I went to bed in such a good mood after yesterday. I had such a great time teaching last night. I had thought I would go into class and keep working with my Bondage Theme but I got launched into a theme about Empowerment instead. We had a super-full house last night and there were lots of people I did not know in class. So I gave a little rap about "this is a level 2-4 class which means that you need to make sure you practice at the right level for you and do not compare yourself to others, etc.'' Then I had everyone close their eyes and then I said, "You know, open your eyes again." And I launched into a whole story about John Friend.
The thing is I have been studying with him for well over ten years now and I have never once in all of that time ever heard him say anything like that. Never does he give a preamble that is about, "Take care of yourself, take a child's pose when you need to, go easy on yourself, your yoga is fine just as it and so do not compare yourself to someone else, blah, blah, blah." Never. Not once. More often than not, he starts class and saying something like, "Everyone here is going to shift. Everyone here is going to go to a new level. Now. Let go of your preconceptions about what you can and cannot do. Open to something Bigger than your doubt and let's go for it."
So like that.
I have pondered this a lot over the years and I think part of the reason is that he assumes that by the time you get to him, you have that basic rap down for yourself. If you walk through the door of one of his workshops, you have to be able to deal with that negative self-talk/downward spiral for yourself because he is not going deal with it for you. If you need that level of pep-talk, that is not the environment for you. (This is Christina Sell's opinion. This is not an Anusara-endorsed perspective. AND I am not saying it is bad to need that level of pep-talk. Not at all, I am just saying, if you need that, seek out a place where you are likely to get it, don't hang out in places that are about shifting if you want support in staying the same! And I must include here that I personally find him and his workshops to be very supportive and compassionate but not in that gentle-take- it- easy sort of way.)
So moving on through the disclaimers here, I told my class, that on Wednesday night, when they walk through the door of the yoga studio into my class, I want them to empower themselves to practice fully. I am going to assume that each one of them is a high-functioning, self-affirming, self-actualizing adult who does not need me to talk down to them as though they need my permission to take care of themselves or as though they need my permission to be great. I urged, implored, begged and invited them to empower themselves.
See, one of my least favorite new-agey yoga terms is empower. I find it particularly distasteful when someone says, "You did not empower me" or "Your class was not an empowering. I personally even get a little prickly when someone says that they teach yoga because they want "to empower others." See, to me that is missing the point of empowerment all together. (Or at least in large part.)
Personally, I want to practice, work, and live within a community where we empower ourselves. I want each one of us to know that we have to claim our own greatness. And claim it in a big way. I am not sure someone else can empower us. Because if they are empowering us, then they hold the power as though the truth of who we are can be dispensed like some commodity. And seriously, if you wait for me to empower you, then what are you gonna do on the day I forget to do it? Seriously. I am very passionate on this point. ( I have a lot on my mind as a teacher, I may forget on any given night to explicitly empower you! Or I might be saying the words that I think would mean "I empower you" but you were waiting for a different set of words. See how tricky it can get? Seriously, do not, under any circumstance, leave your empowerment in my hands.)
Also- this relates to the certification process. So many times I hear people from all across the globe speak as though "they can't do x, y, or z" according to the standard because they are not certified. It is as though they hold some kind of unconscious idea that this stuff will somehow get easier to teach once they are certified. Or that people will start listening to them once they are certified. Or that once they are certified their classes will get bigger or the phone will ring with exotic teaching opportunities, etc. It just doesn't happen that way.
At least it did not happen that way for me. The day I got certified, not one thing was different. Not one. I was still good at what I was good at. I still had the same weaknesses to work on. I had the very same people in my class as I did the previous week. My students did not come to class because I was certified and because Anusara Yoga had finally endorsed my validity as a yoga teacher. My students had already endorsed the validity of what I was doing for themselves. My students (bless them) had already found value in what we were doing together. When the certificate came, they were like, "That's cool. So... what's the plan for today?" It was, on one level, NO BIG DEAL. It had already happened, is my point. The certificate was an afterthought.
So if any of this sounds harsh, I do not mean it to. I really don't. I am just on fire about the idea of empowerment this morning. (Think of this little section as a shot of tough love this morning!)
Because the thing is, you have to be teaching at the level of a certified teacher, BEFORE you get certified. The empowerment comes first, then the piece of paper documents the attainment you already have. It does not work the other way around. The paper cannot give you permission that you have not already given yourself. Nor can the lack of paper discredit you if you do not empower it in that way. All of that is secondary.
(Having said all that, don't stop-- do finish the process, do get your piece of paper, be completely totally and utterly proud of all that the certificate represents and who knows, a few doors may open for you you had not dreamed of. But generally those doors open when we are firmly rooted in the work right in front of us, not when we are looking for it. But I digress into a good topic for another post.)
So I got on this whole kick last night and the class was very strong, very demanding and very focused yet also fun and dare I say, inspiring. We got into hip openers and back bends which, well, we needed a little more time for, truth be told. Ah well, I need a two-hour class. What can I say?
Also, I made this point in class about how exactly empowerment occurs through asana. So often we talk about yoga in terms of empowerment. And Anusara Yoga is very empowering, I think because it is a yoga that takes you to your edge and keeps you there and demands so much of you that you grow very strong in the process of practicing it. Anusara Yoga is empowering because those of us who practice it as ask so much of ourselves and those of us who teach it ask so much of our students.
For instance, it is one thing to tell someone in a gentle voice, "You are stronger than you know. You are so powerful. Now gently, relax into your strong nature while you drape yourself over this bolster and I burn the incense and we listen to the angels sing." It is quite another thing to say, "Hold this pose for one full minute and do not come down even when you arms are on fire."
It is one thing to be told by your teacher "you are strong." It is another thing to be able to do something today you could not last month because day after day you went through the fire and built your capacity and strength. Strength like this is no longer an idea. It is a tangible, real and felt experience. And that direct experience is something that depends on no outer authority to validate. And that is what I am into.
Truth be told, I do not want to empower anyone. I want people around me to empower themselves. I want people around me to claim their own Light. And the thing is, the more of us who are shining brightly, the easier it becomes for others to shine. Seriously, there is no Light Scarcity Situation. Me shining brightly in no way hampers or hinders your Light. Nor does you, shining brightly, interfere with my Light.
Remember: We do not need to live in anyone's shadow. We live in each other's Light.