Friday, August 31, 2007


1. one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. An active adherent, as of a movement or a philosophy of the original followers of Jesus
Synonyms- adherent, cohort, follower, supporter
From Latin discipulus, pupil, from discere, to learn
I was talking about studentship in Tuesday afternoon's class, and at some point I stumbled into using the word discipleship interchangeably with studentship. On Wednesday, a student from class called me to say that he had found the word "disciple" objectionable. Now, I certainly was sorry that he found the word problematic. I really was. However, I explained to him that with 30 people in a room it impossible to insure that everyone in any given class will find what I say palatable at all times. So I apologized that it bothered him but that I certainly could not promise him that I wouldn't use the word again.

Because I love this word. I know I will use it again and again because I believe discipleship is at the heart of what we are doing in yoga. Now, I am certainly aware that the word is fraught with Christian connotations and for many that is not a positive thing. But for many practicing Christians in the world, it most certainly is. And stepping off that the Christian thing altogether, what does it mean to be a disciple, to be a follower of a teaching in the context of yoga?

From John Friend in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual:
"Yoga is a discipline of aligning with the pulsation and flow of Nature. It is a discipleship to the flow of God's love and will. It is the skillful practice of creating banks around a pool of internal energy in order to make a river of consciousness that flows back into the ocean of Supreme Bliss. Through this spiritual practice, individual beings reawaken to their true unbounded nature."

Obviously this is a very personal thing and I believe its expression has many different ways of manifesting. But in an Anusara Yoga class, the teaching that a "disciple" is following (regardless of religion) is a teaching that says, "The Nature of Reality is Essentially Good. Each one of us is part of that Intrinsic Goodness. As you discover that Greatness within yourself, you will naturally be called to serve It in yourself and others."

It is not so much that we are out to convert anyone to some strange religion or to go against their chosen faith or anything like that. (Just imagine the tent revival though, for a minute, if you will. Some charismatic person at the front of the tent would be waving their hands enthusiastically telling you that "You are great!" and "Believe in yourself" and "Life is an expression of God's radiant creative potential and so your life is, by its very nature, a blessed wonderful thing!' Pretty scary stuff, right? Kinda sounds like an Anusara Yoga class, now that I think about it! But I digress.)

The thing is, that to me I have no real interest in Samadhi, Salvation or even Liberation. What I have interest in is discipleship. Somehow I found, or I was found by, a Teacher, a Teaching, a community and a set of practices that I love. That have lifted me out of darkness and have evoked in me a feeling of resonance with something Real. So I am interested in that. That feeling of lining up that happens inside me, that feeling of Recognition that I experience time again through the many practices of yoga.

To me, being a disciple is one of the highest expressions of gratitude one can have for these teachings that are so life-changing. To be a disciple and a "follower" is not such a weird, scary or strange thing to me. A disciple, in this context, is one who follows their heart for these Ultimate Truths are said to be seated there, in that Kingdom of Heaven that is within each of us.


Ross said...

I think the rub here may be basic personality
type differences. John's system seems to be more attractive to intuitive/feeling types which are the
types to most likely drawn to yoga in the first
place. There is still plenty for the sensing/thinking types to adopt without drinking the coolaid part.
Pick and choose what works for them. A
familiarity with Myers-Briggs or Keirsey should help in understanding some of this. As an ISTP, I generally translate what I might consider "fluff" into something positive that works for my independent paradigm...
This also contributes to my self knowledge in
that I choose an independent path suitable for my personal wants and needs and fine tune as time passes.
Anyway, I enjoyed my first class yesterday and
am always curious about different outlooks.

Christina Sell said...

Yes, I agree. I always say in my classes that we have athletes, mystics and scientists all in the same class. The athletes just want to do the yoga and wishe the teacher wold stop talking so uch about how and why. Give them activity.

The mystics will enjoy the "fluff" (as you call it) and will be much more interested in the philsophy and the matters of the heart before the work-out and the alignment techniques.

The scientists will love the technique, will want tons of details, will asking why and how before trying things, and will be happy to discuss the finer points of refinement even if they only do a couple of poses in the hour.

And just so we do not get lazy as teachers, usually one class has all three types! And truthfully we are all a little of each, right? But in general, I have found that we each have an affinity for one aspect of the formula more than others. So we can learn to cultivate appreciation for all three aspects even if they are not our favorite part of it.

Also, obviously some teachers lean more heavily on one of the three aspects in their personality and teaching styles as well. So, it is never boring and never without things upon which to reflect. That is the fun of it all!

Here is what is also very cool- In Ansuara Yoga, we have what we call the 3 A's. The method is based on Attitude (the matters of the heart and will), Alignment (matters of the mind and the science of how to align) and Action (matters of the body and the Nike commercial, just-do-it part of the equation.)

Ideally, an education in Anusara Yoga, over the long haul of study will educate us in all three domains and there will be something for the mystics, the scientists and the athletes all to enjoy.

Thanks so much for coming to class and for sharing your thoughts. It was great to meet you.

Jeri said...

After hearing/reading that word "discipleship" I started thinking about the disciplines in my life that I do actively take part in and engage in teaching others about and how those interplay with what has oddly become a real spiritual journey in yoga. The small glimpse that I've had of the Divine in Anusara has urged me to keep opening that door even when it's painful, or embarrassing and when it's sublime. The thing is: I CLAIM this process to submit and venture into the unknown with it and in so doing I suppose I do claim the discipleship as well. So, in spite of whatever "kool-aid drinking" (and it's not bad with enough honey) occurs, it takes place in ultimate freedom and in a way most fierce.

Christina Sell said...


Anasazi said...
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Anne-Marie Bowery said...

you know, the title of my dissertation was "Narrating Plato's Symposium: A Critique of Socratic Discipleship."

I have often thought that my word choice had something to do with my getting the job at Baylor. One question in my interview was, "so what do you mean by discipleship..."

In any event, Plato spends a good bit of time presenting the dark side of the pedagogical relationship, both with respect to the teacher and with respect to the student. Socrates' students, much like Jesus' disciples in the gospels, are often presented as not getting the point, as obscuring the message, as loving Socrates and not philosophy, as being attracted to "false" teachers. Socrates, as Plato presents him, absolves himself of responsibility for this, partly by claiming he isn't really a teacher, but I think Plato does hold him accountable for certain dimensions of how his message is received. More so, than is fair probably.

As teachers, we make choices about how to present the information, and the ways in which we present it etc and clearly, we can change our approach when we see it has detrimental effects, .... One particularly great thing about Plato in this domain. Eventhough he himself went about the pedagogical relationship quite differently, he preserved the approach that his teacher, Socrates, advocated by writing dialogs about him.