There are countless yoga techniques possible to learn and train, will we have to train them all?
At the beginning of the relationship with the practice of Yoga and even long after its beginning, it is common that the apprentice feels a little lost and baffled, as he hasn’t a clear idea, what is the purpose of learning all these techniques associated with an mistaken idea of self-realization or enlightenment.
I will not address on this article which is the ultimate goal of yoga, but to make some reflections about the difference between technique and skill or competence, an issue that seems less obvious to practitioners and that can cause some confusion when ignored.
Not too complicated to conclude that there is a substantial difference between the ability to use a competency, and the methods and techniques used to learn and develop.
Techniques and competences, although closely related, they serve very different purposes.
It’s easy to understand that a painter should know how to use different brushes, mix colors, have notions of framing, able to work over several materials and have notions about proportions.
In the end, you must master a set of techniques so that something can manifest from your creative imagination.
What is expected of those who want to call themselves Painter, is that with the use and study of specific techniques and materials, develop the dexterity and competence to express their own way of painting in the end to become an artist.
Once developed this competence “Painter”, even with a rudimentary brush and some newsprint you can make art.
When this competence is not developed, it can get confused and amazed at the variety of brushes that can handle the multitude of paint tubes, the fantastic easels and canvases in which you can work, and why not, by the way, to get lost on and with the models to be painted.
For this user and consumer of painting materials, the tip of geniality that art develops, passes beside him.
Confuses the hypothetical night of bohemian artists, the ability to theoretically dissert about history of art, with the creative act of painting. And in most cases, is not even aware of his total lack of vocation into the art of painting.
Given this, we can say that every technique has one purpose, being the tools that enable to acquire certain skills and competences, but they are not to be mixed with the competences that they enhance.
Let us go on practical examples within the world of Yoga:
Yoganidra Techniques has one of its objectives to allow the student acquiring the competence to relax the body in an immediate way, in any circumstance required.
The success is in the perseverance and repetition of the Yoganidra techniques.
The ability to dominate at will the relaxing process, going to be integrated effectively in the practitioner by his experience, which comes from the continual repetition of the Yoganidra techniques.
And due to constant practice of these techniques is developed the gradual consciousness of increasing the ability to relax your body without the need to use a specific technique.
But we must not forget that this ability is only obtained due to a repeated practical training of the Yoganidra specific techniques.
However, we must be careful not to alienate on the exclusive learning and training of several techniques, keeping in mind that the basic capability or competence to get by training Yoganidra, is knowing how to unwind directly and immediately in accordance with our own will, whenever necessary.
On the asana practice the practitioner has the goal to acquire a specific capacity to stay firmly and comfortably indefinitely, in a seated posture (asana).
Naturally, for this, the practitioner must devote himself to the training of different groups of asanas with determination and commitment in order to detoxify his body allowing it to become strong, flexible and resistant. So the prana flows harmoniously and the consciousness can penetrate the body and involve intelligently from its periphery areas to more internal profound and subtle ones.
In this training process is developed the learning of many ásanas, numerous adjustments for the feet, legs, arms, hands, spine, neck and head, as well the intelligence to use specific materials to support the natural progression and development of these techniques.
In a sustained manner, the practitioner develops his natural ability to adjust the sitting posture (asana) and stay firm and comfortable without requiring preliminary practices.
The confusion in the practice of asana techniques is related most of the time with the illusory sense of power and narcissistic fascination that this practice may exacerbate in some practitioners, confusing the execution of these techniques with some circus activities, gymnastics contortionist or esoteric exhibitionism.
Here again we can not lose sight that all possible methods to address the asana, adjustments and the use of materials, has the sole purpose of developing the particular competence to remain seated in a firm and comfortable asana indefinitely in a direct and immediate way.
On the pranayama techniques.
The training of these techniques has beginning and ending with the continued presence of consciousness from beginning to end of the whole process of breathing.
But first, you must learn to observe in detail the characteristics of dynamic and static breath, whether fast or slow, shallow or deep, interrupted or continuous etc..
The pranayama basic technique (Ujjayi) regulates the flow of the breath allowing it not to cease by having breaks, being irregular unstable and chaotic. In this process it produces a deep physical, mental and emotional revitalization.
There are many techniques of pranayama, but all have the same goal: to revitalize and calm breathing and all systems associated with it.
The methodical practice these techniques develops the ability to breathe in a more conscious and peaceful way with maximum efficiency and minimum energy expenditure.
But depleting our patience in hours and hours training diverse and varied techniques of pranayama is not a goal.
The power that the practitioner must develop with the pranayama training is the subtlety of conscious attention, which transcends the very coarse breathing process and focuses on subtle energy and its connection to the flow of mental activity.
Being aware of the breath with this level of refinement is the particular competence to develop with pranayama.
Finally we reflect on equanimity (Vairagya)
Equanimity (Vairagya) is a competency.
It is the capacity to remain unaffected and unperturbed during yoga practice and especially to all the challenges of everyday life. Requires a interior solid base of competencies, developed by the aforementioned techniques.
Means that facing a thought or situation interpreted by our inner scale of values and mental program as adverse, bad or uncomfortable, the yogin remains calm without altering or disturbing.
Likewise, if the thoughts or situations can be interpreted as good the yogin has the ability to remain quiet without slipping into an unnecessary and excessive enthusiasm or pride.
Remain in equanimity does not mean simulating a state of imperturbable calm and unconditional acceptance, which also can be slyly trained. Or even worse, become mentally childish by the nonviolence “New Age”. Escape to the countryside because the city is the source of all imbalances, rosy-cheeked sighing with hemp clothing, for the soul of all the ants stepped in the natural act of pedestrian locomotion.
This ability to remain undisturbed also means not being indifferent, but being in deep inner balance.
The equanimity that accrue with time and regular practice, also does not mean that is lacking and devoid of emotions. But instead, that emotional responses are diluted more quickly, because the yogin is able to make adjustments and needed changes promptly.
Cultivate equanimity (Vairagya) is a process that installs in the yogin stepwise.
It is important to observe how this competence develops with time and with regular continued practice, in order not to create false expectations as to assume that equanimity can be achieved in any 10-day silent retreat with rituals and Indian clothes or with some technical magic overnight.
Learning to remain undisturbed cultivating Vairagya is a competence that occurs with training techniques mentioned above and with the techniques of interiorisation Samyama.
Vairagya is therefore a fundamental skill that all practitioners should develop.
Summarizing, in the Art of Yoga, all practiced techniques aim to develop certain abilities and competencies in the practitioner.
With continued practice and using the correct techniques of Yoga, is achieved a deep state of interiority that allows the emergence of our Self (inner being).
Techniques by themselves, are worthless. What really matters is that they are a valuable tool for develop and cultivate in the practitioner, all the capabilities that are inherent.
What is fundamental for the yoga practitioner, are the competences and abilities acquired through continue and perseverance practice, not the simple techniques used in this process.
Being clear, the goal of the practitioner will learn, grow and develop certain skills and competences, and not only train techniques and more techniques to simply be an marketing expert of physical or philosophical techniques, which by itself is useless.
Techniques are important and extremely useful, but what is fundamental, is the competence they seek to develop in the practitioner.
Finally, one can observe that the perversions arising from teaching yoga in the West, is the ease with which practitioners confuse the learning of techniques with the aim of those. I mean, they go over training techniques and techniques of various schools and movements, convinced that with more and varied techniques they get some competence on the art of yoga.
Another of the great misconceptions is the compulsive attitude to collect diplomas yoga teacher.
Indeed, any serious school of yoga intended that, during the teachers course, the student develops the difficult competence of teaching yoga.
But once again there is confusion between the techniques and competences. The courses are useless, if not nurtured and developed the arduous and intricate ability to teach yoga.
To conclude, I can say that I’m still amazed by the fantastic and intriguing simplicity of Yoga, revealed at the time that our mind perceives that despite the numerous and complex techniques at our disposal to train, Yoga intends to develop in the practitioner very few skills.