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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 65 out the energy systems in my body so that I can sit more easily. In the short term this makes my sitting more efficient. In the longer term, the asana and pranayama practices can be skillful means for working with the different hindrances that arise in longer periods of practice, such as lethargy, torpor, agitation, or anxiety. Not as a way of eliminating these, but as a way of balancing out the energy systems so we can look more clearly at the roots of these obstacles without getting stuck in their surface manifestations. PHILLIP MOFFITT: The Buddha abandoned the path of reject- ing the body. For a long time he was an ascetic, but he only gained his profound understanding after he said, “That’s not the way; there is a more balanced approach.” To me, asana prac- tice adds this kind of balance to sitting practice. It’s in keeping with the view that we’re not rejecting the body, we’re not saying there’s something wrong with the body. The body is fine, and it’s to be met with compassion and loving-kindness. It’s just that we just don’t overly identify with it. Asana practice reflects that view of the body, so I think it’s a great fit. SHAMBHALA SUN: Are there issues about the qualifications of yoga instructors teaching Buddhist practice, as well as Bud- dhist centers offering yoga? WALK THE TALK Recognized qualifications are a good place to start, but, says Janice Gates, an instructor for the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Train- ing Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, “credentials don’t mean anything if the person hasn’t embodied the teachings.” So ask prospective instructors how their practices influence their lives. If they are serious about yoga and meditation, they’ll have a regular practice of both and they’ll be continuing to study with their own teachers. They will not just espouse the principles inher- ent in both Buddhism and yoga but will live them. “Is the teacher compassionate?” asks Gates. “Do they send mixed messages (‘Do as I say, not as I do’)? Or do they speak negatively about people?” If so, then perhaps you need to find another teacher. EXPERIENCE “There are teachers who seem to slide effortlessly into their role, but that’s rare,” says Gates. “Usually it takes a few years to get a feel for it.” Look for teachers who have been teaching for at least two years and who have taught a variety of levels. That way they’ll be more likely to know how to deal with whatever stum- bling blocks you happen to encounter. Yoga Posturers and Dharma Dabblers Buddhism at a yoga center? Yoga at a Buddhist center? ANDREA MILLER on how to make sure they’re qualified. TEACHING WHO’S THERE “It’s important that the instructor teaches who is really there and doesn’t just teach to some abstraction,” says Boccio. In both yoga and meditation classes, teaching the people who are actually in the class means being a good listener and then having the skills to respond accordingly. Sometimes the necessary skill is just forget- ting about the agenda and letting students stay with what they’re practicing until they feel comfortable moving on. But sometimes, especially in yoga, the necessary skills are more involved. Yoga instructors, for example, should be able to recognize the physical difficulties students are having and offer solutions through the use of props and effective, non-aggressive assists. Also, keep in mind that yoga is not a one-size-fits-all practice, and instructors who only know one sequence of poses probably don’t know how to tailor yoga to individual students’ needs. TRUST YOUR GUT Is the yoga instructor qualified to teach meditation? Is the meditation instructor qualified to teach yoga? After taking into account all of the rules of thumb, trust your instincts. After all, says Boccio, “The final grantor of all authority is the student.” ♦