Or are you merely an echo to other's opinion?
by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar
‘I do 2000 kapalabhati-s each day,’ proclaimed proudly, a man I recently met at a Yoga gathering in Europe. ‘500 at sunrise time, 500 at midday, 500 at sunset and 500 at midnight,’ he continued with an aura of vanity. He had come to me for a private Yoga therapy session, as he suffered from sever insomnia, erectile dysfunction and also incontinence.
At some point during my one-to-one session with him, I asked him if he ever thought that there was a connection between his problems and the numerous rapid-breathing techniques he was doing. He simply remarked ‘No. My teacher told me to do it 10 years ago, and I have never once missed it since then.’
I was astounded. Does Yoga teach us such blind belief that we are so disconnected from our own feelings, and listen blindly to the view of others, albeit they being our teacher?
Do we listen to our own voice….are are we merely an echo of other’s opinions? This is the million dollar question we must each ask ourselves. So many of us today rely on external references that our own internal reference is not just forgotten, but actually discredited.
So many students that I have taught, always ask me how they are doing their Yoga practice. My response is almost always ‘How do you feel?’
This question perplexes them, and they retort back ‘But you are the teacher. You must tell me how I am feeling?’
This becomes even more telling when the audience are long term practitioners of Yoga, and some even Yoga teachers for many years.
These are moments where I have to remind them and myself, the value of Svadhyaya, and its role in connecting to our own voice, insight and intuition. Yoga teaches us to self-empower, not just in our actions, but also in recognising our feelings.
At the same time its important not to consider our own fantasies as our experiences. Often this is also a phenomena that is existing in this modern era. Imagination and fantasy are often confused to be deep feelings such as intuition and insight. This can be dangerous as well.
So we must learn to transcend these imaginations and fantasies and connect to the deeper feelings that are also part of us. It won’t be the same for all, and yet it is a reality in itself as Yoga teaches us that each of us are beautifully unique. Self recognition and validation of our own experiences is an important part of Yoga’s teachings and our own growth.
We need to take this teaching into our daily practice. Not just in Asana and Pranayama but also into our daily lives. This is true empowerment and freedom.
It is important to connect with our own feelings and responses of our body, when we practice postures or pranayama and identify areas of comfort and discomfort. Equally important is to take into confidence the feelings we have in other aspects of daily life.
How do we view people? Do we follow other’s opinions (either through direct gossip or through reviews on social media) when making a judgement of the people, or do we trust and value our own experiences with them? Do we think whether the person saying negative things about someone may have a hidden (or sometimes not so hidden) agenda or a certain kind of bias?
When we choose what kind of food to eat, do we follow what a statical study based on averages is recommending? Or must we follow our own body’s reaction to the food we consume?
What kind of occupation do we engage ourselves in? Do we do something because our parents or society wishes us to do it? Or do we listen to our own feelings do what we enjoy most?
The list is endless… The true question we have to ask ourselves, is are we able to listen to our own voice… or have we meekly surrounded to a life based on being a shadow of other people’s opinions.
The true message of Yoga is self empowerment, not just in doing fantastic poses, but also in making conscious decisions based on our own experiences. When this happens, then we have truly integrated the precious teaching of Yoga into our lives. If Patanjali were to be your teacher, he would definitely encourage you to find your own voice.
Photograph © Evelyn Einhäuser.
Commencing January 2016, Dr. Kausthub Desikachar will offer a one year online immersion program aimed to help students transcend their limitations and challenges, and help them in finding their voice back. The program will offer two monthly meetings (one as a group, and one individually) to participants to engage in a spiritual journey.