When I first started teaching,I was told me that we just have to teach the physical practice and people will change inside on their own with time. There was a voice in my head that doubted this, but it sounded good so I believed it. As I continued to teach, it became apparent to me that this was not the case. People who were sweet got sweeter. People who were searching for the spiritual side, found it. Those who were ego maniacs just became bigger ego maniacs.
Newtons First Law: The first law can be stated mathematically as
An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.
An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.
People need an external force to change. Sometimes that force is a deep seated feeling of unhappiness. Sometimes it is an injury. Sometimes it is the voice of a teacher imparting the spiritual aspects of yoga. If a person feels that what they are doing is totally right, they are not going to change.
You get what you put into your practice. If you enter the yoga world with a defeatist attitude, you will experience more and more defeat. If you enter with a happy disposition, you will enjoy more happiness. Like a microcosm of life itself, yoga is best understood as a playground where you test out your deeply held thoughts about yourself and see what kind of results you get from thinking the way you do- The Power of Ashtanga Yoga by Kino Macgregor
For instance, if someone was taught that outdoing others in competition is the key to happiness and success, they will come to yoga class with that same philosophy. If they are naturally gifted and excel in yoga asana, this philosophy will not change. Especially if they are given lots of praise for their poses or enjoy popularity in the yoga community because of their physical practice. If people test their beliefs in yoga, and yoga proves them to be true, they will not change.
Change needs an outside force. I will never forget this episode of Oprah Winfrey where this girl, who was chronically late, came on the show and she claimed that she had tried everything. Dr. Phil, the psychologist, was visiting that day and said, “it must be working for you. People don’t continue to do things unless it is working for them. What are you getting out of being late ?” The woman didn’t like this response and gave several reasons why her life was chaos because of it. Dr. Phil stood his ground that something about the chaos, the feeling of being late, the feeling of control, the attention or something of that nature was keeping her in that pattern. She was getting a payoff. If someone is getting a payoff, they are not going to change without an outside force.
We can do yoga as a simple feel good practice or we can let it be an outside force for deep internal change. The choice is ours.