Value of Yoga Sessions Remains Unchanged: Whether Free or For a Fee
~Abha Gupta, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief YSN
(YSN Vol. 2, No. 1 – Jul. 2014)
In these times of corporate ambition and intellectual materialism, anything offered for free is looked upon with suspicion – even free yoga sessions. Why conduct yoga sessions for free What’s in it for the instructor? Is there a hidden agenda? Is this some form of religious conversion in a subtle form? Is there a plan to go to a subscription after interest is garnered? Are you being naïve, or taken advantage of, in some way?
I wondered what’s in it for a flower to bloom, for a tree to bear a fruit, for a river to assimilate tributaries, for a dog to love its owner, for the earth to sustain us. Aren’t these processes simply nature in action? Alone, in the midst of nature, I am surrounded by teachers imparting knowledge. When a peacock spreads its feathers in a jungle while no one is watching, it is truly participating in ‘dancing with the stars show’ with a perfect score. The joy of doing things in a carefree manner without any calculation is its own reward. Giving by its very nature needs to be unconditional and free of remunerative or ego-boosting reward, either of which can defeat the whole purpose of giving.
The concept of selfless service (seva) is one of the central tenets of Yogic tradition. The literal translation of ‘seva’ as service doesn’t quite capture its essence, as seva implies performing a compassionate act without any selfish motives to simply assist others based on an understanding of their needs. In tune with this concept, teaching yoga for free does not devalue yoga; rather, in the true spirit of traditional yoga, it is a manifestation of action towards purification and transformation of the self. (In this sense, of course, it is not entirely ‘selfless.’) In ancient times, a seeker of yoga would be required to prove his/her grit to a teacher, to show that he/she is worthy of learning yoga and willing to scrupulously follow its precepts. A teacher would not impart the knowledge of yoga indiscriminately to anyone, for there was a danger of eceitful, deranged, or fraudulent social elements to misguide and abuse the knowledge in a way that could cause harm. To a worthy disciple, a teacher would share all his knowledge, and at the completion of one’s formal study, a student would give gurudakshina,’ a form of remuneration and reciprocity to express respect and gratitude towards the teacher. Clearly, the Western concept of ‘you get what you pay for’ and the Eastern concept of ‘seva’ do not mesh well.
So, returning to the questions: Why conduct yoga sessions for free? Because is it fun to work in collaboration with others, generating collective energy. What’s in it for the instructor? A sense of joy in sharing the benefits with others of what we practice daily. Is there a hidden agenda? Speaking for myself, when individuals around me are healthy and happy, families are happy, and thereby communities in which I live are healthy and happy, and this constitutes my motivation. Are you converting others? Yes, converting from a ‘rogi’ (someone with ailments) to a ‘nirogi’ (healthy being). Do you plan to turn it into a subscription program, after initial interest is garnered? Yes – in the sense that it is a life-style change that becomes a lifelong subscription to a healthy life style. As for the question of whether one is being naïve, I leave this for the reader to answer for him- or herself!
Try and test it out – giving, without expectations of receiving! Share your experiences, for better or worse.