Yoga- Evolving with the times

Evolve- develop gradually.

Synonyms: develop, progress, make progress, advance, move forward, make headway,

mature, grow, open out, unfold, unroll, expand, enlarge, spread, extend

The only way to keep a culture alive is to keep practicing, otherwise it is lost and in order for a tradition to stay alive, it must adapt and evolve.  If you keep traditions as you see them they will eventually die out.

A sense of moving forwards, progressing, this is what most of us wish for.  Learning and growing.

‘Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present-really present in every action and every moment.  The advantage of attentiveness is that we perform each task better and at the same time are conscious of our actions.  The possibility of making mistakes becomes correspondingly smaller the more our attention develops.  When we are attentive to our actions we are not prisoners to our habits, we do not need to do something today simply because we did it yesterday.  Instead there is the possibility of considering our actions fresh and so avoiding thoughtless repetition.’ TKV Desikachar

 Yoga is a mindful practice that teaches us that if we can become aware, if we can align ourselves and connect to ourselves fully, we begin to recognise our true self.  We can know what it feels like to honour this true self and what it feels like to be unconnected or out of line with ourselves.  This feeling of being in sync, when you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, your physical sensations and movements, when you feel your breath in and out and you are connecting to creating a sense of harmony between it all. 

Yoga is giving us a practice and teaching where we can re-learn lost skills of listening to ourselves, when we can re-connect and re-align. 

‘Yoga is primarily a practice intended to make someone wiser, more able to understand things than they were before.’ TKS Desikchar

This does not mean we reach a perfected, pinnacle state for ever more and stop.  It is a continually, shifting, and evolving self-exploration, the person you were yesterday or last year or ten years ago is not the person you are today.  We are making efforts towards knowing our true self and expressing our true self, and developing a connection to the understanding that there is a power greater than ourselves.  (I see this simply in nature for example, I can understand and recognise there are forces in nature much greater than me as a human.)

There is a lot of literature throughout the years and years of Yogic texts that inspire me on these philosophical aspects of Yoga, that even as our times change, our problems differ, our societies concerns are varied, the yogic philosophies and teachings can still provide inspiration, reflection and even clarity on the way we choose to live now.

What does change however, as we gain more and more scientific knowledge, evidence, case studies and research, are the facts that we have acquired on our minds and our bodies.  How we can affect change, how problems are caused, how we treat problems or prevent them are continuously expanding in fields of science and medicine and psychology.  What may have been thought as best practice 100 years ago in medicine for example may be considered absolutely out of the question today. (eg electric shock therapy)

In Yoga, yes we connect to a sense of tuning in and listening to ourselves but sometimes what you think or believe may be ill informed, may be cross wired based on your previous experiences and what you have been told.  There is also the case of cognitive bias, where you want to believe something, or you believe something so strongly that you continually find ‘evidence’ to support your theories.

We cannot also stay stuck to the same thoughts, ways of seeing things, opinions and behaviours.  There has to be an allowable element of openness and discovery.

Yoga as a practice how it is taught today and how it is experienced has to evolve from how it was offered and taught hundreds to thousands of years ago.  This does not mean as a practice it has to change completely or just be given up, it simply means it evolves with the times.  What one person said was the exact way to do yoga thousands of years ago cannot always be substantiated in today’s world.

Yoga teachers for example cannot defend specific teachings with the argument with that is just how it is done.  We live in an age now with access to so much information, that as well as your own personal experience and practice there must be supporting facts and evidence to the benefit and reasoning behind your methods.

In Yoga, even though something like a ‘pose’ might feel good, there are still facts that you may not be aware of and you could be on the road to an injury.  You might believe one way to do a pose is the only way because that is how you have always done it and you simply did not realise or allow for other options.  Similarly, just because you read something or saw something online, does not make it true.  You might say what I was told for years, that I was ‘too flexible in my spine’ besides the fact this is simply wrong, it led me down a confused path in my body for a long time.

You might think as a teacher that certain poses are ‘unsafe’ but is that because it doesn’t feel good for you?  Is that because it has been scientifically proven on many bodies that we should not assume such a pose?  Is there a consideration for what bodies do in gymnastics or dance or martial arts or any sports, what is possible in those realms? 

You may think it seems necessary to modify a pose if someone is experiencing pain in a certain area, but does that mean the pose is the goal and that their pain area should not be addressed and healed?

‘Progress on the path of yoga means different things for different people.  We must not obstruct this progress by deliberately setting certain goals.’ TKS Desikchar

To move forward, Yoga teachers and the community and the individuals can learn so much from zooming out and looking at what we know and can learn from a broad view of current best practices and yes connecting to your own intuition and sense of what is right for your personal way of teaching or practicing.

If we do not evolve, all that we know as beneficial through Yoga, all that we have felt and experienced will die out.  Yoga does not have to be what it was 5000 years ago, but that does mean it has to be forgotten.  Yoga has to be what works for each individual today, and can be backed up and shown over and over again to work physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  

There has to be accountability on the part of teachers and on the individuals, continually questioning where are you going, why and how?  Evolving does not finish, there is no end goal.