Sunday, November 30, 2014

200 Hours of Yoga: One Year Later

So last year about this time I was pushing towards the end of a 200 hour yoga certification class. The experience was a bit of a whirlwind and I've spoken before about jumping into the deep end  so soon after discovering yoga. I'm still on the fence about whether or not I would suggest that for anyone else. I had about three months of classes before I entered the program and, while it worked for me, I don't think I would recommend it for anyone else. A year of regular classes would have served me well.

But, that being said, it did work. I have a regular practice and stress levels are down and blood pressure is down and mental acuity is up. My meditation practice is what benefited the most and it's also why I think I fit into the program without the benefit experience. Meditation is my method of maintaining the software and I've worked on techniques and methods for a number of years before adding yoga to the mix. I'm not going to say that yoga is the final piece of the puzzle but it's definitely a sign post on the road to serious introspection if you choose to let it be.

But it's not magic. It's not even mystical. You can get caught up in the transformation processes and it can feel magical but in the end what's really happening? Your moving. Your moving with intention and concentration. Points of stress are being released. Breathing is happening.

At it's best it's a moving meditation. You have to concentrate or you are falling over so your mind just naturally clears. Then as the points of stress release especially around the neck, shoulders and hips, the meditation moves deeper and the breathing becomes more meaningful.

Which explains why blood pressure drops with a regular practice. Yoga, among other things,  is basically a fully responsive stress reduction system.

But yoga is so many different things to different people that I think a lot of the basics that could be so beneficial to so many people are lost in the yoga culture. Everyone has a lot of ideas and expectations that contribute to the air of the mystical and may turn a lot of people away before they even get to the mat. They see yoga bunnies in blinding tights bouncing onto the mat and contorting into advanced asanas without any explanations and they think they are expected to keep up. Or if the explanations are forthcoming, they are shrouded in intentional obfuscation in the effort to keep it mystical. Or keep it tuned to their own expectations.

For instance, I've been told that if you're not speaking Sanskrit, then it's not yoga. I've been told that yoga is really for woman and men shouldn't be intruding into classes and making everyone uncomfortable. I've been told if your are not reaching for samadhi then your wasting your time. I've been told that if you haven't been to India then you can't teach yoga.

The list goes on. And thankfully none of these came from the studio I trained at. I heard most of this after I started digging into the culture both in the Big City and online.

And I could spend a lot of words refuting every point but the actual point is that a lot of different people have a lot of different ideas about yoga.

Which is fine. Everyone is experiencing the realities at their own pace.

But I have to say that I found myself floundering in the culture after training was done. Remember that I had little to no experience before I started so when I started digging and discovering some truly diverse viewpoints, I honestly felt better going at it alone for a little while. This gave me time to refine my own practice and test theories and try some things. And just figure things in general.

Most go into 200 hours with the idea of becoming teachers. I went in with almost zero expectations and about halfway through I started thinking about teaching and then toward the end I decided that teaching may not be for me. I tried it and I wasn't happy with the results. I thought I should try it again but the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I became with the idea. I still have a lot to learn and teaching is a great way to learn but, in this case, it's also a great way to get someone hurt.

So yoga is just for me right now. I need to learn and grow and investigate this set of tools and see what happens.

A year later, I think it's safe to say 200 hours is just the beginning.