WHAT'S IN A STYLE?

Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.
— Bruce Lee

It seems that we are always destined to make the mistake of identifying with a particular way of doing things. Even within a practice as dynamic and fluid as Yoga, there is still the need to crystallize into a single ‘right’ method of practice. We forget that the source of this practice is nature, which, while adhering to particular patterns and physical laws, is in a constant act of recreating itself from scratch. Nature is full of surprises, full of boundless diversity, and we being a part of nature can also surprise ourselves if we are willing to step out of the self-imposed boundaries of a particular style, school, or teacher.

Similar to Bruce Lee, my old martial arts teacher used to say that the mastery of any art form is the ability to abandon in an instant all techniques and skills you have learned, to liberate yourself from the baggage of the past, to make room for the arising of something new. This is a moment of fearless honesty and creativity that will connect you much deeper with the nature of your experience. He understood that it is simply being human that makes us exceptional at what we do, not the stamp we impose on it, or the belts we wrap around it. He used to encourage me to seek out other teachers, to meet other realms of study with the freshness of an unbiased mind. For this, I am ever grateful. So often, teachers will discourage their students from other areas of study, usually out of a need to control or even ‘own’ their students as a commodity.

It might seem counterproductive to remain absent of a ‘style’ of practice; after all, how else are you going to dig your well deep? But, paradoxically, the freedom from ‘style’ lends an incredible power to your practice, an adaptability that translates into a broader spectrum of understanding and much deeper grasp of the universal principles of nature. If we strip away all external adornments, all labels, all identification with a certain way of doing things, what are we left with? After all is said and done, each person who practices Yoga (or anything else for that matter) does it with a body governed by the same laws of nature, the same overall structure, and the same consciousness that is capable of opening to the deepest insights gifted to each of us as our birthright.

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What is in a style? Wherein lies the substance of this practice? Whether you consider yourself a Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Yin, Anusara, Bikram, Hot, Jivamukti, Kriya, Iyengar, Kripalu, or Sivananda Yogi (and the list goes on), you are doing nothing more or less than consciously breathing, moving, and feeling – which is our most direct human means of interacting with the endless creative force that is the universe - that is ourselves. Let your experience on the mat be one of liberation from all the junk we heap on this art form. Let the essential simplicity and vitality of this ever fresh practice be your doorway to your own living creativity. Let every new moment you meet be held within the ripe and infinitely powerful space of ‘not-knowing’. And if any teacher (including me) ever tells you otherwise, run fearlessly in the other direction.