My yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, has been emphasizing an important quality that is necessary for progress of the path of Yoga. This quality is HUMILITY.
We bow our heads to our hearts during centering in order to remember the importance of this trait. We recite invocations at the beginning of each class to honor the teachers that came before us, who taught us what we know today through disciplined practice and dedication. We say “Namaste” which can be translated as “Not me, you” and point our fingers slightly towards the other person.
But are we truly able to embody the quality of humility? Especially if we are long term practitioners and teachers?
Since I moved to Israel, I have had a hard time finding a teacher that I can practice with regularly. There are many excellent teachers here, but no one that I felt compelled to study with on a consistent basis. I always had Aadil in Bellevue, WA as my main teacher and guide but I also attended classes a few times a week with Aman Keays in San Diego. Although I can practice on my own, I am seeing the downfall of not studying with someone here. There is the tendency to get lazy and fall short on the commitment and discipline essential to the path. But a bigger problem is a lack of inspiration and excitement that comes from grasping even the smallest but most meaningful new insight, in an instruction or concept. It can bring the whole practice into a new light.
I recently took a workshop with a local Iyengar teacher and had a taste of that inspiration that has elluded me for a while here. With a few simple words, she lit that spark that was dormant for a while, and in that moment, I knew I needed to find a teacher here too.
We have to be careful with the ego. We can get comfortable and think we know it all, or that we know more than others, especially as teachers and yoga therapists. But without humility, even the most knowledgeable teachers and practitioners can get caught up in the ego, even in the Yoga world.
On a physical level, we need to understand that backbends need to be practiced with length in the lumbar area and softness in the heart. If someone “puffs their chest out” and collapses in to the lumbar spine, pushing the kidneys into the body, it can create more aggression and haughtiness instead of expansion. We need to practice our asana with less striving and forcing and more feeling, because asana can be reduced to gymnastics if it is simply performance based.
Yoga has always been passed down from teacher to student. In the current paradigm, there are large studios where a student can jump from one teacher to another. But the real beauty and depth of yoga, in my opinion, comes from sticking with a teacher for a number of years, perhaps even a lifetime.
So, if you haven’t found your teacher yet, don’t worry. Just be open and curious to invite someone into your life who has something to teach you. And even if you know more than that person about one thing, be humble. Maybe they have more to teach you about something else.