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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yoga teacher who doesn't like to hear or talk about the practice of yoga philosophy in daily life...

Most people who had came for some yoga classes and yoga retreats with us, they really appreciate our yoga classes that emphasize on the teachings of yoga or yoga philosophy and it's practice in daily life. And they said that in the yoga classes that they usually went to in their countries, the yoga teachers didn't teach or talk much about the yoga philosophy. And some of them completely haven't heard about any yoga philosophy in the yoga classes that they have been going to.

I wasn't surprised when I heard about this.

Some yoga teachers are afraid to teach or talk about the philosophy, because they afraid that the students will have strong reaction of aversion (resistance). And so, they just want to teach some yoga exercises for attaining physical fitness, physical health, good feelings and pleasant sensations that come from the yoga exercises. There is nothing wrong with this. Yoga is versatile and can suit everybody with different temperaments.

While some yoga teachers are lack of faith and confidence in the traditional teachings of yoga and its philosophy. I met some "yoga" teachers who are against the traditional teachings from the ancient Gurus, they criticize the Guru's personal life and way of teaching, and are criticizing about these teachings of traditional yoga philosophy and its practice in life are not up to date and are not suitable for the modern people in the modern world to practice in daily life. Well, if the teacher themselves have no faith and confidence in the teachings, then how can they expound the yoga teachings to anybody? There is nothing wrong with this as well, because just teaching the yoga exercise without the philosophy is still something great and good for everybody.

While some yoga teachers are still very unsure about the yoga philosophy. They haven't realize the truth of the teachings through self-realization. If so, how can they share the essence of yoga teachings with others? There is nothing wrong with this also, because we all have to start somewhere and we all are not perfect (if we are perfect, we wouldn't be here at the first place in this existence). As yoga teachers, we all learn together with the students and evolve together. There is no superiority nor inferiority. We share what we know and what we had experienced through our own practice on the path of yoga. We all grow and move towards selflessness and compassion together.

And some yoga teachers know very well about the yoga philosophy and they are practicing the yoga philosophy by hard as well. But they also think that there are many people out there who come for the everyday yoga classes are not ready yet to know about the philosophy or to be practicing the yoga philosophy, and that these people should be kept away from hearing about yoga philosophy and just give them some yoga exercises for the body until they are ready to receive the great knowledge of the yoga philosophy about the Self and the path of Self-realization. This is nothing wrong at all. These yoga teachers are being cautious. It is indeed very wise. This is to avoid those people who are not ready for the deep yoga philosophy to engage in criticizing and condemning the teachings of yoga, as well as condemning the yoga teachers who actually teach the yoga philosophy to the yoga students.

But, take a look at all the books about yoga philosophy in the market that is written by famous yogis, saints and sages. The knowledge is out there for anybody to pick up, to read and to know about the deep yoga philosophy, these books never have statements that says, "Please be cautious! If you are not ready yet, please don't read this book. This book is only for those who are ready to receive the great knowledge of yoga."

When we come across with the yoga philosophy, it is the right time. If we are not ready yet, then no matter how much we want to know about the yoga philosophy, we won't be able to see it, hear it or read it... (This actually happened to me. The Bhagavad Gita in Chinese version (a gift from a friend) was on my bookshelf for 15 years, but I didn't realize that it was there with me all the time, until after I came back from India... When it was not the right time yet for me to read the Bhagavad Gita, I wouldn't be reading it even though it was with me all the time.)

And also, who is qualified enough to say who is ready and who is not? If the person himself thinks that he is not ready yet, then he can just take up some yoga classes that only do some physical exercises. There are many of these yoga classes out there. And these are very good exercise classes just like some other forms of physical exercises. I was an aerobics fitness instructor before for twenty years. I experienced different types of fitness exercise training. Yoga exercises are really good for overall fitness and for rehabilitation from physical injury or for countering health problems and psychology matters. Even though if we don't mention about philosophy, but the poses, the movements and the breathing exercises are there naturally influencing and balancing the energy field in the body, and to unblock any energy blockage in the system. And hence, this will influence and balance the state of the mind, and strengthening the entire systems and functions in the body.

Well, it definitely needs direct experience, truthfulness, compassion, fearlessness and non-attachment for anybody to be able to expound the teachings of yoga, the path of Self-realization or the annihilation of the ego and the mind, to "all beings" without any discrimination (whether they are "ready" or not), without fear and worry!

What is so fearful and worried about sharing the philosophy about the path of selflessness and compassion with all these people who come for the yoga class?
Being afraid of offending somebody's ego and they won't come back for yoga classes anymore?Yoga is indeed about selflessness and compassion, and about how to become selfless and compassionate through the yoga practice. It is about annihilation of the selfish arrogant ego or the lower self. It is about purification removing all the impurities and ignorance. It is about letting go of craving and aversion. It is about non-identification with the body and the mind. It is about being at the present moment now. It is about knowing who we really are (Self-inquiry). It is about non-dualism. It is about non-attachment. It is about dispassion and discrimination (what is real and unreal). What is there to be taught to the students if not all these yoga teachings?
It really doesn't matter if some people are not "ready" yet, or will get very irritated by the philosophy part of yoga. They can continue to practice the yoga exercises without applying any philosophy into it. Be happy, and enjoy the exercise. The exercise itself is a very good and beneficial activity for anyone to do in life. Actually it is the beginning stage of purification even though no body is mentioning or discussing anything about the philosophy.

Just as Swami Sivananda had told us in his teachings, "The Truth alone will triumph. No fear! No worry! The one who knows the Truth has no fear, no worry..."

Here is one of my own experience while giving yoga classes which emphasizing on the practice of yoga philosophy in daily life from moment to moment.

There was a yoga teacher who came to join one of my yoga class here in Langkawi.

She was very surprised and annoyed by how I conduct the yoga lesson.

The one question that she asked me after the class was, "Thank you for the class, but don't you feel tired talking so much?" (in an irritated tone...)

I told her, "If I think I (the ego) am the one who is doing the teaching, then I will be exhausted teaching many classes and doing so much talking. I'll be losing lots of energy. But I have no selfish intention or selfish expectation from giving the yoga classes or talking about the philosophy. I have no attachment towards the action of teaching the class and the fruit of the action. I am not disturbed by the reactions of the students whether they are grateful and appreciate or not, whether they are benefited from the teachings or not. I am just there doing what I am doing, and I let it go as soon as I did what I did. And most people get benefited from the classes and are having a complete different perspective of life. Some are getting the "knowledge" instantly after one session, and some are getting the "knowledge" after a few sessions of "struggle" and "fighting" with the intense resistance coming from the intellect and the ego. Some still didn't get the "knowledge" yet, but they are still trying to grasp the meanings of yoga..."

And some people were getting very irritated or agitated by the talking about the philosophy,
wanted to stand up and runaway, shouting, "I don't want to hear this! Why are you talking about me? You don't know about me! I don't need to hear this! I know all these already! I don't need you to tell me all these things! I just want to do some exercises. What yoga are you teaching? This is not the yoga class that I want!"

All I can say to everyone is, "Be happy. Please don't get upset by what you have heard. Leave it aside if your mind doesn't like to hear and doesn't agree with all these yoga teachings... Let it go."
(Even though it is the Truth, because not everybody can accept the Truth as it is. Most of the time, the Truth is not what we like and what we want it to be.)

And look, this is how the mind and the ego reacts to what it hears or sees or experience. It reacts strongly to the things that it likes and doesn't like. This is what we are practicing. Observe what is happening in our mind, know who is getting upset and irritated, learn how to deal with the reactions in the mind, and learn how to let go, not being disturbed by our own mind and not being over-powered by our own ego... And not by looking out at what other people do and say, and be affected or disturbed by what other people do and say...

Not everybody can have the patience to listen to some speech that seems like it is "talking" about our problems or "pointing out" our imperfection, and it is like somebody there keeps telling us about we should be like this and like that. Of course, If we are attached strongly to the ego, then the resistance and resentment will be stronger as well. It is very normal that there will be somebody gets very annoyed and offended, while some other people in the same class are really interested and glad to know more about the yoga philosophy. Actually nobody offends anybody. Nobody has the intention to offend anybody personally. We feel that we are being offended by what other people do and say, is because our own attachment towards our own mind and the ego, and the attachment towards all the perceptions of names and forms.

I know that it was the initial talk of the yoga philosophy (last about an hour) that had made her (the yoga teacher) very irritated. Usually on the first session, there will be a longer talk on the basic yoga philosophy.

These are some of the basic teachings that I talk about in the yoga class;

- about selflessness and compassion

- about contentment and simplicity

- about humility and gratitude

- about accepting ourselves as we are at the present moment now

- about true happiness and true confidence

- about developing inner strength and inner flexibility

- about the practice of letting go of craving and aversion while performing all the exercises

- about non-attachment towards the body and the mind while observing whatever the body and the mind is experiencing at the present moment now

- about not being disturbed nor affected by whatever the mind perceives through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think

- about non-identification with the body and the mind

- about being a witness or an observer towards whatever the body and the mind is experiencing at the present moment now

- about letting go of the past and the future, being at the present moment now from moment to moment

- about letting go of fear and worry

- about non-reaction towards pleasant and unpleasant experiences, remain equanimous towards all the dualities of good and bad

- about non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation

- about the habits of the mind, the intellect, the ego and the meanings of all the yoga practice is about purification of the mind, calming the mind, stilling the mind and go beyond the mind

- about eradicate the ego, remove ignorance and attain wisdom or insight to know the Truth of ourselves and everything (the world of names and forms) that we can perceive in the mind through the senses

- about how to deal with the mind and the ego

- about how to be free from fear and worry

- about how to attain true happiness and be free from all conditions of the limited body and mind, and undisturbed by the condition of the life existence and the condition of the world that we are living in, by performing all these yoga practice of asana, pranayama, concentration, meditation, selfless service, study of the philosophy, chanting and prayer, the foundation of morality and right conduct, purifying the mind and allow wisdom to arise...

And we actually apply and practice all these teachings while performing all the yoga asana practice, the pranayama practice, the concentration and meditation practice, and the relaxation practice, in the entire yoga class.

These are the Dharma that I practice every moment in my heart. I teach what I practice. I share what I experienced with the students. I am just being "me". I don't need to prepare myself for a speech or what to teach in the yoga class. I share what I am to the people. What I don't practice, I couldn't share with the people.

And most people will have this same thought arise in their mind, "Why are you talking about me?"
(This was what some of the students who came to me and told me after the class)

But the truth is I was only talking in general about the habits of the mind and how to deal with the mind with the practice of the yoga philosophy. I didn't know their personal life problems. I don't need to know either. I never intentionally pointing at anyone and I have no intention to teach anybody about whether they should be like this or like that. I'm just there to deliver the teachings and let go. It depends on each individual about how they want to take it or leave it, and whether they will get some benefits from it or not. I never plan what I'm going to teach or to say in the yoga class. Everything flows naturally. In some classes I could be saying nothing at all...

It's because all minds are having the similar habits and characteristics, such like, attachment, clinging, egoism, like and dislike, want and don't want, craving and aversion, happiness and unhappiness, fear, worry, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, irritation, frustration, agitation, depression, excitement, boredom, pride and arrogance, self-image, self-identification, self-protection, selfishness, ignorance, impermanence, and etc... That's why when a group of people with different personalities and experiences in life are listening to the same speech at the same time, we automatically will relate the speech as something that is talking about us or it is like revealing our inner most feelings which we don't really want to confront with.

She (the yoga teacher) said to me, "I had an ex-boyfriend who talks a lots about the yoga philosophy all the time, but he never practice it. People who talk about philosophy, only know how to play around with the intellectual and don't really practice the philosophy, and what's the meaning of doing all these talking about the yoga philosophy?" (This ex-boyfriend of her must had disappointed her very much some how, I guess it was very normal that she was angry when I talked about the philosophy. It reminded her of him...)

She has the rights to feel "angry" with people who only preach and talk loud about yoga philosophy but they actually "just talk talk" only, and never really practice what they preach. Of course there will be people who like to talk loud about philosophy but their personality might be worst than anybody who doesn't know about anything about philosophy. But this is very normal. We shouldn't have any expectation towards the people who talk about philosophy that they will also be practicing the philosophy at the same time. Talk is easy, practice is not so easy...

This is what I said to her, "Your ex-boyfriend likes to talk about philosophy and doesn't practice the philosophy as it is, that is his own problem, not yours. You have the freedom to be angry and disappointed with him, but you don't have to. You don't have to be disturbed by it at all... It shouldn't stop you from practicing the philosophy and let him take away your own faith in expounding the Dharma as a yoga teacher..."

Then she said, "But not everybody is ready for listening to all these philosophy... People will get annoyed or will reject strongly..."

I didn't want to irritated her with further debates. I just said to her to let go of whatever that was irritating her at that moment. She doesn't need to be disturbed by what she thinks is not right whether it's from me or from anyone else.

Well, if there is somebody who is not ready yet, then no body is really ready for yoga at all. From the moment that we have the awareness of this life existence and we experience happiness and suffering, we all are ready to practice yoga (with the philosophy).

Yoga practice without the philosophy, is like a picture with "God" image in it... It is nice, it is beautiful. But can this picture gives me salvation and takes away my unhappiness and suffering?

For those people who couldn't stand the philosophy part of the yoga lesson, and get irritated by the "philosophy talk" very much (actually it's the ego gets irritated and being unhappy listening to the practice of the philosophy in daily life). They said it is impossible to practice the philosophy about non-attachment in everyday life. And thus why still want to bother about the non-practical idealistic philosophy? Why waste their time listening to all these "rubbish", and why not just do the exercise only which will make them feel good and relaxed for a few hours after that? (I could understand why they think this way...)

They came for the yoga class because they want to release tensions and stress (there is nothing wrong with having this intention. In fact that is the basic effect and benefit of doing yoga exercises). And in the daily yoga class, we will emphasize on deep relaxation for the body and the mind, to let go of any tensions physically, mentally and emotionally, especially during the final relaxation at the end of the class. It is part of the class format. We understand that most people cannot avoid generate tensions and stress from everyday life experiences, and they really need this relaxation to let go of all these accumulated tensions and stress.

But the point is, "yoga" does not just stops here. This is not the goal of the yoga practice. The body and the mind will get relaxed after the practice and will get a momentary good feeling from the practice is only part of the "side effect" of the practice. Just like the physical body will become more healthy, more flexible and strong, the mind will become calm and relaxed, are only part of the "side effect" of the yoga practice, but they are not the end of practice, nor the goal of doing yoga.

We should not rely nor depend on the yoga practice to feel good and attached to that momentary good feeling that comes from the yoga practice, and have craving and clinging towards this pleasant and calm feeling. If we attached to it and when we couldn't perform some yoga practice due to certain reasons, then we will be so frustrated and don't feel good anymore. There is nothing wrong but this is not the true happiness that we are looking for. We are still caught up in the craving and clinging towards the condition of our body and the mind.

We need to learn how to not generate tensions at the first place by practicing real non-attachment, dispassion towards worldly objects and enjoyments, and discrimination of what is real and unreal. We need to learn how to over-power the mind and the ego, and not being over-powered by them. We need to learn how to go beyond the body and the mind, and not attached to nor affected by the states of the mind that is subject to impermanence and which is constantly changing from good to bad, from bad to good, due to the energy field is being influenced by all the inputs of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thinking.

One time, there was a girl who had actually verbally stopped me from talking in the class when I was talking about the philosophy for about 15 minutes. She shouted loudly, "Excuse me, can you please stop talking about all these things? I knew all these things already, I don't need you to tell me about it. You are like my parents, telling me what I should do and should not do. I don't need to hear all these... The yoga classes that I went to in my country, the teacher doesn't talk..." She was really angry. (If she really knows about all these teachings of yoga, she would be patient and humble enough to be opened and listened, and not getting so furious about it, even if she didn't agree with it at all.) May she be in peace. I wasn't disturbed by her at all, but being compassionate towards her mind being unhappy and disturbed.

Well, if a yoga teacher also will be annoyed by the talk of yoga philosophy in a yoga class, then for sure there will be many people will likely to react the same way as well... Anyway, we all are imperfect human beings try to learn and practice yoga. No judgment, no expectation, no problems, just keep going...

May all be happy and be free...


  1. Good morning Meng Foong, this was a very good post. After attending yoga classes for 6 years with a yoga teacher who I feel very comfortable with, who also speaks about 15 mins, before each Asana class about the philosophy of Yoga, I visited your class whilst on holiday in Langkawi. Afterwards, as soon as I was on my own, I just burst out crying, just so full of emotions which I could not let go of. This just proves to me, that I should, and will, carry on attending yoga classes, and carry on learning and practicing, especially how to "let go", which sounds easier than what it is. BUT, I would still like to learn this, without giving the impression of being "cold" and "uninterested", as one does have friends and family who share their own problems, and who need someone to listen to them. I would love to have sat and talked to you after class, but just felt you would not be interested, as like you said, you already just let go and pass on...But if ever I return to Langkawi, I will deffinately visit your yoga session again. Thankyou, greetings from Germany, Evelyn

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    Great to hear from you.

    Sorry for the late reply. I was away for two weeks for silent meditation retreat in Thailand. We've just came back a few hours ago.

    Dear Evelyn, I want you to know this.

    Actually, I could feel the heaviness in your heart before, during and after the class. And I did want to talk to you after the class but due to that day we were very busy, I need to get back to our studio after dropping off the people.

    That's why I had sent you a text message (to the phone number that you had sent the text message to me to reserve the yoga class) on the next morning to ask how are you (which I rarely would do like this to any other students unless there is a necessity to do so). I didn't know whether you had received my message or not.

    Anyway, I did meet you again on your last evening in Langkawi in the restaurant (where I didn't think of going since we were living here for more than one and a half year already, but we were being invited for a drink there with some friends on that evening).

    Non-attachment and letting go doesn't mean being cold and unconcern about other people's feelings and emotions.

    Yoga is about realizing the true compassion in us, so that through compassion we can share and help other people to know their own true nature and the truth of things, and thus it will enable us to observe and let go whatever that our body and the mind are experiencing from moment to moment through right understanding, right view, right concentration and right effort.

    You can write to me through my personal email if you like to share whatever you want to share with me. I'll just be a listener without any opinion or advice unless you ask me to do so. I am not a life consultant, nor can anyone make other people problems and unhappiness disappear.

    At the end, it is up to ourselves to open up our heart and to know and accept the truth of things as they really are. When we know the truth of thing and are able to accept the reality as it is and not necessary the way that we like it to be, we will be free from affliction or unhappiness that caused by being ignorant about the truth or the nature of things.

    Accepting the reality as it is and letting go doesn't mean that we give up on hopes and ourselves, but it is about being open minded towards all the things (good and bad) that are subject to impermanence and know how to deal with the suffering or discomfort that arise due to impermanence and the function of our mind. And not avoiding unhappiness by ignoring or running away from our problems or unhappiness.

    I also would be pleased to see you again sometime, somewhere, somehow.

    Om shanti,

    Meng Foong


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Know thyself. Everything is impermanent and selfless. There is no 'I'. There is no 'I am selfless'/'I am not selfless'. There is no 'I am hurt'/'I need to be healed from hurt'. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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