Advanced Yoga Practices
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 418 - Gurus, Teachers and Self-Sufficiency  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
418.1 - AYP Unstructured vs. Structured (certified) Teaching
  (Audio)

418.2 - Practitioner Self-Sufficiency vs. Running in Circles
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: July 8, 2010

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: I have always been told that a teacher or guru in-the-flesh is required for advancement on the spiritual path. This has also been the experience in my long-time hatha yoga teaching practice. When students are left to their own devices, the practices don't get done. On the other hand, we can only practice together once or twice per week, so there is a built-in limitation in what can be accomplished this way. With some of my students, it has been going on like this for years, without additional motivation to practice beyond our weekly classes. In recent months, I found myself looking for ways to break out of this rather static pattern, and was pleasantly surprised to find "Advanced Yoga Practices" on the internet, with its comprehensive system of practices, and an apparent large following as well.

My question is, how do I incorporate something like AYP into current teachings here? How do I move beyond the weekly yoga class scenario with my students to more individual practice? Is it even possible? I'd like to become a believer in "self-directed" practice.

A: It is an interesting question you have raised. It may be that certain students will be satisfied with weekly group practice for a long time. It is not a bad thing. On the other hand, there will be some who want more, more of the limbs of yoga, and more to practice at home with. So it is certainly in the best interest of your teaching mission and your students to reach beyond the status quo.

I think that, regardless of the means of providing spiritual support to others, the ultimate objective has to be developing self-sufficiency in the practitioner. By definition, there can be no enlightenment without self-sufficiency abiding in the Self (big "S"). No one else can give that to us, though many think that it works that way. It does not. We each have to claim it (surrender to it) for ourselves, via one means or another.

Both live guru/teacher transmissions and written transmissions have their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, all transmissions of knowledge must be preserved in some sort of stored media handed down. The completeness and effectiveness of such transmissions determine the future success of the knowledge over the generations. So, for the long term, it is the writings that count, to the degree they can facilitate effective full-scope baseline practice, and the ongoing evolution of effective "self-directed" practice in changing times and circumstances. Regardless of our teaching mode, there has to be a solid baseline of knowledge, combined with an ongoing evaluation of causes and effects in practices, so adjustments in application can be made as needed.

The internet provides a major opportunity for written teachings, not only for the transmission of clear instructions on effective practices to millions, but also for ongoing support in the online environment. Internet support does not necessarily equal a live teacher, but it does work, and can also greatly reduce the inherent hazards that are found in live guru/disciple relationships. It also can facilitate the effective application of self-directed practice in a wide variety of cultures, environments and circumstances. The internet has no borders (or not many).

Again, creating self-sufficiency in the practitioner is the key. All true gurus go for this, even though their physical presence may foster distracting co-dependencies with many followers. This is the main down-side of the physical guru/disciple relationship. When bhakti becomes locked in a co-dependent relationship, it is no longer spiritually progressive. This can happen online too, though it is easier to avoid. It is why I am forever reminding practitioners that it is about our relationship with knowledge, effective daily practices and experiences, and not about the teacher.

The AYP experiment with real-time and archived written knowledge in a large community of practitioners is working remarkably well so far, with thousands tapping in according to their own inclinations, and with many moving rapidly through the various enlightenment milestones. It is quite amazing what is happening. It goes to show what people can do when given unrestricted access to useful knowledge. While some may be prone to dependency, others will fly with only a little encouragement and support. If the knowledge and practices are accessible and effective, anything can happen. A practitioners own experiences can provide all the motivation that is needed for ongoing practice and spiritual growth.

Which is not to say we don't need hands-on teaching. We do, and we are working on developing that at AYP also. There is also a vast existing network of yoga teachers out there that can become a springboard to self-directed practice of full-scope yoga for millions. Whether the knowledge is gained through hands-on teaching, or through written transmissions or other media, it can work for anyone who is willing to commit to a modest twice-daily practice routine at home. It always gets back to the seekers willingness to practice on their own.

A first step in your situation could be suggesting that your students practice deep meditation for 10-20 minutes twice-daily at home, and assisting them in accomplishing that. This can be supported by weekly group meditations, either in the regular yoga class, or at another time. Adding daily deep meditation can have a dramatic impact on hatha yoga practices, leveraging the effects across multiple limbs of yoga through the inner connectedness that occurs in our nervous system when we take on additional practices on the tree of yoga. See Lesson 409 for particulars on that.

The step of establishing and nurturing daily practice of deep meditation at home will provide your students a direct experience of rising inner silence. This elevates the quality of daily life in practical ways, and is a primary motivator for continuing daily practice at home. In time, a natural motivation may rise to add spinal breathing pranayama and other practices to the routine. Then the results keep coming, compounding like a snowball rolling downhill, and there is more and more motivation to continue. It works like that.

In this, the teacher becomes more of a coach than a primary object of focus. This is as it should be. Weekly classes should continue, with a primary goal to support home practice. First we enable the student in a nurturing environment. Then we provide them the tools and support to practice at home. We know the teaching is successful when the student can fly on their own in abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love. That's all there is to it. It is our gift to the world, and everyone we assist in this will pass the gift on in their own way. And so it goes.

The AYP system is a "toolbox" that can be used in whole or part by anyone either individually, or for assisting many others. It is wide open, and being used in many ways by many individual practitioners, group leaders and teachers. It is always about one thing the seeker, and providing effective means for achieving self-sufficiency in practices and spiritual growth.

The traditional guru/disciple (teacher/student) relationship will continue to play an important role in the information age. It can work even better than in the past, with measures included for enabling disciples (students) to strengthen their self-sufficiency in practicing at home. Self-paced twice-daily practice is necessary for steady progress. That cannot be accomplished in group practice alone, except perhaps in an ashram environment. That is fine, but we can't all live in an ashram.

We'd like to inspire many more people to practice daily at home, and to go out into the world everyday with their abiding inner silence. This is how the mainstream will be transformed. There are not enough gurus and ashrams to accommodate the billions on the earth. But it can be accomplished with many more engaging in self-directed practice at home. Internet transmissions of knowledge and support are capable of facilitating such an approach. Thousands of teachers and gurus can tap into this also, multiplying the effects of their face-to-face teaching many times over by supporting self-sufficient practitioners everywhere.

Wishing you all the best on your path, and in your ongoing teaching.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed instructions on building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus.

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