Choose your guru with caution
India’s most significant gift of art, ‘Yoga’ to the world, can be traced back to Indus-Valley Civilization. And since then, meticulous texts and guidelines, about the practice of ‘Yoga Sutras’ have been written, preserved, and passed on with pride.
This art form combines the mind, body, and soul. While people practise yoga for different reasons, the effect it has on everyone is unique, like popular art. To be in Yoga means to be in union. And the very nature of art allows the artist to become with his art. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, calls this a state of flow. And this has also received umpteen media attention over the last few years.
Even evidence-based research has supported the sheer tenacity of Yoga’s transformational power in people’s lives. Yoga is heavily used as an aid in the therapy of many physical and psychological disorders. And, several case studies, as well as experimental data, has shown that Yoga has very positive effects on people’s wellbeing. However, since the past many years, false knowledge, ‘mithya gyaan‘ has infected the art of Yoga.
Taken from the ancient text, Yoga sutra by Patanjali, in Samadi Pad, 8th sutra
Viparyayo mithya jnyanam atadrupa prathistham
Yoga is about devotion and trust in the knowledge and purity of our guru.
Creepy or Yogi
But what happens if our guru is a pervert?
Take the latest documentary on Hot Yoga on Netflix for instance. This documentary is about how one so-called yogi made a multi-million dollar industry based on the brand name, Hot Yoga.
Let us clear the air. Bikram does not display the characteristics of a true yogi. There seems to be little to no focus on reading, understanding and respecting the theory behind practice. And the delivery of his classes seems as if someone is piercing a freshly sharpened knife in the eyeball. This is not yoga.
Yet, we find instances of other ‘famous’ gurus such as Pattabhi Jois have also been accused of assaulting women under the veil of teaching yoga. Certainly, it is disturbing to fathom how many people have been misguided, allegedly ‘mistreated’ by popular teachers like these.
And, it’s not just this, the practice of yoga itself is grossly misunderstood myriad of people. How else do we explain classes like, ‘dog yoga’, ‘beer yoga’, ‘nude yoga’, ‘goat yoga’?
The focus of Yoga is now entirely on our ability to bend our bodies and increase flexibility. The focus from mind and understanding of ancient texts has entirely been forsaken. The inbreeding of Yoga with other art forms has destroyed the essence of Yoga.
If your body is denied certain vitamins for weeks, maybe even months, you end up becoming deficient. There are physical symptoms of the deficiency that soon follow. Depending on the kind of deficiency, your body starts reacting. You may start feeling dizzy, unfit, weak in the bones, literally.
What do you do next?
You take multi-vitamins. You try to provide your body with the vitamins it was missing, Now, of course, for some, these multi-vitamin medicines may be costly. And with so many available over the counter, it isn’t easy to find which one is the best one for us.
The Right Guru
I’d say choosing a ‘guru’, especially a yoga instructor should be as well-thought as choosing the appropriate vitamins for our body. A yoga instructor is supposed to hold your psyche like a baby and gently swing it to the music of great yogic hymns.
This guru wouldn’t add nutrients to your psyche or create moments of consciousness that you hitherto were incapable of creating.
Just like swimmers need water to swim, this guru would provide you with the right psychic atmosphere to unleash the psychic energies that you already possess.
Today, people are unaware of the philosophy of Yoga. With constant badgering of images of attractive people sometimes posing even in the nude in various yoga poses, we forget what it once meant to be in Yoga. It doesn’t have anything to do with gaining likes and collecting comments. Yoga was born so that each one of us could learn how to be born again, in union with our mind, body, and soul.
This is the time that we must rediscover the art of Yoga.
This is the time, we must reinvent our guru.
Patanjali cautions us in the 26th sutra of the Samadhi Pad (Chapter 1) of his book about the ultimate teacher.
Swami Vivekanada’s commentary on this sutra is a poem to the ears of a yogi, “We cannot find any knowledge without teacher, if there are men teachers, god teachers, or angel teachers, they are all limited; who was
the teacher before them? We are forced to admit, as a last conclusion, One Teacher, Who is not limited by time, and that One Teacher or infinite knowledge, without beginning or end, is called God.”
Ultimately, if you don’t believe in ‘god’, whatever you know for sure, as timeless ‘truth’, that ultimate force is your teacher.