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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: CAVEAT MEDITOR

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originally intended - no more and no less than a path of practice designed to cultivate a direct experience of perfect inner stillness (samadhi).

With such diverse opinions about what Yoga is meant to do, it's little wonder that there aren't many laws or regulations about exactly what makes a Yoga teacher. (In fact, on the day of this writing, Yoga organizations in New York state successfully lobbied to defeat a proposed law that would require regulation of Yoga teacher training courses5. It continues to be a topic of ongoing concern.)

All of which makes it harder for you, the aspiring Yogi, to seek out and find a qualified teacher who can guide your practice. You might first consider writing down exactly what your goals are in practicing Hatha Yoga - are you mostly interested in staying fit, or

de-stressing after a difficult work day? Or have you reached a point where you are ready to go deeper in your practice, to delve into the spiritual aspect of the Yogic way? Wherever you find yourself in your level of interest, from there you can start to set up your own standards of what you would like in a teacher. Obviously, if you're looking for deep spiritual guidance, you'll want to invest the time and effort to find someone who is qualified, who has been through everything you're looking to learn. If, on the other hand, you're looking for more of a relaxing workout, then you may find the attitude and approach of a spiritual teacher imposing, even unwanted. Whatever you're looking for, keep these basics in mind, and trust your judgment, and rest assured that, as they say, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!"

Caveat #3: Cultivate humility

Make no mistake about it, the practice of Hatha Yoga will change you, and it will change you for the better. What you do with these

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beneficial changes, however, is up to you - and the urge to misuse them can be very alluring. This final caveat pertains to "the dangers of blessings", if you will. We'll look at three progressive levels of benefits that you can expect to get out of your Hatha Yoga practice - physical, energetic, and spiritual - and how to be more aware of the ways in which your own mind can sabotage them as they come.

Beautiful Bodies

Hatha Yoga practitioners are famed for their fresh, youthful faces, sparkling eyes, and lithe, limber bodies. Many contemporary celebrities now attribute their lasting good looks to Hatha Yoga practice, and of course, the Yogis themselves have been saying this for centuries! (Go back to the lineage tree chart in Chapter Two and have a look at Maharishi Kartikeya, supposedly 335 years old when he died6, and with the face and skin of a baby!) For better or worse, the importance of physical beauty has become embedded in modern culture, and most people today have a part in them

somewhere which continually evaluates their own self-worth based on the condition of their physical appearance. So when your practice first begins to yield results - maybe a few wrinkles smooth away, maybe a friend comments on how "you're absolutely radiant!" after finishing a class - this is when you have your first test! How will you (or do you already) relate to the physical grace and beauty that your practice brings? Will you objectify Yoga as simply another cosmetic tool, or another way to reaffirm your sense of self? Or will you remember the teachings of Yoga that stress right attitude, humility, appreciation, and inner development?

Well, if you're like most people (or at least, like us!), at first you'll probably go more the way of the cosmetic self-affirmation than

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