Sunday, October 7, 2012

Yoga Teaching and The Tree of Samkhya

As part of our yoga teacher training, our class is required to learn about Samkhya, one of the oldest schools of Hindu philosophy.  As is my wont, I share most of my written work on Meta Vie, so here is what I wrote today about how Samkhya applies to practicing and teaching yoga, and what about this theory particularly appeals to me and why:

The theory of The Tree of Samkhya is very relevant to yoga practice and teaching, because it frames yoga as the process of training our bodies and minds to move from the gross to the subtle through a playful, investigative process.  

The teachings on The Tree of Samkhya focus on shifting from the unmanifest to the manifest and back again, from the subtle to the gross and back again in an ongoing dance that sees creation itself as the method by which pure seeing can be revealed to itself.  I love this theory because it is both spiritual and concrete.  We work with our bodies (matter) to eventually touch deeper levels of consciousness.  I also think of the Tantric teachings that show us how to work with the physical world and with all of the emotional and physical things we may otherwise see as limitations; we can work with these things on our path to liberation, and we don't have to see the physical world or our bodies as something inferior or unreal.  

The main concept of this theory which would help me teach a class is approaching everything we do on the mat as a process of investigative understanding; so, seeing how we feel in a certain pose, experimenting with variations of a pose, directing our attention to the breath and being guided by that, all of these aspects of yoga practice can be pointed out to students to help them better understand themselves and their own bodies (yoga as the science of self-realization).  In addition, in a yoga class I would probably often focus on balancing the energies of the gunas, so I would attempt to arrive at a general intuitive assessment of a prevailing collective energy on a given day (based on the season, the weather, events, the phase of the moon, etc.) and I might tailor the asana sequence to that in order to go with the flow but also bring about balance.  An example: on a particularly bright, clear and warm day in July with a waning moon in the sky, I might go through a mostly rajasic sequence of asanas but then end with a lot of deep forward bends and a longer period of sitting meditation and cooling pranayama to balance out the dominant guna.  In privates I would ask a series of questions to get a sense of the student’s dominant energy on that day and in whatever was happening in his/her life, then I would tailor the asana sequence and guided meditation to the student.  

The one thing from this discussion which resonated the most with me was the view of creation as a way for Source (Brahman, God) to reveal pure seeing to itself.  I wrote down this quote: “The underlying purpose of creation is to reveal pure seeing to itself.”  I like viewing myself and everything around me as a unified emanation of God.  That concept deeply resonates with my being.  

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