The Spirit of Tradition
As students of yoga, we think a lot about its history, practices and goals. We take what we learn from our teachers seriously, since they have experience and perspective that we do not. As we - all of us - grow and become more responsible for the future, it is important to assess our values.
What new knowledge and research has come to light? What of the old traditions are valid? Are there any that have been destabilized or proven false? What are the current trends, physically and ideologically, and where do they fit in to the big picture?
A lot of people will say if it has not been passed down, it is not truly part of the lineage. From a historical point of view this is true. There are many texts and teachers that are full of specific instruction, and we can follow them to the letter if we choose.
But we can think of traditions like laws: there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Likewise, there is the letter of the tradition and the spirit of the tradition. Every teacher is a product of his/her time and place and so has unique advantages and limitations.
If we think about the spirit of traditions, we start to look at the purpose of the practices and then assume that the teachers have used the best means available to them - the best tools and knowledge - to accomplish that purpose. We start to look at the traditions of yoga from a more theoretical viewpoint instead of as a group of set practices. So we, as teachers, should use the best tools and knowledge available to us to accomplish the purpose of the practice.
THE PROGRESS OF GHOSH YOGA
The yoga lineage of Bishnu Ghosh is exciting because as much as it has stayed the same for the past 100 years, it has updated itself using cutting edge medical knowledge. Gouri Shankar Mukerji (in the 1950s) was a medical doctor on the forefront of testing yoga postures using state of the art tools. The information he gained in the process refined the technique and understanding of the postures and practices, and the effects can be clearly seen in any Bikram class where they talk about circulation in the knees or compressing the pancreas.
As medical technology advances, it is our responsibility to use it the best we can. To this end, we must recognize the work of Pure Action, who fund and publish research about yoga and its medical effects. Even though they are uncovering and presenting new information, it is absolutely in line with the tradition of this lineage.
That is just one example of how tradition progresses. We must always seek to learn more, understand more, and pass more on to our students.
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Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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