There are people who have been enjoying eating ‘Thai food’ in some restaurants cooked by some chefs who don’t really know what is ‘Thai food’, or the ‘Thai food’ that they have been enjoying eating are being modified and presented differently from the traditional authentic ‘Thai food’ to suit the taste of people who prefer to eat bread and potatoes than rice or noodles, or who aren’t use to spiciness or the intense taste of fish sauce, which is the main ingredient for ‘Thai food’. And one day, they have the opportunity to come to an authentic ‘Thai food’ restaurant and they order some ‘Thai food’ to eat, some would appreciate the authentic taste of ‘Thai food’, and are glad to have tasted the real ‘Thai food’, while some would feel very disappointed as it’s not what they expected, where it’s completely different taste or presentation from the ‘Thai food’ that they usually eat, where the food doesn’t served with bread or potatoes and they don’t like the taste of the authentic ‘Thai food’, and they don’t want to finish the food that they ordered while refuse to pay the bill, or request a partial billing, saying that “Your food is not good. I don’t like your food. At home, our ‘Thai food’ served with some bread or potatoes. Your ‘Thai food’ doesn’t served with bread or potatoes. I don’t want to pay for the food that I didn’t want to finish eating because I don’t like it and it doesn’t served with bread or potatoes.”
It’s everyone’s freedom for what they like and don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with people enjoy eating ‘Thai food’ that is not really ‘Thai food’ and rejecting authentic ‘Thai food’, but one still have to pay for the food that one ordered but didn’t want to finish eating because one didn’t like the taste or there is no bread or potatoes being served.
It’s similar as there are many people have been teaching ‘yoga classes’ in the world after attended and graduated from some kind of ‘yoga teachers training courses’ and call themselves ‘certified yoga teachers’, but not all these ‘yoga teachers’ are teaching yoga as it is, that allow people to develop the basic understanding about the elimination of ignorance and egoism, to be learning and practicing yoga that is not necessarily pleasant or enjoyable for the body and mind but might be very unpleasant and painful for the impure prideful egoistic mind during the purification process of the annihilation of ignorance and egoism. As a result, many people are learning and practicing what they think is yoga but not really yoga from all these ‘certified yoga teachers’ and they think that is how yoga practice should be done ‘correctly’ as taught by these ‘yoga teachers’.
When these people participated in a ‘yoga retreat’ or ‘yoga course’ that is about yoga and they have the opportunity to come in contact with the yoga practice of simplicity, self-discipline, self-reliance, dispassion and renunciation, about the elimination of ignorance and egoism of attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation, of purifying and quieting the restless impure mind for meditation, that is different from the ‘modified yoga asana classes’ that they have been learning from their ‘yoga teachers’ for many years which is nothing to do with the elimination of ignorance and egoism to purify and quiet the mind for meditation, but these ‘yoga classes’ actually empowering the ignorance and egoism through the gratification of the desire of craving and aversion by pampering their body and mind in the enjoyments of the senses, some of them might develop certain degrees of understanding and would appreciate and glad to be learning and practicing yoga as it is, while some might feel greatly disturbed or disappointed and reluctant to continue learning and practicing yoga that is about yoga, and they want to quit the yoga retreat/course because they don’t like the yoga practice that is about yoga, as they refuse to make adjustment to adapt and accommodate to learn the different style of yoga practice being practiced differently from their usual way of practice. Some of them even ask for refund. And when they don’t get the refund as that would be supporting and empowering ignorance which is not yoga practice, they’ll get so angry and would do things with the intention to hurt the yoga teachers or retreat centres. This shows that they never learn what is yoga even though after many years of practicing a particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way under a particular teacher.
Yoga practice is all about making adjustment to adapt and accommodate condition and situation that the mind doesn’t like, or doesn’t familiar with, or doesn’t feel comfortable with, to allow the mind to be opened, to be able to be peaceful and compassionate under any condition and situation, wherever they are and whatever they are experiencing, being undisturbed by names and forms that the mind doesn’t like, doesn’t want and doesn’t agree with.
As part of the yoga practice, one needs to learn how to let go of attachment and identification towards a particular style of yoga practice that one familiar with that one has been learning and practicing under certain yoga teachers or yoga centres, and learn how to adjust one’s body and mind to adapt and accommodate towards the yoga practice that one doesn’t familiar with or never experience before. If one can only practice yoga of a particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way but couldn’t practice yoga anymore when that particular style of yoga in that particular way is not available, then one is not free even though one has been practicing particular style of yoga in a particular way for many years.
Yoga teachers who teach a particular style of yoga in a particular way need to learn how to allow their yoga students to be unattached towards that particular style of yoga being practiced in that particular way. But many ‘yoga teachers’ in the world are not free from ignorance and egoism of attachment, identification, pride and arrogance towards their own particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way. Whether aware or unaware, many yoga teachers implant the strong attachment and identification towards their particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way into their yoga students’ minds, so that the yoga students will be faithful, loyal and supportive towards them and their style of yoga being practiced in a particular way. Those who teach yoga will allow all their students to be unattached towards their particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way, to be open-minded to go out there to learn from some other teachers with other types of different yoga practice and respect all types of different yoga practice even if one finds it challenging to make adjustment to adapt and accommodate the different practices that one doesn’t familiar with, and it doesn’t matter if one isn’t interested in practicing any of those different practices.
Before I left Kuala Lumpur and moved to Langkawi about 10 years ago, I told all the students to continue their practice, either by themselves or continue learning from other yoga teachers, and respect other teachers and their different ways of teaching and practice. Do not compare. They are just being different. More importantly, they might be practicing different style of yoga being practiced in a particular way, but always remember that regardless of all kinds of different style of yoga being practiced in many different ways, there’s only one yoga, the yoga of freeing the mind from ignorance and egoism, to purify and quiet the mind, to realize the truth of impermanence and selflessness, and be free, which is nothing to do with whether one is practicing a particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way; or one has some physical injuries that limit oneself from performing certain yoga poses; or one is severely physically ill and weak that one couldn’t perform any yoga asana poses at all; or whether the body is able to be completely comfortable while doing certain movements or holding certain poses; or what type of benefits that come from doing particular practices; or whether one knows the names of the poses or the muscles/bones/organs in any particular language; or whether one is able to perform all the yoga poses in ‘perfect alignment’; or how many years one has been performing the yoga practice under particular yoga teacher; or how many years one has been teaching yoga to other people; or whether one has attended many yoga teachers training courses and attaining how many yoga certifications, or not.
In the yoga class, it’s not about performing some yoga asana poses to make the body more healthy and illness-free, or be more strong and flexible, but it’s developing self-awareness, self-discipline, self-control and self-independence, as well as non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation, to know what is going on in the body and mind, and accepting the reality of the physical condition and the state of the mind in the present moment now as it is. It’s about do what the body can do comfortably in the present moment now without forcing the body to go beyond its limitation regardless of whether the body is injury-free, or is suffering from some injuries or sickness. One learns how to make appropriate adjustment to adapt and accommodate the yoga asana or other yoga practice based on the condition of the body and the state of the mind in the present moment now. One doesn’t need to do anything that the body cannot perform in this present moment due to injury or sickness. One can stop and take rest as long as one needs to during a particular practice or in between different practices.
Being unable to perform any yoga asana poses or any form of physical practice due to any physical limitations, or injuries, or sickness, doesn’t stop the mind from performing the formless inner practice of awareness, non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation, and realize unconditional peace, and be free.
Most importantly, one is aware of everything is impermanent and selfless, regardless of whether one feels comfortable or uncomfortable during certain practices and whether one can do or couldn’t do certain movements or poses in this present moment. One learns to take full responsibility to look after the well-being of one’s body and mind without expecting somebody else, neither the teacher nor the doctor to look after the well-being of one’s body and mind. No body but oneself, knows directly and instantly what is going on in the body and the mind, not the teacher or the doctor. If there’s pain or discomforts, one do not proceed any further, or one can make some adjustment or modification. If there’s tiredness, one can take rest as long as one needs to.
If one needs to depend on a teacher or a doctor being there to be responsible to look after or supervise the well-being of one’s body and mind all the time, then one will never be able to realize what is yoga, even after many years of practicing a particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way under the supervision of a particular teacher, expecting the teacher to tell them what they should do and shouldn’t do, and constantly expecting the teacher to check on them, asking them whether they are comfortable, or not, and telling them whether they are doing it nicely, or not, and whether they are good, or not.
Just like a blind person needs to depend on a blind stick to find their way, while other people with healthy vision don’t need to depend on a blind stick to move around. By telling everyone that everyone must carry a blind stick with them in order to move around, or else, without a blind stick everyone can’t go anywhere or will injure themselves, is complete ignorance. And that is what happening in many yoga centres/schools/studios/ashrams with particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way. Without any particular equipment or props that they used to rely on while performing their yoga practice, these yoga students can’t practice yoga anymore, or they find it ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ for not having those equipment or props while performing the yoga practice. These students will never be free from ignorance and egoism of attachment, identification and desire of craving and aversion, even after many years of attending these kind of yoga classes doing a particular style of yoga being practiced in a particular way, where the yoga teachers are either wittingly or unwittingly developing the circle of ‘my style/brand of yoga’, ‘my students’, ‘my clients’, ‘my members’, ‘my followers’, ‘my disciples’, ‘my supporters’, or ‘my admirers’.
Yoga retreat is not a place for mingling or socializing or interaction, but it’s a great opportunity to practice simplicity, self-discipline, self-reliance, dispassion and renunciation while living among the society, to be by oneself moving away from worldly social interactions and activities to quiet the restless mind, to be reflecting upon the truth of names and forms, to be aware of the modifications of the mind to know thyself, besides looking after one’s daily duty and responsibility such as maintaining the tidiness and cleanliness of the accommodation/living environment/practice space and looking after one’s daily meals, while dealing with condition and situation that are not necessarily the way that we would like it to be, so that one can perform Yoga Sadhana at home observing simplicity, self-discipline, self-reliance, dispassion and renunciation while living among the society performing one’s duty and responsibility in everyday life. At one stage, Swami Sivananda walked 15 km everyday to the nearby villages for Biksha (obtaining food by alms) besides performing daily Sadhana and selfless service while living a life of renunciation.
Many ‘yoga retreats’ in the world are not about quieting the restless mind via the practice of simplicity, self-discipline, self-reliance, dispassion and renunciation, but it’s about being in an out of the world environment away from dealing with any duty and responsibility in everyday life, indulging in pleasurable enjoyments of the senses of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and visualization/imagination/anticipation/expectation, gratifying the desires of craving and aversion, promoting mingling and socializing, enjoying all kinds of conveniences of hotel facilities and services, which most worldly minds expect what ‘yoga retreat’ is about. Food is prepared and served by somebody. Cleaning up and laundry are done by somebody. Room tidiness and cleanliness is maintained by somebody. Everyone just needs to enjoy mingling and socializing with the other retreat participants, while indulging in pleasurable yoga activities, spa treatments and all kinds of hotel facilities and services during the retreat.
And this is ‘the world of yoga’ that is supposed to be about living a life of simplicity, self-discipline, self-reliance, dispassion and renunciation from worldly activities/connections/interactions/enjoyments to free the mind from ignorance and egoism, but many people are unaware of the ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga retreats’ that they have been attending are not about Yoga Sadhana to free the mind from ignorance and egoism, but it’s actually empowering ignorance and egoism instead.
It’s everyone’s freedom whether to practice yoga as it is, or not.