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YOGA MATTERS - Remover of Barriers: The Teacher

Mar 07, 2013

Remover of Barriers: The Teacher

The literal translation of the role of the guru in the traditional gurukula system is to “remove darkness”, “barriers” or “modifications” of the mind. Some gurus are so powerful in this regard that merely being in their presence reminds the student of their own ability to do so.  Even so, you have lived your whole life with a right-brain, and therefore to a greater or lesser extent, it has informed your understanding. A good teacher will recognize this and respect it. Gibran said:


“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.

      The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

      If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

      The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

      The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

      And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

      For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

      And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.”



Much is made of the role of the teacher (including here), but it serves aspirants little if they cannot recognize a proper teacher when they see one, nor how to develop such a relationship in the deep way that is necessary. Development of mentors is largely a lost art in our individualistic society.


One might need to move from one teacher to another as your maturity level increases, but this is relatively rare in a student who works to prepare oneself for (and recognize) a teacher in the proper way- viz. Sadhana Chatushtaya or Qualifications of an Aspirant.


“When seeking water, it is better to dig one deep well, than many shallow ones.”- Swami Sivananda


The Role of The Yoga Teacher

A good teacher models and embodies the principles freely available to all by looking at Reality.


It is clear in this context then that a teacher must first be a practitioner and not a preacher. Preacher here is defined as one whose speech and actions are lack internal congruence.

 One must have travelled the highway and seen more than the map; he has seen the territory. Patanjali has merely provided the map of common practices to be followed by successful practitioners in the past. Patanjali actually provides little detail of the practices themselves; as in his time, these practices were commonplace.


To start with a yoga teacher must examine the congruence of their own lives and gradually become more and more transparent in their conduct, working artfully and humbly within the eight steps, their own discrimination and apprehension of Reality, ethical conduct, physical movement, stillness, sense withdrawal and an increasing relationship with Silence.


By traveling these long pathways oneself, the teacher can assist the beginner by pointing out tools and waypoints along the way, learned from experience directly.


Cultural Missing Pieces

One follows, as a teacher, the mandate of Yoga by creatively observing and promoting relevant and innovative practices for their students based on their understanding of the challenges facing the student- specifically what barriers exist on a cultural, family, and personal basis.


 Teachers must do so in a way that recognizes the current and hidden need- especially on the part of the Western student- to continue learning where their parents left off, and the now-missing cultural ‘uncle-aunt-mentor’ layer of young adult development.


Even into late adulthood, individuals who have never fully gone through a mature and platonic level of intimacy and trust that can exist between student and teacher-mentor can revisit it with a great benefit to the quality of their lives and the society in which the teacher and student conducts him/herself.


*there will be one more installment discussing the second sutra.


- An interest in all things computers led circuitously to DurgaDas (Regis) Chapman beginning on the path of Yoga in California. He is a 500+ hour RYT in the Sivananda lineage teaching in Nanaimo, BC at the Silent Motion Vancouver Island Yoga Vedanta Centre and is reachable at or at



Please add a comment

Posted by Anita C Rafidi on
thank you for the wise recommendations and guidance.
Posted by Open on
dear hanna,i hope you are well, i am enjoyin life and tknahs to your fantastic photos i created a website, its still only in german, the english side will follow one day soon. But maybe you want to have a look. And i am still thinking of posting some little yoga sequences on youtube but this has to wait a little bit, because right now i am not able to practise a lot. After april i hope i will find time and back into my daily yoga routine.lots of love and kisses to you and cretemiss you guysselina
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