Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dogma Attack

After my post on Monday, I received a handful of comments on the blog. Some were warm and supportive, others were critical but fair, and there was one - just one - that was abusive, petty and meanspirited.

I know what you're thinking: I got off pretty easy, and you're probably right.

I shouldn't have let it bother me, but clearly I'm not making as much progress on the old 'don't-take-things-personally' Samskara as I should be. I don't get a lot of hate mail. The comment deeply hurt me, particularly since (though it was written 'anonymously') I knew exactly who wrote it.

I've been hunkered down, mulling this whole thing over. For a day or two, I was pretty sure I would shut down the blog. Between my practice and teaching, I really don't have the energy for this kind of drama. I considered blogging privately. I flirted around with the idea of writing about cheesy 70s television, or Cute Things Princess Fur Does.

But I have a feeling that's not what you, the 500+ readers who quietly surf and absorb and lurk without judgement, are here for. You're here to read about yoga. And that's what I forgot about in all the mental static around the Rude Comment. All of you outnumber 'anonymous' by a wide, wide margin and I've found friendship and a genuine sense of connection in the 'Cybershala.'

And as isolated as I was feeling, I was reminded that I'm no longer in this alone. My teacher not only reads my blog, but she and her partner are unconditionally supportive of my writing. They've made it clear that I can blog freely about my practice, both the positive and the negative. They trust me to be fair and honest in my writing.

Many of my shalamates read too. A few have blogs of their own. I'm realising that I'm in a very different place than I was a year ago when I was practising at Shala Central.

But I think I need to make something clear to all of you who read this: My practice has changed a LOT in the past few months and I'm no longer doing what could be described as a 'traditional' practice. One of you remarked about my split: 'That's not the way it's done.' I know that. I'm doing things differently and I'm comfortable with that.

For the time being, you can expect to read about a practice that's more 'criminal' than 'traditional'. This shouldn't be a great shock to anyone, it's pretty much been the way I've always rolled. Think about it: I 'gave' myself the Primary Series, in its entirety, learned from books and DVDs. I've always used props and preparation poses in my home practice (and I know some of you do too!).

I should probably mention that when I visit a traditional room, I'll always respect the rules of the teacher. During my recent visit with DR at Shala North, I practised the Primary Series from start to finish with no embellishments or added poses. It's a privelege to be a visitor in a Mysore room and I'll always honour that.

I had an entire post composed in my head about dogma, but the bottom line is, we're all grown-ups and we get to choose our yoga practice. If we're smart about it, we choose a practice that makes us stronger, keeps us safe from injury and - this is an important point - helps us to become kinder, more loving, compassionate people. If a more dogmatic practice does that for you, terrific! It wasn't doing it for me, so I'm making a different choice.

I don't knock anyone for thinking differently, I just don't support a fundmentalist attitude with holier-than-thou ashtangis going around attacking others for lacking 'purity' in their practice or warning of dire consequences if others don't follow 'the rules.'

Someone implied that by taking Intermediate Series before standing up from a backbend, I was endangering myself. I'm not worried. I've been practising yoga in the lineage of Krishnamarcharya (Iyengar yoga, classical Hatha, Anusara and Astanga) for close to 16 years. I've been doing most of these postures 'out of sequence' for a long time. I think I'll be fine.

There are many, many ways to practise yoga. I don't believe there's one 'right way'. I'm finding the 'right way' for me. If that resonates with you, keep reading.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Anonymous said...

I'm one of the lurkers and read a variety of blogs, none two alike. I think the approach you outline here is healthy. I respect people who follow a very strict traditional practice but it's not the only way. Or maybe it IS the 'one true way of yoga' (not that I have seen many folks make that claim, mind) and everyone else is doing something 'lesser'. I kind of doubt it, though, since ultimately yoga comes down to the individual; our internal growth, our awareness, our understanding of ourselves and our practice.

IDK, everyone seems obsessed with what 'real' yoga is lately. I am starting to think all the new flashy yoga types aimed at making a brand or making money is causing a pretty extreme ascetic backlash. Maybe that is what yoga as a whole will need but there is certainly a middle ground.

For this on and off yoga practitioner with no school and no tradition to call myself a part of, your blog is still one of my favourites.

Loo said...

well as my teacher once told me "don't let the bastards get the last word" ... he was talking about my inner nagging voice but in this case, it fits with uptight rigid dogmatic ashtangis!

Claudia said...

Great post Kai, I really appreciate your honesty and clarity on it. I was just having a conversation on this topic. I have been pondering on the issue of lineage and what that is and what it means to me and etc etc... you know me, I like to talk... anyway, I noticed how after a while the knowledge that comes from doing our practice sort of begin to inform us of what is important, what road we should go down, how we should practice, and I find htat it is important to honor that, especially when it is real as is your case since you are a devoted yogi.

I am sorry yout went through the fundamentalist tube... guess it comes along once in a while, glad you are honoring your practice! I completely agree with what you say when you write that yoga is that which brings us closer to being kinder, yes, absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I guess someone read the title of our blog and then just didn't believe you.

Then they read your comment guidelines and they still didn't believe you.

just as well. on we go..Exciting!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I just attended David Swenson's workshop last weekend. What I took away from it was that we change everyday, and therefore, it it necessary to modify our practice to suit our changing bodies.

I am learning under a new teacher now and I have doubts whether I can follow her through because she's big on things like getting it right with minimum modifications. While I like to execute each asana perfectly like John Scott or any other established Ashtangi, I haven't reached that stage (in fact, my chaturanga SUCKS). For a while I had mental blocks about certain poses, and I just couldn't carry on. But then, I made up mind to be kind to myself and do a modified chaturanga, and I carried on.

That said, it is blogs like yours that keep me going. That makes me believe truly that if I practice, all is coming. So thank you for taking the time and energy to share your thoughts :)

Cybershala mate.

エスタ said...

Seriously! I totted of to Tokyo with your post in my mind, I feel that we are on a similar track...what is the controversy? My very traditional teacher said I could split at eka pada, or even suggested that I do half primary and second, there are many ways not just one. Some people project their own insecurites onto the practice and call it tradition. Following ruels like a robot is not what I'd call respecting tradition. People forget what the tradition was based on in the first place. I admire your dedication and constant experimentation. Also some of the very long term, super traditional ashtanga teachers will very much alter the practice to the needs of the students. Please don't let fundamentalists stain what is a beautiful tradition. Asana is such a small part of Ashtanga, we all have so much work to do on so many aspects, more understanding and support and as you say kindness. Hmph, feel better now, had to get that out. Some people!! Would love to know what anon said. Glad it didn't get you down for too long. Esther x

Anonymous said...

One sinner to another, here's my not-so-humble-opinion:
(1) It's your body. It's your practice. How you choose to contort yourself when you get up in the morning is between you and your hip flexors. You seem to be respectful to the house rules of whatever shala you're in at the time, so who cares what you do elsewhere?
(2) It's your blog. Debate is fun, but beating someone up on their own blog is rude. Like taking a poo on their lawn. Sometimes I really can't stomach something I read in a blog (not this one!). Then I hit the "X" in the upper right hand corner of the screen and <**MAGIC**> they're gone. No need to start silliness.

Helen said...

HI Kai, glad to have an opportunity to comment. I was too late previously as you had closed the comments and I thought this was why. This is a brilliant post, which show great clarity. I am truly pleased that you have found a practice and a teacher that supports you on your journey. You seem so happy with your practice recently and I am so happy to hear it.

Flo said...

I have adoration and respect for you. Your practice is just that..."yours"

Anonymous said...

just enjoy your practice, i enjoy reading about your journey along with many others, 500 to 1 is a good ratio of good to bad. I suspect we have all had comments like that along with the spam, constructive criticism ( I get plenty) is fine, especially when done openly, but ones sent nastily behind the wall of "Anonymous" are unkind and what the Delete button is there for.

The Cybershala is a wonderful resource, especially for those of us who predominantly practice on our own. It's a great way to feel part of something much bigger, please stay part of it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, just wanted to let you know that your un-traditionalness has been very inspiring to me. I used to believe I had to do things this way or that way, but then I didn't enjoy my practice as much. Reading your blog has made me realize that one doesn't always have to follow the rules, not to mention that the rules vary with whom you ask, and now that I'm a bit more relaxed about things I enjoy it so much more! So don't let somebody with a rigid mind get you down, that's their loss - and who cares anyway, as long as you're enjoying your practice that's what's important!

Grimmly said...

Sorry you picked up some abuse Kai, i don;t mind criticism as long as it's relatively polite but hey, guess we get to work on some loving kindness.No doubt whoever it was was just feeling a little insecure threatened or a bit of both.

Anonymous said...

I have been meaning to come and comment on how happy and inspired you seem in your practice, and how nice it was to read of your newfound bliss.

This person is a mean person who needs to stop making rude blog comments and worry about their mula bandha.

The idea that harm will come from from proceeding before standing up is nonsensical from any vantage point. Many of gurujis own students, and in turn their students, are doing wonderful having been taught contrary to the standing up rule.

Please don't let the crazies get you down for listening to your own body and heart and searching for the right teacher/shala match. Its clearly the safer and more rational path than blindly adhering to the latest version of the ashtanga tradition no matter the consequences.