I remember clearly when my teacher Tony Sanchez told us, "some poses you don't teach, you just keep them for yourself." It baffled me at the time. Why wouldn't I share what I was doing? If I am finding value in a practice, why wouldn't I offer it to my students?
The idea of secrecy dates back to early yoga texts. Many writings contain general tenets of yoga but no specifics of practice or progress. They leave the reader with a curiosity about this practice, but one must still seek the guidance of a knowledgable teacher to learn the details.
I have heard several reasons for this type of secrecy, but two seem to be the most significant: retaining power and therefore monetary value, and safety, as many intermediate and advanced practices can be very dangerous.
If we offer the bare bones of knowledge, we maintain control over the stream of information. With this control we can keep people coming back for more. More classes, more products, more seminars, etc. In fairness, there is a lot of knowledge out there, more than can be revealed and understood in even decades of daily classes. Still, there are those who use this bottleneck of information to their advantage, for power, prestige and money.
Others control the trickle of knowledge to their students for the safety of the students. In yoga there are many postures that can injure even a more advanced yogi. Also there are more advanced yogic practices like breath control, concentration and devotion that, without great care, can go terribly awry, causing headaches, heart strain, emotional imbalance and obsession. These are outcomes we would rather avoid.
I think that Tony was mostly referring to safety when he told us not to teach everything we practice. Also I think he was talking about what it means to be a good teacher. Part of being a good teacher is offering what is beneficial to the student, and that is rarely the same thing that is good for the teacher.
Each student is unique, with a unique history, body and mind and at a specific point in their progress. We as teachers need to recognize and address the student where they are at each moment. If we offer what is working for us at the moment, it is likely that we are overlooking what may be beneficial for the student. A difficult balance, no doubt, but an important one.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga