I adhered to the popular alignment orthodoxy during my first ten years of teaching yoga. Standing poses like Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), and Virabhadrasana II (“Warrior II Pose”), I taught students to align their hips with the front. This instruction was passed on to me by several highly experienced teachers. They learned it from even more experienced teachers. One day, while on a mindfulness retreat, Warrior II was being practiced, I realized a better way. My pose was much more stable when I allowed my pelvis to rotate with my legs. Warrior II had always made me feel weak and shaky. I could barely hold the pose for more than 30 seconds. After letting my pelvis rotate with the legs, I could rest comfortably in the pose for about a minute. Later, I discovered other potential problems from standing with my hips squaring. As a result, ten years’ worth of emphatic instruction I was had to be retracted. However, my commitment to Truth was far more important than saving face.
Gandhi stated, “My commitment to truth, and not consistency,” in his teachings. Pujari is my mindfulness teacher. This concept is so essential that I have just begun to grasp its importance. It is a great idea to ponder the meaning for yoga teachers and all other experts.
THE SCIENTIFIC COMMITMENT to TRUTH
COVID has given us many examples. One example is Dr. Anthony Fauci’s inconsistent masking instructions. This has been criticized by anti-maskers that I know. He advised citizens not to wear masks during the pandemic of March 2020. Because covers were scarce at that time, he did so. Shows were in short supply then, so health care workers had to reuse or eliminate them. This was a significant risk. He revised his recommendations when masks became more readily available. Because science is his field of expertise, he pursues Truth and not rigid rules.
Recommendations must be updated when circumstances change. Official guidance from COVID has been changed numerous times. It is not a “novel coronavirus” after all. I find this inconsistency positive. It means experts follow the Truth wherever it takes them rather than sticking with incorrect information to save face. They are committed to Truth and not consistency.
YOGA TEACHING: COMMITMENT TO TRUTH
If there were easy-to-use alignment cues for all, teaching yoga would be simple. The Truth is that we all came into this world with different genetics. Our bodies and minds adapt to our lives as we grow. There will never be two practices that are the same. If we are committed to Truth as long-term practitioners, our approach will change over time.
Different yoga schools may have preached different types of consistency in other yoga practices. Some teachers have claimed that practicing a pranayama x number of times will result in y results. Iyengar, the system I grew into, recommended that you square your hips when standing. This was at least for a few years. Anusara taught the “Universal Principles of Alignment,” which can be applied to anyone in any pose.
B.K.S. was one of my favorite things. Iyengar’s willingness to change or toss out alignment instructions when he found better information was something I admired. I received my Iyengar certification in 1989, shortly after I returned from studying at the Ramamani Iyengar Memory Yoga Institute, Pune, India. It was good, as my senior teachers knew I had the most recent information. Because they knew there would be a new discovery or an outdated instruction, they were eager to learn what I had learned. The method was constantly changing. It was remarkable that a teacher like Iyengar could easily forget his alignment principles. This is a sign of his dedication to Truth.
It’s a good thing to change your mind.
You will soon realize that the instructions you once considered gospel are not as helpful now that you have taught yoga for a long time. As I discovered about squaring hips, you will likely have to modify your teaching. Remember that even though they gave you less helpful instructions, they provided you with the best information available. You were also offering your students the best information possible. It is not practical to blame your teachers or blame yourself. When teaching yoga, flexibility in the body and mind is just as important as flexibility in the mind. It is not a weakness to change your mind. It is a sign that you are committed to Truth and not consistency.
TEACHING FROM TRUTH REQUIRES MINDFUL ACTIVITY
We must practice finding the Truth. We must also practice mindfulness. It is essential to start each day with a beginner’s mindset. If we approach our practice with an open mind, it’s much easier to let go of what we believe we know and reaches the Truth. It doesn’t matter how often you have practiced Triangle Pose and Warrior Pose. Each time you practice it, you will discover a new pose. What can you take away from your practice today?