Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Can You Be Your Own Guru?

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:26: Not being limited by time, Isvara is the teacher of all ancient teachers.

Defining the Sutra

The past few weeks have been devoted to universal consciousness or Isvara. For more information, go here.   Isvara or divine consciousness is ALL energy. Energy can not be created or destroyed, only transformed. So all knowledge that has existed is still in existence and accessible by the right medium or conduit. Since Isvara is All, Isvara holds all knowledge. Every teacher from the beginning of time, now, and into the future is pulling from the infinite supply of knowledge that is Isvara. This makes Isvara the teacher of all teachers.

Why It is Important

Earlier in the Sutras, Patanjali, states that we can find freedom from suffering simply by being devoted to Isvara. In this sutra, he continues to list attributes of Isvara. If Isvara is the holder of all knowledge, we can tap into that knowledge through devotion.


Modern Day Application

A popular statement, amongst yoga practitioners in the West, is that you can be your own guru.  However,  a cursory glance at our world shows that this is probably not a realistic ideal for most. Our world is filled with big companies destroying the planet  and our health by putting untested chemicals into our foods and medicines for profit. People like Kim K become millionaires simply because they are pretty while people who want to feed the hungry or provide clean water for children have to beg for funds .  People are still not treated equally. Women are not paid fairly. Black people are still being burned and hung from trees. Gay people are still being harassed.  In the yoga world, popular yoga clothing companies with unscrupulous business practices and physically appealing, charismatic yoga teachers that repeatedly overstep healthy boundaries are still allowed to thrive.

We may feel set apart from the above issues but whenever we purchase from companies that value profit over our health and happiness, we are not gurus.  When we value external beauty over internal beauty, we are not being gurus. When we sit back and watch as yoga becomes a capitalistic system that is shifting and changing, not for our well being, but for profit, we are not being gurus.

I know I can’t be my own guru….at this time.  That is why I study the Sutras and practice yoga. It is why I have teachers that I defer to. I can’t tap into that knowledge alone. I need help. If you can, that is fricking awesome. If you can devote yourself to Isvara and discover the divine that is inside you and all beings, you can be your own Guru. Those who are fully devoted to Isvara, and can find the quiet space within the heart,  have access to Isvara’s knowledge. We are all made of the same energy and Isvara is within us all.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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