Arupa Yoga

Arupa Yoga - Philosophy

In an effort to convey the most succulent fruits of my own personal practice, I've had to reconsider the traditional approach to yogasana. Arupa Yoga is my sincere effort to teach others how to practice yoga; as opposed to, precisely how to perform the postures.

Arupa's literal translation is "formless". My feeling is that yoga's greater aim of losing one's self for the sake of the Self can be integrated into the practice of asana, as more than a side effect. I teach formlessness as being a state of mind as much as a way of practicing physically.

Many misconstrue Patanjali - often called the father of yoga - and/or take him out of context when he referred to asana in the ashtanga section of the "Yoga Sutras". His mention of firmness or steadiness in asana does not address the commonly practiced hatha yoga postures, except for padmasana (lotus pose); as his primary focus was the practice of meditation and the development and refinement of non-personal awareness.

Many teachers will speak of selflessness, but then proceed to instruct students into rote configurations along prescribed pathways in step with a given rhythm. As long as the postures are thought of in terms of specific forms, practice is intrinsically ego driven. It is, in fact, quite helpful to learn some of the standardized postures as a means of strengthening and opening specific regions of the body, and for developing and improving bodily awareness. However, ideally, it's not so much about the gross configuration of the bones and specific engagements of the muscles, as it is the energetic expression and continual refinement of the living, breathing posture.

It requires a different attitude to work with the body, rather than on it. It's joyous play. It should be fun. It should feel good. So I offer a "cage free" yogasana experience.

Seeing the postures as general suggestions around which to play, investigate and explore both invites and allows greater sensitivity, innovation and inspiration. The whole body is welcomed to participate as an equal partner in the process. Movements adapt to meet the needs of the moment. Consideration of the outer form is supplanted by inner sensitivity, a surrendering to the process and a sincere calling to nurture. Time loses relevance, as thoughts, images and moods evaporate into a feeling of connectedness and expansive presence.

I'm not the most flexible yogi I know, and don't feel the need to be so. True, my capabilities keep expanding and will continue to do so, as my personal practice thrives. Everyone has limits and there will always be another posture just out of reach. But if the body is thought of as an object to be manipulated, and its limits as obstacles to be overcome, then struggles will arise. The body will feel threatened and expend great amounts of energy fighting against the desired movement and success will be an ever-elusive ambition. As one learns to work with the body, the body feels safe enough to work in tandem with the tempered will and progression occurs much more easily and naturally.

My body's not the same as your body, which is not the same as her body. My body's not even the same as itself from day to day. No one else can scratch your itch as good as you can - similarly, no one else can fine tune your postures as well as you can. It's simply not possible to teach one lesson that's appropriate for everybody, unless there's plenty of room built in to allow for individual expression and timing.

Safety is always an issue, and some postures undeniably require certain specifics of alignment and/or engagement; however, safety is primarily assured by a deeply integrated understanding that the real treasures lie in the journey, not at the end of the rainbow, and a whole hearted acceptance of whatever is, as it is, and however it's unfurling, right now, with this breath.

Learning the postures and following along with a class is the easy part. Embracing the quietude, while receiving and adhering to one's inner guidance is the real challenge - and the real reward.