We had a great final weekend at Breath and Body Yoga with the Teacher Training program drawing to a close. The thing about this kind of ending for me is that it never really feels like an ending because there is just so much more awaiting folks post- Immersion and post- Teacher Training. So it always feels important to me to mark the final day/hour/ moment and to acknowledge the very huge accomplishment it is to complete 208 hours of Anusara Yoga studies and yet to me, I never feel that sad about programs like these ending because I know that the journey together is not really over at all. In fact, now that the groundwork is laid, we now can start having much more interesting discussions- like about fine tuning and video reviews and so on.
The weekend was really great though. Perhaps the highlight for me was during the Sunday morning class when I told the group to work in partners and told the Teacher Trainees to partner up with someone in the room who was there for the public class. Watching the Trainees work and assist the other students was really inspiring to me- what good teachers they all are! I was so proud of them and their skillful adjustments, assists, and the care and compassion they showed their partners. Pretty awesome.
I think the other highlight was in the closing circle hearing a bit from the students about what has happened on the inside as they have been in this training process. It is always amazing to me the level of inner work that goes along with these kinds of experiences. I mean its a tall order to simply learn the method, practice it, explore the philosophy and then apply oneself to the study of how to teach it. The surface level of skills is immense and learning that stuff alone is demanding.
But while all that is going on, there is this other level of work that occurs. There is a soul searching, an inner exploration, a coming to terms with oneself kind of process that gets invoked in Immersions and Teacher Training. It seems to me that we get re-wired a bit in the process of going through these programs and even though the bulk of what we spend our time on is specific skill building drills or hammering out the details of alignment, philosophy or sequencing strategies, the inner work is, in many ways, the place where the biggest learning occurs.
I am glad of this because I think in the end, this type of work is what makes Anusara Yoga teachers some of my favorite people in the world. Recently, with all the huff and puff that came out with the NY Times article about John Friend and Anusara Yoga I took some time to read blog posts from our critics and people who obviously didn't- shall we say- resonate with us or our method or our community. I even chimed in on one of those blogs and was accused of being John Friend's apologist and asked how dare I add anything to the conversation. But I digress. My point in brining all that up again was that so many criticisms of our community from the outside said things like, "They are so fake and so happy all the time and I wish they would get real and stop acting like everything is shiny and bright" etc.
Now don't get me wrong, I know why someone would see that and why someone would say that about us. The culture of Anusara Yoga has a lot of evidence to back such a perspective up. But the thing is, the sincere, seasoned Ansuara Yoga people that I know are some of the deepest, most authentic, most consciously-suffering people I know. They are far from Pollyanna, bullshit artists who put their head in the sand and pretend things are groovy when they are not. And our training process is so intense that if you enter into it, it's going to cook you a bit (read a lot) and most of that BS will get burned away or you will decide to drop out.
As a group of people, we grapple with big ideas and speak to them in everyday settings and become obsessed with the very finest nuances of Indian thought and yoga philosophy. This is not light-weight approach, even though on the surface it can look like a bunch of people in tie-dyed pants, playing with hula hoops and saying the word Shakti a lot. I think that contrast alone can be a bit hard to really make space for for some people. You see, Anusara Yogi's are never one thing only- we are a very diverse, eclectic, free-spirited and highly passionate bunch of people. You have to be to make it through the process of training in Anusara Yoga. And as soon as you think Anusara Yoga is "this" or "that" or "not this" and "not that" the wind shifts and the culture morphs a bit and asks everyone to become that much more inclusive in their perceptions and perspectives.
You see, we operate under the banner of unity. We have a philosophy of totality in which everything is seen as an artistic expression of The One. Yoga, for us, is not some imposed set of principles or practices that take us out of life in order to align with the truth. Yoga, for us, is an artistic aligning with the essence of life, of the totality of life and so, as a method, it seems our approach requires us to include and discern, rather than to leave out, cut away and/or rigidify the boundaries. Kind of like that age old adage - "Be careful what part of creation you cut out, God might be there."
And our training programs ask each of us to do the same for ourselves--to stop cutting parts of ourselves out and to engage the very intense and rewarding work of claiming ourselves- our hurts, angers and jealousies as well as our light, our passions, our inspirations and our own deepest self-honor. Put yourself in a room with a bunch of people learning Ansuara Yoga in an Immersion or Teacher Training or enter the stream of certification and be sure that, while it may not say so on the brochure, the process is going to demand some pretty profound work from you. And it is in the rising to the edge of that demand that each one of us becomes more aligned with ourselves and more able to live in the totality of who we are. So even though the surface may appear a certain way, truth be told, most people who make it through our process have dug pretty deep inside themselves to stay the course.
Obviously, we are not perfect people. But that is a story for another day. I got going on all this reflecting on the depth of what my students shared in the closing circle, none of which, interestingly enough, had anything to do with loops and spirals!