We Asked Some Experts
You work long and hard to open your hips and hamstrings and one day -- voila! You achieve the elusive splits. You’d probably call that progress in your asana practice, but what about your spiritual development? Can you measure it? Should you even try? YogaCity asked three established teachers from three different lineages, and their answers reflect just how tricky this question can be.
"Spiritual growth has to do with the dissolution of the sense of separateness from the whole. We begin to transcend the constrictions of operating under a limited and distorted consciousness," said Swami Asokanada, president of New York's Integral Yoga Institute. "It's tricky to measure your own growth; it's useful to have a teacher to bounce off of and to help see yourself more clearly."
On the other hand, senior Iyengar teacher Genny Kapuler says, “I don’t think it’s possible. I think all we can do is practice and cultivate in ourselves those values that we feel are worthwhile and that we want.” Kapuler, who started out as a modern dancer and found Iyengar Yoga in 1982, agreed that “it’s very hard to see oneself.”
“I don’t feel that I can measure my [spiritual] progress in terms of my yoga practice, which is something you can really see,” she continued. “I work to cultivate myself to be more attentive, more helpful. I always feel better after I practice, but in terms of progress? I see deepening. I feel more and more what is meaningful to me -- but the way I care about people? That’s not progress, that’s understanding what’s meaningful in my life.”
“I never felt that yoga is a performing art,” she continued. “I’ve always done it as kind of a healing art so it was just about taking care of my body and taking care of the body-mind continuum.”