On Thursday, I start a new series -- "Foundations of Yoga: Strong body. Quiet Mind" -- at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness in Pittsfield, MA.
I'm excited on a few levels. It's always fabulous to be invited to teach at a new studio. Beyond it just being plain flattering to be asked to teach, there is the opportunity to meet new students and staff, to take classes from new colleagues, to take the yogic temperature of a whole new community. There is a possibility to expand the sangha -- the community of practice -- and see how the refuge that the Buddha promises comes to fruition. It always does, uniquely and beautifully in each different studio. To teach in Rachael Plaine's beautiful, open and immaculate space in resurgent Pittsfield filled with props, huge windows and a gorgeous sound system will be a great privilege and pleasure.
And what about it? What about Foundations? Well, as the musician David Allan Coe (yes, of "Take This Job and Shove It" fame) put it, "It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time." In an era where we are obsessed with externals -- beauty, youth, money -- and visual stimulation of every sort, we sort of gloss over the, um, rather essential idea of foundation. In a yoga generation where posting a picture on Facebook of yourself benching a handstand is considered the sine qua non of yogic practice, foundation and alignment has dropped to third or fourth place behind 1) how you look in your Lulus, 2) who is following your social media feeds and 3) what festival has offered you a berth in their (increasingly dubious) enlightened line-up. In a fit of irony, I have used a picture of myself bare-bellied in a work-out top as the image for this series. It's the first time I've gone there, in 18 years of teaching and it is, admittedly, a bit of ironical fun. Yes, yoga will give you mad abs and make your 50-something tush just a little bit tighter than it might be without out it but that's hardly the point of yoga. Right? Right?
We're back to the ground. What is the point of yoga? How do you actually behave in a shala, on your mat? What are you meant to be doing? How do you stand? What do you do with your feet? Your hands? Your breath? How do you do a back bend? I mean REALLY DO A BACK BEND, without killing yourself and feeling like junk for a week after. How does asana create a quiet mind? That's the purpose of yoga, after all. Yogash citta vrtti nirodah. You knew that, right? You remembered that, yes? Good for you.
See you on the mat, those of you who are curious and those of you who may have forgotten more than you ever knew. And in today's yoga climate, who could blame you?
And PS: If you're interested in the class, the deets are here