Who do you trust?
Let’s face it, the yoga industry is full of ‘experts’.
If we’ve learned anything from the scandals that have plagued almost every yoga tradition in recent years, it’s that ‘experts’ are not always trustworthy.
Then there’s the mangling of traditional yoga teachings. I’ve heard a LOT of yoga teachers saying stuff in class that is just plain wrong .
Sometimes they get it wrong because they were taught by somebody who didn’t really know that much themselves (not all yoga teacher trainings are equal).
Sometimes they’ve simply interpreted yoga philosophy to suit their own personal views. Either way, there’s a lot of BS out there masquerading as yogic wisdom.
So, who do you trust?
Personally, my money’s on Patanjali.
Patanjali’s writings have formed the basis of yoga practice for around 2,000 years. Everything you’ve learned about yoga, from asana and pranayama to meditation and compassion, can be found in Patanjali’s famous Yoga Sutras.
You won’t find any instructions for vinyasa flows in Patanjali’s seminal text, but you will find the answer to just about every question you’ve ever had about practicing - and teaching - yoga.
Here are three questions I’ve been asked recently by yoga teachersthat Patanjali answers:
Q1: Should I teach pranayama before or after the asana part of my yoga classes?
Q2: Why do I feel like I’m not good enough to teach yoga authentically, even after years of study?
Q3: One of my students finds Ujayyi breathing is hard and makes her feel bad. How can I modify it for her?
Can you relate to any of these questions? Patanjali can answer them all. And when you ask Patanjali a question, you know that you are getting your answers from an authentic source.
I’ll use the first question to explain what I mean:
Q: Should I teach pranayama before or after the asana part of my yoga classes?
Patanjali defines pranayama in Yoga Sutra 2.49:
Pranayama is the conscious, deliberate regulation of the breath, replacing unconscious patterns of breathing.
The great yoga teacher TKV Desikachar explains in his commentary on this sutra that this is possible ‘only after a reasonable mastery of asana practice.’
So, it seems smart to do pranayama AFTER asana. But there’s more.
In Yoga Sutra 2.53, Patanjali explains what happens after we do pranayama:
‘And the mind is now prepared for the process of direction toward a chosen goal.’
In other words, meditation.
So, the order in which we do our yoga practice would, classically, follow the 8 Limbs of Yoga (you’ll find the 8 Limbs in Yoga Sutra 2.29)
- Yama (attitudes towards others)
- Niyama (attitudes towards ourselves)
- Asana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breathing exercises)
- Pratyahara (restraint of the senses)
- Dharana (directing the mind)
- Dhyana (deep focused concentration)
- Samadhi (integration with the object of meditation)
Look at the order of Sutras 3-6. Each of these limbs prepares the student for the next one. We do Asana to prepare ourselves for Pranayama. We practice Pranayama to prepare us for meditation.
That doesn’t mean you’re doing it all wrong if you change up the order of your classes. But it should make you ask the questions ‘why am I doing this? What are the benefits or drawbacks for my students of teaching my class in this order?’
If you want to teach yoga authentically, you need to have authentic teachers. Patanjali is the ultimate authentic source.
As a yoga therapist, Patanjali is my constant companion and the Yoga Sutras is the key text of all our professional yoga training programs at Adore Yoga.
Because when you know your way around the Yoga Sutras, you’ll have pretty much ALL the answers to your questions (and your students questions) about yoga.
Would you like to know what Patanjali has to say about the other two questions listed above? Click here and I’ll send you the answers!
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.