Practicing Yoga is like getting a haircut…
There’s no right way to get a haircut. It is based on preference, intention, and need. The client is working with a very specific amount and type of hair. The stylist has a specific set of tools and skills. Some people like short hair and some barbers like using trimmers. Student and teacher (oops! client and stylist) work together out of logic and trust.
If I want a military haircut I can get a decent one from most barbers around, but I’ll do best to go the barber who does the most of them. Just as if I want long layers I probably won’t go to the military barber, but would find someone who practices and enjoys cutting long hair.
I know, it’s not perfect. Barbers cut hair FOR you, your teacher doesn’t practice FOR you. It’s not perfect. But I’m going with it.
Going to Mysore is like going to see this super famous stylist. This stylist has studied for the better part of his life and has been taught, groomed (ha! pun) by his Grandfather, the most amazing stylist EVER.
and here’s where things start to get useful, stay with me.
The first generation (Grandfather) stylist has to learn somewhere, right? The first person to get their haircut maybe didn’t get the best haircut in the world (I’m not casting aspersions, just think logic). There’s a learning curve to everything, no matter how good at it one ends up being. Some bad haircuts or maybe only misplaced snips took place. Along the way, the stylist also had some clients who got awesome haircuts and those clients came back, month after month until the stylist knew their hair so well, that he could work magic with them.
Guru-Stylist then carried on cutting hair and working with different heads and lengths and styles, all the while grooming his protege. They began cutting more and more hair together and eventually had hundreds of clients instead of dozens.
And then the senior stylist passed on and his adept was now being asked to cut hair for more people than anyone ever imagined. His wealth of knowledge, passed on from his Guru, I mean mentor, as well as all of his experience working along side him.
And the reality of the situation is that he can’t always do the sharpest, most attentive, amazingly in depth job on everyone. But true to his Grandfather’s wishes, he cuts the hair of as many people as he possibly can… and to do that he has developed a system: start out by giving everyone the same basic haircut. A real standard job that doesn’t look bad on anyone, but often doesn’t really suit the features or the preferences of the client. He uses it as a way of finding out what the client’s hair is like, how it falls, how they react to the cut. He stores that information for later.
Some clients don’t come back. They think they should have gotten a better haircut, instead of the standard and don’t trust the stylist’s judgement. They go back into the world saying they don’t understand why he’s such a big deal. Sometimes the Grandfather’s clients tell the Grandson’s (potential) clients that they aren’t getting the same haircuts they got, so why bother?
But some clients come back and keep getting their hair cut. With these regulars the stylist starts making more time, looking a little closer, considering not only what would suit the person’s physicality, but what the person wants. Sometimes the stylist takes things in a direction the client doesn’t expect and the client trusts him and goes with it, knowing it will turn out magic.
There are so many points in our lives where we know that is it best to have one person you trust, who gets to know you, your needs and your desires. For some reason this is obvious about something like a hair stylist, a tattoo artist, a dentist, or a decorator. Somehow that doesn’t always translate to how students of Yoga think about a ‘teacher.’ We each have to find the stylist who gives us the perfect cut. Whether they’re famous (and busy) or a small fry with lots of time on their hands, we really only need one specialist who we trust.