How to build your own yoga boat

I was recently engaged in a discussion with another teacher. We were talking about practicing yoga and the other person said: “Everyone will ultimately end up where they should be and have their two feet in one boat.” The assertion was that an effective yoga practice requires you to commit to a particular style of yoga and stick with it. It could be Iyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga or any number of other styles. While I don’t dispute the need to stick with your practice – even Patanjali says that this is important (see Sutra 1.14) – I’m not so sure about the need to stick to one particular style.

So here’s the question I’ve asked myself: is there one perfect ship for my personal yoga voyage? Who makes these boats anyhow? And where can I get one?

The history of classical yoga is rooted in devoting yourself to a single yogic path and, typically, to a single all-seeing and all-knowing guru. Depending on your nature, it could be the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga), the path of knowledge (Jnana Yoga), the path of service (Karma Yoga), or the royal path (Raja Yoga). Hatha Yoga – “the forceful way” – is usually considered to be an arm of Raja Yoga and is the one most of us think of when we use the word “yoga”. But no matter the path, the way down the path was always with the aid of a guru, a yogi familiar with the twists and turns of your chosen path.

But I’m talking about boats, not paths. So back to my story!

My own personal yoga voyage started with the fierce discipline and system of an uncompromising yogi.  For seven years, it was all “my way or the highway.” I learned an awful lot about myself in the process, but in the end it didn’t fully float my boat. I got the hull built, learned how to read charts and sailed many wonderful trips on my teacher’s boat, but I wanted more. I wanted my own boat. I didn’t want to simply be another passenger on someone else’s yoga cruise liner.

I’d been struggling to find my own personal yoga path (ok, well, “yoga boat”). Where I ended up was that I was unconvinced – in my heart, not just in my monkey mind – that there was a ready-made, off-the-shelf yoga boat that I could simply jump into and sail away. We are all unique. We must all struggle with our own peculiarities and history. The gurus and teachers are out there and willing to assist, but in the end, they are simply a catalyst. You’ve got to do all the work. You have to find and embrace your own yoga. There are no ready-made boats. You’ve got to build your own.

Here’s my latest yoga goal: to be amazingly good at “Guy Friswell Yoga” before I die. You are you. I am I. If the goal of yoga is to connect with our deepest authentic Self, does it not stand to reason that only you can find the way?

But where does that leave the seeker, like myself, that wants to get on with sailing? Quite simply: in the company of other seekers. And this is what is so great about places like Hemma. There’s so many styles and teachers on offer. You can pick and choose whatever style and whichever teacher suits your mood or piques your curiosity. There’s a great community of fellow yogis, ready and willing to talk about and share their experiences. And all the while you keep crafting your own boat. No one tells you that there is only one way. But everyone is there to hold your hand as you learn to find the perfect wood, cut the perfect sail, and ride the blissful waves.

Come on down to one of my classes. I’ll take you for a ride in my ever-evolving (and sometimes rickety) yoga boat. And then we can talk about getting yours afloat!

Namaste my fellow sailors,

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2 Responses to How to build your own yoga boat

  1. Shawn Brow says:

    Lovely summary Guy, and I am with you along these unchartered waterways, navigating life in whatever vessel the weather and water requires~ long board or life boat, we all will chart our course as we seek our true natures. I too enjoy variety, and draw from many styles in my teachings~ having more tools in ones tool bag is an important teaching strategy, if we are to succeed in guiding others through the stormy waters.
    Thanks for sharing~
    Be well,

  2. Guy Friswell says:

    I had a moment of serendipity following this posting – and I’d like to share it (of course)! I’m a voracious reader of all things yoga, with Donna Farhi’s “Bringing Yoga to Life” the latest book on my bedside table. I got to the chapter “Trusting the Mystery” and came across this further metaphor:

    “It’s easy to trust in the mystery when everything is going our way. This is why it’s prudent to use these happy times to practice bringing the mind back to center. Practicing in good times lays a strong ballast in our boat so that when the going gets rough we can skilfully keep ourselves upright. This is exactly what Patanjali tells us: when you’re in the middle of a storm, stay with one method. This is not the time to be wishing you were somewhere else or thinking about trying out some new sailing techniques you’ve only just read about.”

    I thought that this extra pearl was definitely worthy of consideration. I also highly recommend the book.


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