Mark Stephens' Musings
These writings are informal reflections on practicing and teaching yoga. Click on any title to read the entire piece.
Excerpted from the "Introduction" to Yoga Therapy: Foundations, Methods, and Practices (712 pages, forthcoming November 2017, North Atlantic Books/Penguin Random House)
Meditation as taught in most yoga classes invites us to follow the path of Patanjali's method, which starts with Pratyahara, meaning "to relieve your senses of their external distractions." Put differently, it's a practice of isolation, one in which we go inside, separating our awareness from a world that Patanjalian yoga (indeed, most yoga) sees as illusory.
Part of the sublime nature of yoga is that there are infinite possibilities for deepening and refining one’s practice.
Steadiness, Ease & Presence of Mind
There are several basic elements that are ideally communicated to our students in every practice and given even greater clarity with newer students. Among the most important is the idea that yoga is neither a comparative nor a competitive practice, despite some people doing their best to make it so.
Perseverance & Non-Attachment
When doing a yoga practice, we come to various asanas. In approaching them, we’re already experiencing sensations. If we’re actually doing yoga rather than merely exercising, then we’re breathing consciously and using the breath to refine how we’re exploring the asana. Breathing consciously, we’re bringing more conscious awareness into the bodymind, ideally as suggested by the sensations that are arising in the moment, adapting our movement and positioning to be more stable, relaxed, and present.
In doing yoga, we are gradually awakening to a clearer and truer understanding of who we are in our deepest, innermost being. How did the Buddha awaken? Bytuning in. It’s the same in yoga: the best teacher one will ever have is alive and well inside. Much of the practice is about coming to hear that inner teacher, to listen to and honor the inner teachings.
Yoga has evolved more in the last seventy-five years than in the previous thousand years. This assertion deserves some explanation in order to shed light on what this might mean for teachers and teaching in the present day and going forward. What are the evolutionary trends? How is yoga changing? As yoga teachers, what might we anticipate in the coming years, and where are we in the evolutionary process of yoga?
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Mark Stephens Yoga
1010 Fair Avenue, Suite C
Santa Cruz, CA 95060