Many Paths to the Same Goal

Recently I had a discussion with a friend about how he never really wanted to be at school, school was not a place of interest for him and so he found himself having to take part in something against his will whilst being pressured into performing to a level that would be deemed successful by society, but was not in tune with how he felt about himself.

These early experiences of being pressured into doing things he did not want to do led to a behavioral pattern that spilled over into his spiritual practice years later. As everything is connected, the vibration of our past is the vibration of our present and future unless healed. Consequently many students are seeking teachers who can help with this process, which can be a wonderful healing opportunity for both parties, but can also be detrimental if they do not understand the person before them.

My friend has a Buddhist practice and through his practice has also explored Yoga and it’s many paths. Along this yogic path came the structure, the expectation and the pressure to perform. The past had met with the present in unlikely circumstances!

My friend mentioned that during school he would feel trapped as if in a cage and that freedom to be himself would not be felt until the final bell rang. The analogy of a ‘cage’ struck a cord with me! A couple of years back a friend of mine who was highly trained in the martial art system of Kung Fu asked me a very potent question, “Have you ever considered that the mat is the Yogi’s cage?”

If it is a cage, what cage had I walked into? Was it of my own free will? Was it a choice? What were its limitations if it is indeed a cage? I do not believe in coincidences and so this conundrum sat with me and vibrated around my inner being . Were we all caged animals wanting to be set free? Do we exchange one cage for another and simply move when metaphorical claustrophobia sets in? In many respects Pattahbi Jois had the answer “Do your practice and all is coming.” My practice would now leave the mat for my curiosity had to be explored; what potential lay in my practice and in my teaching of Yoga if I ventured from my proverbial cage?

There are many paths to the same goal; I love using the example of Shifu from Kung Fu Panda to convey this message. Shifu is at a loss as to how to train Po to master Kung Fu, the old ways were not working for Shifu however, one day he noticed that Po was moving with great flexibility, agility and strength performing a full splits 10ft off the ground and soon realized that he could not train Po the way he did his other students. The way to nurture and grow Po’s Kung Fu was through the use of. Food! Po had managed to get into the full splits; 10ft of the floor because that’s where Monkey had hid his cookies.

With this in mind, as teachers we need to pay attention to the student’s needs and not simply prescribe methods just because they have worked for others and for ourselves. I must confess I too have been found wanting on this matter and this is why I share it with you now so that teacher’s and students alike can recognize each other and dance in a symbiotic way that serves the growth and development of both parties. Like Shifu, despite being a master of Kung Fu, still had to adapt his ways in order to clearly communicate with his new student, we too need to be as flexible in our teaching as we are in our practice.

If we do not explore the many paths to the same goal both as a teacher and a student we will find ourselves one day to be stuck. A great teacher of mine once imparted this very wisdom upon me and has shown to be true to his own teaching ‘never get stuck’. I’m not saying you should abandon your Yoga mat simply because it has been suggested to be a cage. I love the ritual of rolling out my mat, but I also love practicing off my mat as well. The first time you take your students off the mat you will discover a new path to the same goal.

Taking students off their mats is a simple example of how we can empower students to keep practicing in all areas of life. My friend has found chanting to be a wonderful journey and treads his path in his own way. One day I hope he will find himself back in a Yoga class and hopefully with a teacher that has the vision to see what the student needs and not only what their ego wants to prescribe.

Love to you all

Matt Allen

The Yoga Health Coach


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