain how to respond in these situations — why  can’t it work to handle the anxiety you encounter every day?

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