With the worldwide spread of yoga there has been some understandable jostling amongst the different gurus and teachers with respect to lineages and yoga styles.
While the jostling is understandable this is not welcome for two reasons. One is that the very basis of yoga is to encourage movement away from the ego. Ancient sages and saints were reluctant to even identify themselves as authors of the texts that they wrote for this reason.
The other reason that this jostling for space within the yoga community is not welcome is that yoga has ways to go. Why fight amongst ourselves when there is so much to be done? An earlier post pointed out that upwards 98% of the world population is not doing yoga. With these kinds of numbers what sense it makes to fight over claims on the 2% of people that do practice yoga? That is like fighting over a small pool of water while the entire ocean lies unclaimed before you.
The question of style comes up because of the modern yogamovement. Iyengar, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, Sai, and many other different yoga styles. The purpose of this post is not to create controversy by taking a stand on what yoga style was. The intention is in fact the opposite. The idea of this post is to show that the question of style may be irrelevant. The reason this is so is that yoga is taught in no fixed style itself, adopt the style based on the student’s need. ToPattabhi Joiswho was young and strong he taught a vigorous form of yoga with challenging postures. ToIndra Devi, who was sick when she arrived, he taught an extremely gentle form of yoga.
“I studied in a small group made up of the members of my family gathered in a large room in our house. Krishnamacharya came to our house in the morning almost daily to teach. He taught different asanas to different members of our family, depending upon the age and condition of each individual. There was my eight-year-old kid sister, energetic and supple. I was about sixteen. My brother was around twenty and, at that time, in need of particular attention. Krishnamacharya gave him special assistance. Then there were my thirty-five-year-old mother and my forty-five-year-old father to complete the group. While there were some asanas and movements that all of us practiced, there were many that were different—particular and appropriate to each individual. Krishnamacharya had great skills of observation. He had a booming voice and a certain firmness and authority in his instructions. It was always fascinating to see him teach so many people differently at the same time, a feat in itself.”
The real question is not about style but of substance. The principles that Krishnamacharya taught never changed. He showed that these principles could be expressed differently based on the needs of his students. Human society is constantly evolving and with it the needs of humans keeps on changing. Krishnamacharya has given us the tools to go out and provide creative solutions to these changing needs based on the principles he has taught us. The question we should be asking is not “Is my style of yoga better than yours?” The question should be “Is the yoga I am teaching meeting the needs of my students?” If we answer this question in the affirmative and we stick to the principles he taught then we will be one with Krishnamacharya in spirit even if our styles may differ.