Find Sarah Finger’s exploration of the Yamas and Niyamas on Wanderlust TV!
To what extent has 2020 made the classic yoga teachings sharp and tangible for you?
To be honest, it’s hard to say in which way 2020 did NOT bring the classic yoga teachings into focus for me. The science of yoga is infallible because it touches the very essence of our humanity. As long as we remain human, the yogic teachings will be applicable.
That being said, I keep coming back to the Yamas and Niyamas as a source of wisdom on how to reprogram my mind for peace. Practicing virtues of compassion for one another, telling the truth, not stealing what is not ours, managing and not clinging to our energies are all values that have clearly come to the fore in our culture over the past few years. Then there are the basic concepts of staying clean and maintaining basic hygiene, being content with the things we cannot control, finding solace in what is unknown to us, studying ourselves carefully, and of course – realizing that there is greater development that we are all involved in. These are the 10 yamas and niyamas and practicing can give us a sense of liberation in our daily lives. It’s hard to imagine that at some point in the past year any of us would no longer have to navigate through these concepts. If we can really put them into perspective for modern life, they give us a framework to experience harmony on both a micro and macro level.
Your teaching experience is extensive and your education is rich in lineages. With the proliferation of digital resources now in abundance for yoga classes, fear that some of the true essences of the teachings will be watered down or glossed over?
It was such an interesting experience to switch all of my teaching practice from in person to online. At first I was skeptical, as were some of my students, but even this type of resistance was a form of attachment that we all had to let go of at some point. We all had to accept our limits and do our best with what we have at our disposal. If we imagine that COVID-19 happened 20 years ago before the rise of technology, we might all have suffered in more tangible ways. In that sense, technology has been a real blessing.
That being said, I think a lot is lost in translation if we rely solely on online yoga, especially if the teacher cannot “see” the student in 3D. At Ishta Yoga we are trained not only to observe the alignment of our students, but also to pay attention to the quality of their breathing and the sound of their breath, and to observe the eyes and face to understand what is happening in the mind. Although we are able to transfer energy through cyberspace, it is not the same as the presence of a teacher. Having a teacher is an essential part of yoga practice because the teacher knows the way. Just like a captain on a ship, a good teacher can show his student what to look for on the voyage and how to weather the storms. A teacher knows that the ultimate goal is internal and she can keep that result in her being.
There are also advantages in reaching people exactly where they are – geographically, temporally and emotionally – when we teach through video platforms. Have you seen some silver lining this way?
Absolutely! It was a gift to be able to teach people from all over the world. It made me see so many people together in a virtual space and connect with their own essence. I feel a purpose in being able to share these teachings, it is really worthwhile to have a platform to do this for a larger crowd.
What is the future of Ishta Yoga?
Although we had to close our physical space on 11th Street due to the pandemic, my partners and I had already planned to move our studio long before we had to go into lockdown. We continue to plan to open a stationary room as soon as it is safe. However, we will continue to offer courses, workshops and training online. We are grateful that we were able to keep our community going during this turbulent time, and our intent was and is to serve the people – whether online or in person.
And if you pamper us, what does the future of yoga look like?
It’s such a good question that I can’t take know for sure! What I do know is that yoga continues to provide a source of comfort, inspiration, and hope for hundreds of millions of people around the world. My greatest wish is that yoga find a way into the US government so that our leadership is guided by the principles of integrity I mentioned in the first question. 🙂
I think we will continue to see a huge space for yoga in the digital realm, making it more accessible to those who otherwise would not have been able to experience it. I also think that people will begin to focus on the last four limbs of yoga known as “The Royal Path” or Raja Yoga. These are the more meditative, contemplative practices of yoga that are often bypassed in the West. There is a natural evolution that will ultimately lead to more and more people wanting to discover these deeper teachings, and this is where the true transformation occurs!
What is your favorite teaching that you keep coming back to?
Sutra 2.44 from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Svadhyaya ishta devata sampra yogaha – Discover yourself and you will discover the divine.