Ranja Weis is one of Germany’s well-known Yoga models and the best Yin Yoga teacher. In her Testimonial for MANDALA, she regularly writes about her experiences and her life with Yoga.
Many associate Yoga with acrobatics today, while other aspects such as spirituality and mindfulness take a back seat. For Ranja’s MANDALA Testimonial, however, these components of Yoga also have high priority. In this article, she writes about the development of Yoga and describes why it is of vital important for Yoga teachers to have a meditative self-awareness.
Yoga Today: Giving The Body Priority
Nowadays, if you browse a bit through the social networks under the term "Yoga", you easily get the impression that Yoga consists mainly of physical, often quite acrobatic, exercises. The body - in a certain Yoga pose - clearly has central priority. This development first emerged and took shape in the 19th Century. The Indian Yoga teacher Krishnamacharya, "Father of Modern Yoga", according to his own account, close to 3000 positions, his own guru, Ramamohan Brahmachari, allegedly 8000. This was when the Age of Hatha Vinyasa Yoga was heralded in. Yet what significance did the positions have before?
Hatha Yoga Previously: The Spirit Being Central
In the few existing texts that describe how Hatha Yoga was taught between the 10th-18th Century, Asana had been a rather insignificant part of the practice. In fact, it was more about training the body to sit still, of sinking into a meditative state, and of gaining knowledge and liberation of the mind. To such realms, however, you can only advance by sitting motionless for a longer period of time. For example, by taking part in a 10-day Vipassana Retreat according to the method of S.N. Goenka.
Meditative Self-Awareness is Especially Important for Yoga Teachers
In today's usual 10-minute meditations of rounding up a Yoga class in silence (if at all), you will not experience such self-awareness. But for those who want to teach Yoga, meditations are so important: to sit for so long until all of your own topics have surfaced in your thoughts, your mind fully permeated and the various layers of your body purified, so that nothing blocks the awareness of unity in your being. It takes courage, perseverance, discipline, honesty towards yourself together with the love and the willingness to give all. To be vulnerable by relinquishing all for that moment of bliss, that one moment of magic.
Only then has the acquired wisdom found its place in one’s inner realm, and one can genuinely pass this knowledge of one’s own deep self-awareness on to another human being. And yet, this form of self-awareness is offered only in a few Yoga teacher trainings. You have to search for it independently. In spite of that, self-awareness is most important in attaining an in-depth, comprehensive understanding and awareness of Yoga.