What the yoga teachers deliver to the people in the ‘yoga asana exercise classes’ generate a great impact on how the people understand about yoga, especially when they teach yoga asana exercise class as merely a fitness exercise class to attain some benefits for health and fitness to look good and feel good, in oppose to teaching yoga asana practice as one of the many yoga practice to discipline the ignorant, egoistic, impure, passionate and restless mind, to prepare the mind for meditation to attain self-realization.
There is a difference between “Yoga is just a physical exercise” and “Yoga asana practice is a physical exercise”.
There’s nothing wrong with “Yoga asana practice is a physical exercise” because yoga asana practice is a form of physical exercise/postures, but it is beyond just a form of physical exercise for attaining health and fitness benefits, because it is one of the tools in yoga to serve the purpose of influencing the state of the mind, to render it calm and quiet, to prepare the mind for meditation upon the truth of names and forms.
Meanwhile, Yoga is not a physical exercise at all. It’s a profound knowledge and practice or wisdom for all beings who seek ultimate liberation from suffering, to transcend all kinds of suffering from its root cause – Ignorance and egoism.
There are ‘yoga teachers’ and ‘yoga medias’ deliver the message about “Yoga is just a physical exercise”. It’s ignorance feeding deeper ignorance. They are responsible for why many people think that they are ‘practicing yoga’ and that they love ‘yoga’ so much because they have been attending ‘yoga asana exercise class’ regularly for many years with the understanding that “yoga is just a physical exercise” because that is what the ‘yoga teachers’ and ‘yoga medias’ have been delivering to them. And when they come in contact with the teachings and the traditional practice of yoga, especially the parts that their minds dislike and disagree with, they generate aversion, dissatisfaction and disappointment, and complain that “This is not yoga (that they think what it supposed to be)”.
When these people who think they love ‘yoga’ (actually what they love is the ‘yoga asana exercise’ and the effects and benefits of the yoga asana exercise) have the chance to experience the traditional yoga practice that integrate the entire teachings of yoga of the elimination of ignorance and egoism into the yoga classes (where yoga asana practice is just a small part of the yoga practice), these people will be in great shock. Some of them might open up their mind to relearn what yoga is about, but many of them generate great aversion towards what yoga really is, and think, “This is not yoga!” or “This is not the yoga that I know that I want!”. Not just that they don’t like yoga as it is, which actually is quite an unpleasant purification process/experience/journey for many egoistic impure minds conditioned by worldly cultural, religious, social and personal thinking and belief, they also condemn yoga (not the ‘yoga’ that they think it should be), the yoga practice of eliminating ignorance and egoism, and the people who teach yoga (those who deliver yoga as it is).
Especially in the traditional ashrams or yoga retreats centres that provide the facilities to conduct yoga courses and retreats for people who want to learn and practice yoga following the tradition of yoga in an environment that allow the people to immerse into the traditional yoga practice to eliminate ignorance and egoism, it is not about ‘commercialized yoga retreats centres’ doing ‘yoga business’ where the ‘customers’ paying ‘money’ to receive some ‘customer service’, ‘special treatments’ and ‘pleasurable enjoyments’. But, it is about the peace seekers contribute some ‘fees’ to make use of the facilities and programs provided by the ashrams and retreats centres to immerse into the yoga practice where it’s about letting go of pleasurable enjoyments of receiving special treatments and customer service, but to give their ‘service’ to serve themselves and other people by observing/purifying/disciplining their own minds as well as to help to maintain the entire place to support Dharma and other people to come to the ashrams or the retreats centres to learn and practice yoga.
During the course or retreat, one practice yoga of changing the egoistic habits of the mind. If there is attachment and identification, let them go. If there is craving or aversion, let them go. If there is pride and arrogance, let them go. If there is defensiveness and offensiveness, let them go. If there is dissatisfaction and disappointment, let them go. If there is anger and hatred, let them go. If there is intolerance and frustration, let them go. If there is fear and worry, let them go. If there is petty-mindedness and covertness, let them go. And so on.
In a simple term, peace seekers come to the ashrams or retreats centres and ‘pay’ to learn and practice “How to take care of oneself or one’s mind”. They learn to develop self-awareness, self-discipline and self-independence to perform their yoga practice, maintaining the tidiness and cleanliness of their own living space and practice space, mind their own practice/minds, and most important is to observe silence and solitude to reduce inputs and outputs of the mind, to silent the restless outgoing mind.
There is also a huge difference between the message of “Yoga asana practice is a physical exercise for health and fitness” and “Yoga asana practice is one of the many yoga practice to discipline the impure restless mind to prepare the mind for meditation to be free from ignorance and egoism to realize the truth of names and forms, to transcend suffering and realize unconditional love and peace, or selflessness and compassion, as the greatest meanings of life and greatest form of contribution to the world to serve humanity”.
It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want and don’t want, and whether they want to practice yoga as it is, or not. Yoga teachers should teach/deliver yoga as it is, and allowing everyone to decide what they want or don’t want to practice. It’s okay if people don’t want to practice yoga but only want to do some exercise for health and fitness benefits, but with the correct understanding about what is yoga.