On Personal Practice or “Noisy Bangles”

Beaten RiceLong ago in an Indian kingdom, there was a poor girl who wished to marry. When her prospective in-laws came to visit her home, she greeted them graciously and bade them to sit. Her parents entertained them while, unknown to the guests, she went to the back of the house to work in the kitchen. They were planning to serve a meal with beaten rice. Ordinarily pounding the rice is the job of the servant. This family was too poor to have a servant and the girl had to pound the rice herself. She began the laborious process and quickly noticed that she was making a lot of noise. As most Indian women, she wore numerous bangles and this was causing such a racket as the flattened the rice. On account of her poverty, she did not wear gold bangles but ones made of glass. She knew that the sound of her jingling bangles could be heard throughout the house and she did not wish her prospective in-laws to know that she was doing the work herself. She started by breaking few bangles but found that they still made noise as she worked. Eventually she broke all her bangles save two and still they made noise by jingling against each other. Finally she broke another, leaving her with only one bangle and in silence.

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This is a very old story that was told to monks, yogis and spiritual seekers of every kind. The lesson of the story is that as soon as there are two, there is discord. This means that as soon as two people practice together, there will be disagreement. Each of us has a path to walk and we must invariably walk it alone if we wish to reach the destination. Simply, we all have different minds, bodies, capacities and goals; therefore our practice must be different.

This also applies to the practice of Hatha-Yoga. Group practice is nice and offers certain advantages (group energy and motivation). However, to make real progress we must develop a personal practice. This will develop the discipline required to move forward on our path. Practicing alone also allows us to enhance our internal sensitivity and develop concentration in our practice. You can listen to your own breath and follow a sequence that is tailored to your needs, which is unavailable to you in a group setting. It makes it possible to really practice Yoga. By practicing alone, you offer yourself the possibility to deepen and evolve your practice. This will result in real progress toward your goal. This is not to say that you should give up group classes, which can be very enjoyable. It is important for anyone wishing to genuinely practice to remember that true and transformative Yoga is purely an individual pursuit. I understand that it is not what we may want to hear but Yoga is an uphill climb that only you can do for yourself. Understand why you are practicing, where you are trying to reach, take courage and keep climbing.

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How’s your yoga teacher?

What would you do if your doctor was always sick? You would change doctor.

If your yoga teacher isn’t smiling; change yoga teacher! It indicates either that they aren’t practicing or there’s something “wrong” with their practice. Either way, they are in no position to help you. (Almost) Every teacher is nice in the class but how are they outside the studio? If the only yoga in their life and character is doing postures, then that’s all you’ll ever get from them.

It’s a vocation rather than a profession. If you want to be a good teacher, you must wrestle down your ego: teach for them and not for yourself. You must be vigilant to practice what you preach: if you ask your students to be mentally open and flexible you must remain open yourself. Be sincere and don’t say things you don’t know to be true. That also means continuing to study and knowing that not everything you’ve heard may be accurate. Being nice and caring isn’t enough; you need to know your stuff. Please remember, your teacher training was only the start.

Krishnamacharya's padukas

Teach what is in you, not as it applies to you, to yourself but as it applies to the other.” – Sri T. Krishnamacharya

The Benefits of Yoga Practice

The Benefits of Yoga Practice” [from the introduction to Fourteen Lessons on Raja-Yoga]

Life today is full of stress and strain, of tension and nervous irritability, of passion and hurry. If man puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of Yoga, he would be far better equipped to cope with his complex existence.

Yoga brings perfection, peace and lasting happiness. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. Yoga can have restful sleep and increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time and have success in every walk of life. Yoga will infuse new strength, confidence and self-reliance in You. The body and mind will be at your beck and call.

Yoga brings your emotions under control and increases your power of concentration at work. Yoga disciplines, gives poise and tranquility and miraculously rebuilds one’s life. The Yoga way of life deepens man’s understanding and enables him to know God in relationship with Him.

Yoga leads the way from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, from disharmony to harmony, from hatred to love, from want to fullness, from limitation to infinitude, from diversity to unity and from imperfection to perfection. Yoga gives hope to the sad and the forlorn, strength to the weak, health to the sick and wisdom to the ignorant.

~Swami Sivananda