There are more systems of yoga than you can shake the proverbial stick at. Recent trends in the commercial popularization of yoga have increased the “branding” of particular types of practice. More often than not, students are drawn to one of these methods in a rather random fashion. Convenience, personal preference or recommendations from fellow yoga practitioners generally carry some weight in how we choose a yoga style. But is this really the best way to further the evolution of your yoga practice?
All the systems on the yoga market have something to recommend themselves to practitioners whether it’s a gentle Hatha practice, vigorous hot yoga or the very different Kundalini variety. All styles of the physical or posture yoga share many similarities. They will often include mantra, chanting and ethical considerations in addition to the physical aspect of the individual practice. But how does one implement an often overwhelming variety of practice recommendations to create a personal, sacred tradition that will serve your unique needs and yearnings?
Each student has the creative genius to develop a practice that incorporates elements of any system into their personal practice. Intuitive yoga practice begins on the solitude of the yoga mat. This is where your inner guidance can step forward and lead you toward a fulfillment and liberation that no “system” can provide.
One of the finest examples of this approach is the universally well-regarded yogi, Erich Schiffman. In his now-classic text, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, Schiffman recalls his many teachers and how they contributed to his understanding of yoga. Without becoming a disciple of any system, Schiffman becomes a “synthesizer” of his own personal practice he calls “freedom style yoga.” As he was writing, clarifying and revising he muses on his “learnings.” “Foremost” Schiffman says, “of these learnings was the realization that Knowing happens, that spontaneous, intuitive revelation flows into your mind, when you pay attention inwardly, are receptive, and listen.”
This is the experience that awaits every yogi who will take to the mat with an eager, open mind. As we defy our fears and step onto the mat with all that we’ve been taught residing in us we weave the cloak of a personal practice that fits better than those woven for us by others. This is how yoga becomes “our yoga.” Our personal genius, even though it may not recall everything we’ve been taught, lives within our muscles, organs and glands. As we venture onto our yoga mats, our own personal magic carpets, that genius awakes and moves us in ways that no yoga instructor can. The true teacher resides within you.
As one who has misgivings about every system I’ve ever encountered, I have enjoyed them all as a smorgasbord, including their most resonant practices into my own. This is when yoga became a transformational technology for me. After twenty years and literally thousands of hours on the mat in the desert, mountains and on the seashore, secluded in tiny rooms, this intuitive practice has delivered me from so much pain and suffering. Yet, I still feel like a beginner with infinite horizons of discovery awaiting my hungry inquiry. Without a doubt it will do the same for you. The infallible genius of yoga lives within you. Trust that yoga, that union within yourself to lead you toward the experience of what you once thought impossible; the journey to the center of your Self.