Sama Fabian discusses the proposed NOS | Articles | Keep Yoga Free


Sama Fabian discusses the proposed NOS

Once again, the play of political forces is in full swing in the Yoga world. We are being confronted with the peremptory fact that national occupational standards are being drawn for Yoga and that these are to be implemented next year!

One might have expected an invitation to discuss the need for such standards amongst the Yogis of this country. Instead, we are herded into a narrow way by Skills Active, essentially an ‘employer led’ organization, in this case, the FIA, fitness industry association representing the corporate sector and working closely with Skills Active. As we all know corporate fitness is essentially motivated by profit rather than education or service.  So, here we are again, facing the same battle after 12 years of relative peace, mainly maintained because of the on going scrutiny the IYN has been keeping on the issue.

Meanwhile authoritarian forces have been newly activated, attempting to standardise the practice and teaching of Yoga, in line with fitness industry requirements. The BWY promises a level 4, of what I wander? Level of consciousness? The time for holding your kumbhaka? Is your level of integration at skin level, muscle level or bone level? Does level 4 imply a capacity to release the thinking process? Level 4 empty mind anybody? Having had a BWY teacher trainer in my 4 year, 500 contact hours training a few years back, I guess the Wheel might consider a level 5, to align with the koshas, with the great Anandamaya or is this not relevant here, as we are solely concerned with the correct naming of muscles and their function!

As a practicing Craniosacral Therapist, I ask if those so intent on applying traditional anatomy and physiology to yoga, might consider learning about the latest discoveries in modern biology and realise that working with intent, the energy body, the spiralling fascial lines, psychic flux and emotional centering is, surprisingly for some it seems, what Yoga has always ‘known’. And this is precisely why the fitness industry is ill equipped to issue any standards for the practice and teaching of our lore. Even if there might be a further consultation with the main British Yoga associations, how can we ever agree on the standardisation of this personal, subjective journey that is Yoga?

The spiritual traveller cannot touch upon her spirit by following prescribed rules, for this path is one of freedom, utter undivided freedom. Freedom to roam the many layers of one’s organic, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual reality, seeking connection, stability, peace and joy. How can anyone measure the proficiency of a Yoga teacher but solely by the level of passion, integration, inspiration they might be able to embody and transmit. And that vibrant incandescence when someone accesses territories that expand beyond the constructed self, how can that level of expression be standardised? For this is the essence of Yoga, not quite the freedom for the self that the dominant culture pedals but freedom from the self. How can that be evaluated? It can only be experienced by direct contact with the higher frequency that becomes palpable in the relational field. All of this is highly subjective and requires individual appreciation one person at a time.

So do we have to leave this appreciation to the wider public? Yes we do. We can only promote a Yogic education, and embody its profoundly transformative principles. Then each person must undertake a personal journey into Yoga, which comprises moments of respite, to pose and breath and ponder, hurdles to overcome with deep listening and connection to one’s personal power, limitations to meet and accept, and just as importantly acknowledge one’s talents as well as reclaim and validate one’s personal experience with a compassionate heart. Each has to find their teacher. And the teacher will be one who has journeyed and meandered long and deep into their inner self and can report back that the only teacher you can ever truly have is the one that resides in your own heart. A Yoga teacher never tells you what to do, but essentially reminds you to expand your listening body, to dilate your very pores so that the skilful action can arise as a consequence of that listening. Then Yoga. There is no standard here but a respect and a nobility that authorises no gap between word and gesture. This is what authenticity means, the ability to become the author of your own myth. This is what an honest Yoga teacher can show you with no attachment, no dependency, but perhaps an affiliation that may mature over time into collaboration.
So whether some like it or not, Yoga IS a spiritual path. Meaning that it intends to overcome the constructed self so that we may arise into a fuller, expanded place that we tend to call now, and where we might be able to experience the infinite.  How far this is from the reductive propositions we are being condescendingly summoned to agree on. How remote these self appointed ‘givers of lessons’ have come from their own practice it seems, busy as they are dishing out precepts, rules and laws that pretend to measure evaluate and standardise our practice. What is their motivation? To be able to show the corporate world that Yoga can be squeezed into the ‘exercise’ category and that yogis can also tick boxes? How can we take this exercise in muscle flexing seriously?
It is enough to look at the use of language to understand that we have to deal with worlds that are considerably different in their values, perspective, culture, philosophy and politics.
Here is an example taken from Skills Active web site:
‘ NOS are meant to improve capacity and capability and can be used to define job roles, measure staff performance and be regarded as the benchmark of competence. They specify the standards of performance that people are expected to achieve in their work and the knowledge and skills they need to perform effectively’
How can such language even remotely relate to Yogic education? How can an essentially spiritual practice be measured in terms of standardised outcomes? Who pretends to be able to draw any common standard between for example the immensely refined Vijnana Yoga or Centered Yoga with their comprehensive curriculum that span over three + years and some forms of Hot Yoga with boot camp style teacher trainings that last one month, I guess time enough to learn how to turn on the heating system! Hahaha! But hey that is how it is right now.
So what do we do? Nothing.  But come together in free moving clusters, attempting community around fluid principles, like truthfulness, self reflection and love. Do nothing. Let each find their way: those who want to turn on the heat and compromise their bones and nervous systems, those who need to follow rules to feel right, those who want to kiss their teacher’s feet, those who need to study the anatomy of the hip joint before braking into intuitive dance, those who want to chant to unknown deities from unknown temples, those who follow their spirit through the darkness and confusion and find kin in a gentle smile, the sharpness of a mind, the intelligence of a gaze, the compassion of a heart. Let them all find their way to their teacher for Yoga has a way of keeping its promise when the one looking for it is sincere.

Of course there might be some measure of common ground with those who do want to implement national occupational standards, but it would mean that the Yogis would have to make the bigger sacrifice, that of selling their very soul, no less! And for those who are prone to ‘de-dramatise’ the whole thing to make a few quick bucks, the problem is that they would have to wriggle out of NOS by pretending they are applying them, thus negating the Yogic principle of honesty.

Perhaps I am naïve in stubbornly upholding principles that for some control thirsty organisations might not be worth fighting for, but in a time of spiritual impoverishment, deeply ingrained consumerism and intolerable violence, the Yoga world has a responsibility to respond by upholding its own principles, giving them body and breath rather than stoop to the demands of a market place intent on controlling that which it fails to comprehend. So to all those who seek to standardize the practice and teaching of Yoga I express my renewed dismay at their renewed attempt at regulation. It reveals such poor understanding of the subject which, again is reduced to mere exercise. Yoga implies a freedom of expression of all the layers of our physical, vital, mental, emotional and spiritual reality that simply cannot be standardised.

To try to do so will inevitably encounter great contention in the Yoga world, which to this day includes a vast variety of different schools of thought, myriads of different practices, many of which are not physical.  The emphasis on energetic and spiritual development is what distinguishes Yoga from any other form of personal development, how can anyone pretend to know a standard which would cover these very sensitive and highly personal areas. You might as well standardise prayer or rigidly frame religious expression, which by the way is an infringement on human rights.

Therefore I urge Skills Active and its valets not to waste much needed public funds on this pointless goose chase and not to be persuaded into what appears to be an expression of power struggles within the Yoga community. Wisely save all of us the aggravation. This is experienced in the broader Yoga world as interventionism which we see much too much in political circles. The statistics show no particular issues, dangers, or law suites  that would justify a move towards regulation. So I appeal to all the practitioners and teachers to rally together and make their dissent against regulation be heard.
Leave Yoga be!
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