Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yoga and the Four Gateways of Speech: Is it Necessary?

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By Faye Martins

The Four Gateways of Speech are a series of four contemplative questions that are considered prior to engaging in conversations with others, especially difficult conversations. This practice originated in the Sufi tradition. The four questions that are internally posed prior to initiating an exchange are: Is it true? Is what I am about to say kind? Is the conversation necessary and is my timing appropriate? Pausing for just a moment before offering your suggestions, advice or commentaries to another person gives you the opportunity to weigh both the merits and effects of what you are about to communicate. 

As Yoga practitioners, we are ultimately striving for peace and well being in our own hearts and minds. Extending and supporting others’ peace and well being is a natural outgrowth of this goal. By pausing to weigh whether or not the conversation you are about to initiate is true, kind, necessary and appropriately timed; you will be more free to choose to interact in such a way that is both freeing and uplifting to yourself and to the other person. If your commentary is not kind, true, necessary or appropriately timed, you may wish to refrain from the conversation all together. 

For example, often times we may experience and witness situations and events that are not quite “up to par.” Maybe a situation feels unfair, unprofessional or inaccurate. From the perspective of a Yoga student, you may occasionally find that you know more about the specific alignment of a pose, or the modification of a pose, than your Yoga teacher. This may present a situation where you feel it is necessary to let you teacher know that his or her instructions are inaccurate according to you own understanding. 

However, it may be the case that there are a number of ways to practice the asana you are concerned about, and that your Yoga teacher has learned a different way of aligning in the pose. Before interjecting during Yoga class, you may wish to consider whether or not you think it is truly necessary to publically comment on your teacher’s instructions. It may be more appropriate to respectfully ask for clarification and communicate your concerns privately after class. In this way, you will honor your own truth as well as respect your Yoga instructor’s knowledge of optimal alignment principals. 

A side note: There is more than one method for practicing any Yoga technique.  If you observe asana, meditation, pranayama, mudra, and mantra, each style emphasizes particular points, which make it unique.  At the same time, each Yoga instructor is indeed unique.

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