I have a friend who I admire very much.
He's a yoga teacher, like me. But unlike me he went to the Yoga University in India (seriously, there is a Yoga University, how awesome is that?). Unlike me he lived on an ashram in India. Unlike me he studied under the famous Swami Satyananda and immersed himself deeply into one yogic tradition.
We were talking about this the other day, his commitment to one tradition and to a depth of understanding in his yoga practice and teaching.
Okay, I'll be completely honest.
He was talking to some other people about this. I was eavesdropping on his conversation while I was ostensibly having another conversation with another good friend.
My friends are very tolerant and generous with these eavesdropping tendencies of mine, which I blame on being a writer. In particular, a writer whose agent has suggested she needs to work on her dialogue. These days I am always eavesdropping on conversation. Be warned. If you are sitting on the train behind me engrossed in conversation with your friend/husband/daughter, I am probably furiously scribbling down everything you say. Just to learn about dialogue, of course.
Anyway, as I was eavesdropping I heard him say that he believed it was better to dig deeply until you hit water, rather than digging many shallow holes all over the place.
I leaned over, as I am wont to do, and interjected.
"But what if the water lies just beneath the surface?" I asked
"It generally doesn't." He replied, "At least not in the desert I live in."
"Well," I responded, "some of us live in the wetlands. We don't even dig. We just lean down with a long straw and suck the goodness up."
Everyone laughed. I can be very witty, you know, and when I'm not my friends can be very tolerant and generous.
I was trying to be funny. It's true. But there was something serious beneath the silliness.
The serious question is whether or not it is possible to access the profound benefits of yoga by dipping into many different practices and traditions. Or is it necessary to dedicate ourselves to lengthy, indepth study and practice of one tradition?
Is there ever water just below the surface?
Or can different traditions and practice combine to create the same profundity that concentrated practice of one tradition promises?
For me, I get incredible joy and insight from practicing many different types of yoga. Sure, there are certain practices that I have learned are especially beneficial for me and I practice them regularly. But beyond these foundations of my yoga practice I like to explore new things and I really, really love to learn about and experience many of the different yogic traditions.
I'd love to know what you think about this.