Friday, February 25, 2011

On being a pioneer

So I had a great day yesterday- the highlights being a great walk with Anne and her dog, the group practice and a planning session with Ross Rayburn to plan a teaching event together here in the end of April.

Turns out he is gonna be in Dallas teaching and I am gonna be in Austin teaching the Immersion (COMMERCIAL WITHIN COMMERCIAL- new immersion cycle begins March 25-27 at Breath and Body Yoga. If you have ever wanted to do an Immersion with me, do it now because it will be 2013 before I do another one in Austin! Seriously, the Immersion is an awesome opportunity to deepen your practice in so many ways.) Anyway, Ross and I have talked about teaming up for a while now so he sent me a note suggesting that we do a short program in Austin before his gig in Dallas and, as luck would have it, I am in town as well! Stay tuned for the details and plan on coming. It will be a lot of fun.

So- the group practice wednesday was fun also. We went in the back bending direction with a lot of work with side body long in some shapes where it's not so easy to keep that- anjaneya back bends, ustrasana drop backs with arms overhead, and wild thing to urdhva danurasana. The group practice is a great class. So many people who come have been coming to that class for almost two years and so they are well schooled in our principles and have a tremendous work ethic, which is so fun to be part of. I am really pleased with what is happening in there. Sam and I now formally share that class and while we are both gone this month Anne and Mandy are going to be subbing so the fun and learning is sure to continue.

The other thing really on my mind is how much I am enjoying watching my students "grow up" in the method. Even as we speak, many of our Austin gang are meeting John Friend for the first time. G'Nell Smith, Sam Rice, and Lauran Janes are all at the therapy training with in Miami. Brigitte is there too. Kim Schaefer just got back from the Dancing with the Divine Tour kick off in San Francisco, which was not her first time studying with him but still a noteworthy event! And so many other students from around the country are meeting him and studying with him while he is in Miami.

In other exciting news Mandy recently got certified, Jess G just got news she passed her video and so now she just has to tackle the written exam. Whitney just told me she is going to apply for certification. Kat just posted amazing pictures and reflections from her adventure with BJ down in Guatemala. Kendra recently got her inspired status approved. Several students from my last TT are refining their classes and will be applying for Anusara-inspired status. And that is just off the top of my head. I know there are so many more stories of folks stepping into their work more fully.

I have always seen my job as preparing people to study with John so when my students dive into the larger community of Anusara Yoga, I feel like something really important is happening in our work together as teacher and student as well as in the larger life of their studentship and sadhana which, of course, extends well beyond me. Also it is so important for people who teach is method to glimpse the huge network of amazing people they are part of, especially those teachers involved in pioneering Anusara Yoga in their areas.

What do I mean by pioneering? Well, some of the people who study this method and learn to teach it are doing so in areas where Anusara Yoga is fully developed and so they and their students already generally have a glimpse of the world they are part of as Anusara Yoga practitioners, students and teachers.

Other folks really are pioneers- they are bringing Anusara Yoga into areas where it is not established and that task typically has a different dynamic. Pioneers do not get to rely on the good work the senior teacher (or teachers) has done in an area to make the method appealing, credible, interesting, accessible, marketable, engaging and even tangible. For instance, teaching Anusara Yoga as a new teacher in a studio where everyone already knows the lingo is hard enough. The pioneers have to do that in a place where all the students are used to something else and have come to know yoga as something different or perhaps know nothing of yoga at all (which is again a different dynamic).

So the students of these pioneers many times- through no fault of their own it's just the nature of that situation- do not know that they are actually part of a world-wide community and there are thousands of teachers across the world asking their students to come and watch a demo, take their thighs back, refine their offering, laugh right out loud in class, etc.- it's not just some weird thing their particular teacher is requiring. And in the early stages of pioneering an area that is well established with other ways of doing things, sometimes Anusara Yoga classes take a while to catch on and so people are not always clear they're also part of a very vital, successful network.

For instance, a year or so ago when I was teaching an Immersion and Teacher Training at a flow studio, we frequently ended up with a discussion that became basically a tangent of "but people don't want to learn this stuff" and one day, when I was teaching the public class at that studio, someone who didn't know the flow class was an Anusara yoga class walked out when he saw me. I didn't mind- I mean, he came for one thing and was going to get another. No problem. I am merely illustrating the point that within that group there was a continual undercurrent (and justifiable!) of feeling that somehow, people were not going to want to do this stuff. I finally realized what was going on with that group told them that the kind of resistance we were seeing was the exception to the rule of my life and that my life is generally full of teaching scenarios where people are psyched to learn from me, not walking out the door when they see that it is me, not hot flow! But honestly, I get why we had that recurring tangent as a group, because these were flow teachers pioneering Anusara and it is not easy to be a pioneer.

So when that pioneering teacher-in-training steps into the larger venues and is part of 250 people all loving the method, it suddenly shifts their consciousness as to what they are actually involved in. If you are pioneering an area, my advice to you is get your students in front of John and the senior teachers any time you can. So often the new-teacher-to-Anusara is shy about getting their students in front of a more experienced teacher but this is key to growing your community and helping your students see your offering as valid, credible, and connected to a larger field of expertise. These larger group experiences edify the work you are doing and help your students see that you are not the only one talking about this stuff. AND, connecting to the larger groups is vital for keeping yourself inspired and juiced up when the pioneering work is, at times, taking it's toll.

I did that in the early days of my studio in Arizona. I would pile people in my minivan and we would drive to Desiree's studio, I invited teachers in to teach us, and we would drive all over the southwest together to study with John Friend. It helped students develop their own relationship with the method, to recognize their place in the community outside the studio and we grew so close and bonded from that kind of time together.

And now that dynamic is happening in a slightly different way as my recent immersion grads and teacher training grads are making their forays into the larger community and into various very cool expressions of their teaching and studies. I am seeing a shift in my own perspectives as a teacher moving even more deeply into the consideration of what it means to mentor, support and assist others in their success. It is a very exciting time. I feel like so many seeds we have planted together have been nurtured for long enough and are beginning to sprout, grow and bear fruit. I feel like a cycle I began when I moved here is completing itself in some lovely ways, which of course, means a new one is starting...

Love it.


Barefootlotuss said...

Much appreciation for your commitment to showing up and making a difference here in Austin. . .I get to practice with so many good folks that have been touched by your spirit. xox

dancingyogini said...

Thanks so much for this post. As a pioneer in Anusara in my area i'm grateful for the acknowledgement that this isn't easy at first... but also for the encouragement that it will come over time. Also the suggestion to get my students into the larger community is perfectly timely as i just returned from miami bursting with enthusiasm. thank you for your inspiring words. much love!

Marcia Tullous said...

When I moved to Colorado Springs from Flagstaff and got my first teaching job at the local studio, I showed up thinking everyone already knew of Anusara. Only one person out of 11 had even heard of it. I must say that was an eye opener and taught me a lot real fast. It was no easy thing to share the method as a new teacher, but I think it taught me a ton and for that I am so grateful.

As always thanks for such a great post. It is very exciting to see so many people being inspired and brought to life by this practice.

So much more is yet to come...

Tal said...

Very true and very much appreciated Christina! very timely too just as I am accepting multiple teaching commitments in Israel for May-early summer. and i did feel what you're describing being with all you amazing yogis in Miami last week!
so much Love and Gratitude!!