Yoga, yoga classes, and yoga asana are not always mutually inclussive of one another; they are not necessarily synonymous. It is possible, and I suspect common, for many “yoga classes” to very rarely touch on the Field of Yoga (click the link to read an article on the Field of Yoga). It is also possible, and I suspect relatively common, to practice yoga asana in such a way that the Field of Yoga is not experienced. Recognising this is important, because it opens us up to the possibility of approaching yoga classes and yoga asana in a way through which we do in fact enter into the Field of Yoga. In this article we’ll take a look specifically at yoga classes.
My own experience is that the best place for me to really practice Yoga and to thus enter into the Field of Yoga is outside the context of a class, somewhere private and on my own. It’s not strictly necessary to be alone, although if practicing with other people it is important they are an aid to the process rather than distract from it. In some yoga classes a lot of emphasis is placed on form, and little, if any, attention is given to the formless. The result is that the class can become very technical. Each asana can become a mental and physical exercise in trying to follow all the cues the teacher is giving in order to do the asana the right way. I’ve noticed this is quite common in classes held by Iyengar certified teachers, for example. The result is that the class is more of a yoga asana learning session, rather than an opportunity to really delve into Yoga, and this is perfectly okay if we understand the difference.
Iyegar says himself, “When I teach I am a scientist.” Science is very technical, it is reductionistic. Science is primarily focused on the form-side of Life, and this means the science of yoga is focused on the form-side of yoga. This is as it should be. Study the science of yoga in the context of a yoga class or training, and then practice yoga and enter into the formless Field of Yoga in your own time and space. The key is to take home what one has learned in the class. In your own time and space one can use this scientific knowledge for entering into Yoga.
Yes, it is important to be attentive to the form and to have a safe and complete understanding of yoga asana. Yet if our approach to the form of yoga becomes a distraction or takes up too much of our attention we may miss the formless aspect of Yoga entirely. An appropriate approach to the form of yoga asana is what allows one to enter into the formless Field of Yoga. This is an integral aspect of Hṛdaya Yoga. This is explored elsewhere on the Hṛdaya Yoga web site.
- Know that for the most part yoga classes are technical in nature, and this is as it should be.
- One goes to a yoga class primarily to better understand the technicalities of yoga asana.
- Once you understand an asana, it is up to you to practice it in your own private space.
- A masterful yoga teacher will not just convey the technicalities to you in a class. They will, and must, convey a feeling for and deep appreciation of the formless aspect of Yoga. This will typically be conveyed in terms of universal principles and how to approach yoga practice in such a way that these principles are incorporated, honoured, and unfolded within you.
- Be mindful to not fall into the trap of thinking that by going to yoga classes a few times a week you are actually practicing Yoga, as opposed to just learning about yoga asana.