Expectation from the yoga students towards the yoga teachers

“How come the teacher didn’t say anything about whether my execution is good or not, or whether I’m doing the postures and movements right, or not?”

In most of the “yoga classes” (yoga asana exercise classes), the teacher or the instructor will go around and adjusting the body of the students, correcting their poses and movements, and telling them whether they are good and whether they are doing it right, and constantly give encouragement to them to try harder, to do something that they don’t want to do, or are not comfortable doing, or what they think they can’t do. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

In the yoga class of learning and practicing yoga to eliminate ignorance and egoism to free the mind from suffering, the teacher seldom or does not go around adjusting or correcting their physical positions or movements, or give them appraisement whether they are good, or not, whether they are doing it right, or not. Because how they look in the positions or how well they execute the movements are irrelevant towards the elimination of ignorance and egoism to free the mind from suffering.

Wisdom and compassion and the ability to let go and forgive, is nothing to do with making the body more strong and flexible to be able to perform many yoga asana poses beautifully or to mastering the skill to perform the yoga poses. It’s about putting the body in certain positions within the ability and comfort of the physical body and holding the positions comfortably as long as the body can stay in those positions comfortably without struggling, in order to bring the mind to be in the present to calm down and quieting the restless mind, to prepare the mind for meditation. And this is nothing to do with whether the yoga practitioner is performing the yoga poses in perfect alignment or not in the yoga asana practice.

Even when a person can perform all the yoga poses nicely in perfect alignment and executing all the movements correctly and gracefully also doesn’t guarantee that this person is or will be free from ignorance and egoism and impurities of anger, hatred, jealousy, pride, arrogance, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, agitation, depression, hurts, regret, guilt, craving, aversion, ill-will, ill-thinking, fear and worry, and so on, if this person doesn’t work on eliminating the egoism that feeds ignorance that gives rise to suffering and all sorts of disturbs and unhappiness.

The teacher who teaches yoga delivers the teachings and the guidelines for the practice to the students to perform their practice, and the teacher might or might not be observing their practice from time to time, but at the same time, without interference, judgement or expectation, allowing the students to experience the teachings while practice what they learn from the teacher about the teachings and the practice, disregards whether their understanding towards the teachings and the practice is perfect or imperfect, and whether they are following the guidelines accordingly, or not, but to inquire the truth of the teachings and the practice through their own direct experience, to develop understanding and awareness towards their own body and mind, to become the observer or the teacher towards their own mind, without attachment, identification, judgement, comparison and expectation.

The students learn to develop self-independence and self-discipline. They don’t need to depend on a ‘teacher’ to tell them whether they are doing their practice correctly, or not, as they should be able to have the basic awareness of whether they are practicing correctly, or not, by being aware of the consequences of the action of doing the poses and movements. For example, the teacher teaches the students who have never seen fire, “Fire can burn your skin and flesh and it might cause painful sensation and damages. And hence do not touch the fire.” and if the students still want to touch the fire, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and got burnt by the fire, that is not the teacher’s responsibility. The teacher cannot be there every seconds watching the students to make sure they don’t touch the fire so that they won’t hurt themselves. The students will have to learn from their own direct experience and be responsible for looking after their own well-being. Just like parents can give advice as much as they can to their children, but they cannot be there all the time to control their children how they should act or react or behave, making sure that they only do good and the right thing, and don’t do bad or the wrong thing.

Only the students themselves will know whether they are practicing yoga, or not. People can be doing yoga poses everyday for years, but they might not be practicing yoga at all, including yoga teachers. It’s not about looking at the teacher and trying to imitate the teacher or other people. The yoga practitioners learn how to perform all their actions, practice, duties, and responsibilities out of compassion, without egoism, being free from attachment, identification, judgement, comparison and expectation towards the actions, the practice, the duties and responsibilities, as well as the result or fruit of the actions, the practice, the duties and responsibilities.

If the students don’t feel comfortable while putting their body in a particular position or executing particular movements, they shouldn’t proceed further or force their body to continue to perform the position or movements that the body feels discomfortable or painful, whether it’s due the limitation of their body, or there’s mind blockage of fear and worry, or it’s due to incorrect understanding towards the practice. If it’s due to their incorrect understanding towards the practice, the teacher will redeliver the guidelines of the practice to them, without expecting them to be fully understanding the practice right away.

The students learn to be aware that all their experiences, whether it’s okay or not okay, are all impermanent. Through their own awareness and understanding, they learn how to make appropriate adjustment to put their body into the positions comfortably, or execute the movements in the way that suits their body most, without expecting a teacher constantly be there to make adjustments for them. Everyone has a different body with different condition and limitation. What is comfortable for some people might be very painful for other people. There’s no best way to execute the movements or the best perfect look of the positions or poses, it’s just what the body can do comfortably, in this present moment. And no body is aware of what is going on in one’s body and mind but oneself, not even the yoga teacher.

For those who have been doing yoga poses for many years, how they look and how they feel in the poses or movements could be different in every practice. It is the truth of impermanence and selflessness. One can’t even look and feel the same in one’s different sessions of practice, then why should one look and feel the same as any others or the teacher in particular in their respective practice?

So what if some people’s body are really inflexible and weak, and they don’t look like everyone else while performing the yoga poses or while executing certain movements? It doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to realize unconditional peace and love or to let go and forgive something that is hurtful. It’s really unimportant and irrelevant about the physical ability and limitation in the realization of selflessness, unconditional peace and love, and the ability to let go and forgive something that the mind perceives as bad, wrong, undeserving, hurtful, painful or disturbing.

A yoga teacher allows the yoga students to take their time to find their own way of putting their body comfortably in the poses without pushing or forcing their body beyond its limitation or disability in the present moment, or adjusting their body and mind by themselves to adapt and accommodate the practice, the poses or the movements with care and responsibility from themselves towards themselves.

What the students can do or cannot do, what the students want or don’t want to do, and how the students interpret and execute the teachings and practice or how they look in the positions or movements are the students’ freedom and responsibility. The yoga teacher is not here to control and judge every action of the yoga students. After learning the teachings and practice by coming in contact with the teachings from a teacher, it’s up to the yoga students to interpret and perform the teachings and practice in their own pace, in their own way, by experiencing and inquiring the truth of these teachings and practice.

The students should be learning how to be aware of their practice and understand the practice via direct experience, without attachment, identification, craving, aversion, judgement, comparison and expectation, and don’t depend on the teacher to look at their practice and constantly telling them about how good or bad is their practice. It’s not about how perfect do they look in the positions and how good they execute the movements, but it’s about via the positions and movements, they learn about what is going on in their minds, about the ignorance and egoism and the consequences of ignorance and egoism, about the suffering and the cause of suffering, about the impermanence and selflessness of the physical body and the activities of the mind of all the ceaseless thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions, reactions and impurities.

In order to perform the exercise safely so that the yoga practitioners won’t generate stress or injury onto the physical body has nothing to do with executing the yoga poses or movements in perfect alignment. It’s by understanding and listening to their own body, just do what their body can do comfortably in this present moment, in a relaxed manner, without forcing or pushing their body beyond its limitation, without trying to follow the standard of the perfect alignment, there’s no stress or risk of injury. In contrast, while trying to perform the positions or movements according to the perfect alignment that is beyond their physical limitation, to look exactly like other people or the teacher, building up tension from attachment, identification, craving, aversion, judgement, comparison and expectation, could generate unnecessary stress and injury to the body and mind while trying to perform the yoga poses perfectly according to the standard of perfect alignment. Putting the body in the perfect alignment also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is or will be free from ignorance, egoism and suffering. People who are physically fit, strong and flexible, and can perform many yoga poses skillfully in perfect alignment, are not necessarily be free from ignorance, egoism and suffering.

Be free.

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Go beyond all the desirable and undesirable experiences

Go beyond all the desirable and undesirable experiences.

Free from clinging and craving towards desirable experiences.

Free from aversion towards undesirable experiences.

Just do one’s best, perform actions to attain the life that one would like it to be, that one thinks is best for oneself and/or for others, but allow the fruit of actions to be what it is.

The sense of meaninglessness, disappointment, dissatisfaction, non-accomplishment, low self-esteem, hopelessness, depression, loneliness or emptiness doesn’t present/arise/manifest/exist in such mind, even when there is the presence or existence of mind perception of names and forms that are not necessarily the way that the mind likes or wants it to be. There are effort or action being performed from moment to moment, making use of the life existence, the body, the senses, the mind perception, the knowledge, the talent, the skill, the opportunity, the condition, the situation, to be doing something for oneself and/or others, without attachment, identification, judgment, intention or expectation towards the effort or action and the fruit of the effort or action.

When there’s dissatisfaction, unhappiness, disappointment, anger, meaninglessness, or depression manifest in the mind upon the absence of desirable experiences, hoping for something to happen but it didn’t happen, or upon the presence of undesirable experiences, especially unpleasant experiences that involve other beings or people, that’s the moment of the yoga practice of letting go takes place. Do not feed those thoughts/feelings/emotions. They will pass away, eventually.

None needs to be responsible for other people/being’s ignorance. There’s no need to suffer for other people/being’s ignorant thinking, action and speech. There might be complicated condition or situation arise under the influence of other people’s ignorance, but one deals with those complication without resentment, as resentment won’t undo what had happened or make things better. Allowing the reality that the mind perceives in this present moment now to be what it is, as it is, that it’s not necessarily the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, and it’s okay. Need not be disturbed or determined by the reality that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t want. Even when the perceived reality is the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, that is also impermanent. Appreciate and enjoy the desirable experiences without grasping or clinging onto the experiences that are desirable.

Once the mind is able to go beyond the desirable and undesirable experiences, there’s no suffering or painful sorrow can manifest in this mind, even though the mind has to go through undesirable or unpleasant experiences.

Strength, flexibility, wisdom and compassion in yoga is referring to the ability of letting go both desirable and undesirable experiences, or to let go or forgive something that the mind perceives or recognizes as bad, wrong, undeserving, painful, or hurtful.

Having a fit, healthy, strong and flexible physical body doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Performing yoga asana practice and other forms of yoga practice as well as teaching yoga for a prolonged period of time also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Having many people and things surrounding oneself and existing in one’s life also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Having a positive, satisfied and happy mind when everything is the way that the mind likes or wants it to be also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Taking drugs, substances or intoxication that will give momentary relief, good feelings and calmness to the mind also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Attaining some sorts of extraordinary superpower of clairvoyance also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free, as having the power of clairvoyance also can’t change the law of impermanence and selflessness.

But when things are not the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, when one is alone, when there’s no acknowledgement/agreement/support/companionship/interaction/encouragement from anyone or anything, when one receives all kinds of ill-treatment and experiencing physical or mental discomfort, pain, weakness or disability, under any difficult, challenging or crucial condition and situation, and the mind is still peaceful as it is due to the realization of selflessness, correct understanding/wisdom and unconditional love/compassion (without under the influence of the effect of drugs or substances or intoxication that is impermanent), then this mind is free.

It’s okay if the mind is not free, or not peaceful, or not okay. It’s okay if this freedom is not the freedom that people are looking for. It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want and don’t want. For those who are in search for this freedom of yoga, they can try to practice yoga, if they want.

Misconception towards self-love or self-compassion

Self-love or self-compassion is related to being self-centered in yoga.

While self-centered is being referred as self-obsessiveness by certain worldly thinking and belief as pampering oneself with enjoyments and laziness and fulfilling all desires at any cost, even if it would cause harmful damages in oneself and others.

There’s nothing wrong if people want to be selfish and lazy, it’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life. It’s just that those who are selfish and lazy, but can’t help feeling guilty for being selfish and lazy, would feel better by justifying to themselves and others that they are practicing self-love or self-compassion.

In the teachings of yoga, being self-centered has nothing to do with self-obsessiveness/self-pampering/laziness. It’s about being centered in the truth of selflessness (the state that is void of selfishness or unselfishness), performing all duties and responsibilities without being influenced or determined by the action and the fruit of action, and being compassionate towards the suffering in one’s mind and others without being influenced, or disturbed, or determined by the suffering and the cause of suffering, which is ignorance and egoism, as well as all sort of impurities, thinking, belief, behavior, values and expectation that are under the influence of ignorance and egoism. It’s nothing to do with self-pampering with enjoyments and laziness and the fulfillment of all desires.

Self-compassion is being persevered and determined to free one’s mind from ignorance and the consequences of ignorance.

Being compassionate doesn’t mean that sacrificing oneself in pursue of helping others or making others to be happy. None can make another to be happy. When others are happy it’s because their desires of craving and aversion are being gratified by giving them what they like and want, and don’t give them what they don’t like and don’t want. It’s the ego thinking that ‘I’ am good and happy when ‘I’ can make others to be happy. It’s about doing one best performing action without forcing oneself beyond limitation and be able to let go without guilt or regret, if one couldn’t help as much as one would like to help. None can’t help those who enjoy being ignorant and swimming in the pool of suffering, who are reluctant to help themselves, but only complain about all sorts of dissatisfaction and expect sympathy and help from others to gratify all their desires of craving and aversion.

The thinking of “I am not good enough to help or make others to be happy, and thus, I am unable to be compassionate and I am unhappy because others are unhappy.” is due to the egoism of attachment, identification, judgment and expectation out of ignorance. It’s nothing to do with compassion.

Be compassionate towards suffering minds

It’s not as easy as we would like it to be, to free the mind from suffering.

Though people might show sympathy towards other people’s suffering, those who have always been having a good life condition, might not truly understand the suffering that some other people are going through physically, mentally and emotionally, due to some traumatic painful life experiences.

We can’t tell people, “Hey, be grateful for all the little good things that you have. Stop being miserable.”

We can’t tell people, “Hey, be positive. Everything will be all good and nothing bad.”

We can’t tell people, especially when our life is in good condition, “Hey, life is so good. Don’t be so unhappy and bitter.”

People are allowed to be unhappy or bitter, especially when they are going through some difficult moments. It’s everyone’s freedom for whether they want to be free from unhappiness and bitterness, or not.

People might have gone through or are going through some really difficult or disturbing or painful moments, where we might have no idea how hard it is to be in their place. Even though people might smile, make jokes and laugh like everyone else, but deep in their mind, there might be some painful suffering that other people are unaware of.

It’s not difficult for those who have realized the truth to be able to let go even the most difficult and painful experiences, without vengeance. But it’s not easy for those who haven’t realized the truth to let go what was/is deeply troubling their minds.

It’s perfectly understandable that some of the suffering minds have become ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’, and we should be compassionate towards these minds that have become ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’ unwittingly, due to having been through some difficult traumatic life experiences that are not in their control and not what they wish for.

It’s normal that the suffering minds that are ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’ would feel very uncomfortable or irritable, disturbed and disgusted when hearing the teachings of yoga about letting go, forgiveness and compassion. It might take them a long time to be able to allow the mind to be open, to be aware of the suffering, without identification with the suffering, but to stand as a witness towards all the painful life experiences, and be compassionate towards the mind has to unwittingly go through some difficult traumatic life experiences, and suffers. And as yoga teachers, we can only be compassionate towards these suffering minds without judgment, but with thorough understanding and acceptance, knowing that none can take away another person’s suffering, but the mind itself to free itself from ignorance and egoism, the root cause of all suffering.

It’s really irrelevant and unimportant about how long one has been doing/practicing/teaching yoga

It’s really irrelevant and unimportant about how long one has been doing/practicing/teaching yoga, as to whether one’s mind is free from ignorance, egoism, impurities, disturbs, unhappiness and suffering, or not.

When attending a yoga class or a yoga retreat, most people would like to address about how long they have been doing/practicing yoga, and they want to know how long the yoga teachers have been doing/practicing/teaching yoga. And some people would feel strange and even offended when the yoga teachers who know what is the teachings and practice of yoga don’t bring up the question about how long the students have been doing/practicing yoga.

People who have not been doing/practicing yoga, don’t necessarily means that they are not free from ignorance and egoism, or are not peaceful, wise and compassionate. While those who have been doing/practicing yoga for some time or a long time, don’t necessarily means that they are free from ignorance and egoism, and are peaceful, wise and compassionate.

Those who are free, peaceful, wise and compassionate, then it doesn’t matter how long they have been doing/practicing yoga and they don’t mind about what the teacher teaches in the class, and it doesn’t matter whether their body is strong and flexible enough to do all the yoga poses, or not, as well as how long the teacher has been doing/practicing/teaching yoga.

Those who are not free, they will learn and practice yoga under the guidance of a teacher disregard how long they have been doing/practicing yoga. Yoga practice is in the present moment, doing one’s best to take care of the well-being of the body and mind, without straining the body and mind, being compassionate towards this mind perception of life existence and accepting the body and mind and all kinds of life experience as they are, from moment to moment. It’s nothing to do with how long one has been doing/practicing yoga. If one is already free, one doesn’t even need to do/practice yoga. If one is not free, then keep practicing without judgment or expectation. It’s okay if the mind is not free in the present moment, and this is impermanent.

It’s the same as how long the yoga teachers have been doing/practicing/teaching yoga is also irrelevant and unimportant as to whether the yoga teachers are free, peaceful, wise and compassionate, or not, and whether the yoga teachers are teaching yoga and guiding the yoga students towards liberation from ignorance and egoism, to realize unconditional peace, wisdom and compassion, or not.

If people couldn’t figure this out, or couldn’t understand about this, then even though they think they have been doing/practicing yoga for a long time, and they have been reading and hearing about the teachings/philosophy of yoga, but they are not free. And it’s okay if the mind is not free yet after one has been doing/practicing yoga for a long time, and one has been reading and hearing about the teachings/philosophy of yoga. Just keep practicing, without judgment, comparison or expectation.