We recently had a chance to ask Paul Grilley a few questions about his understanding of yoga and how that gets expressed in his own practice. We would love to hear how his answers resonate with your practice or teaching.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a collection of techniques that yogis have found effective for calming the physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of our existence, what the ancient texts traditionally refer to as the “three bodies” of soul encasement. When we calm the restless activities of these three bodies, the soul can realize its own limitless nature.
How do you weave that definition into your teaching?
I try to emphasize the functional approach, the why we practice asana and pranayama rather than just the how. If we simply practice something by rote without reflecting on its purpose, we have no way of judging whether our practice is effective or if it should change.
How do you bring this into your own practice?
I constantly compare and contrast different ways of accomplishing a given purpose. I try not to lapse into an unexamined mechanical practice. For example, when should I hold a bandha during breathing practices? Is it useful or distracting? We all have to ask this sort of question many times before reaching an accurate answer because we’re never exactly the same two days in a row. We can’t draw useful conclusions just by trying something once or twice.
How has your understanding of yoga’s true meaning evolved since you began teaching?
I comprehend more clearly that each of our three bodies is a particular combination of energy and consciousness. Some yoga techniques emphasize clarity of awareness and others emphasize energy movement, but, ultimately, the goal is the same.
What is the biggest misconception about yoga that you would like to change?
There is no one-size-fits-all yoga practice, not physically, not emotionally, not energetically, not philosophically. There is no “best type” of yoga either. Different forms of yoga suit people at different levels of their development. We should avoid growing emotionally attached to a particular school of yoga because our needs will change over time. The goal of yoga transcends the varied techniques of yoga, just as the goal of good health transcends the particular medical practices of a given time and place.