I have studied many different kinds of yoga – and I resonate with different aspects of all of them. In all the trainings and workshops I have taken what I find is that if the teacher is good, it doesn’t really matter what style they teach – they are able to clearly transmit the wisdom of yoga. It is always those teachers who have a gleam of knowing in their eye, a sense of wisdom about their practice, an indifference to their egoic gratification, and a compassionate approach to their students that I learn the most from.
In 2004 I realized I needed a different way to describe the kind of yoga I teach. Yes I could say that I teach hatha yoga and that I have integrated what I’ve learned from many different traditions. But that wasn’t really it. What interests me, the common link in all the styles, is the capacity of the practice to transport me into the subtle realm – where the ordinary touches the extraordinary. What I began to understand is that the kind of yoga I teach is not so much about techniques – it is about approach, understanding and experience.
The Subtle realm is the bridge between the mundane and the spiritual. It pertains to the Subtle body – the subtle anatomy. It pertains to the subtle aspect of the mind. It pertains to a subtle way of knowing about yoga and about life. The Subtle is a layer of self, related to the manomaya and vijanamaya koshas, where we can expand the way we know and the way we experience. It is the realm of ever-expanding awareness.The Subtle is a bridge, which means you walk on it, you move across it, you go through a process.
This is the kind of yoga I want to do and I want to teach, so I named it simply “Subtle Yoga.”
For a while I had a difficult time explaining what Subtle Yoga is. People would ask me, “is it gentle?” Maybe, sometimes. “It seems a lot like Vini yoga.” Yes, it can be. “Is it sort of like vinyasa?” Sort of.
I struggled with my descriptions. I wanted to be able to confidently differentiate the techniques – which is how most people differentiate styles of yoga. And I wanted to be able to talk about outcomes, achieved states, tangible results.
But those things are not subtle, they are primarily in the realm of the mundane or the gross. Understanding, being, awareness – these are all about experience, not technique. The Subtle resides in the realm of art, the places in the margins, the space between the breath or thoughts, the undercurrents, the subcontext. These things can’t necessarily be described, but they can be experienced and they can be transmitted.
Subtle Yoga is a journey. How do you get from one state to another? From an undesirable place of contraction or irritation, to a place of freedom and ease? How do you get from a place of un-consciousness to conscious awareness? How do you innercise if the only thing you’ve ever done before is exercise? Subtle Yoga is a system of tools that builds the bridge. The foundation of that bridge are the different practices the yogis have gifted us with – ethics, breathing, moving, meditating. You breathe, you move, you meditate and in that process you build for yourself a bridge and that bridge is the structure over which you move toward the sublime.