Monday, June 20, 2011

Great Weekend

What a great weekend in Seattle.

I feel so fortunate to have been here and at Willow Street Yoga on consecutive weekends. Both of these studios have such longevity, depth and quality and are true embodiments of what is at the heart  of the vision of Anusara Yoga. When John has talked about Anusara Yoga over the years, one thing he has always said is that his vision is that the method would grow from local hubs of teachers who serve a region ongoingly. Well- trained, inspiring teachers would attract amazing students. Communities, he said,  would form around these great teachers and growth would come from a grassroots kind of magnetism that would then, one studio at a time, become a global network. Denise has definitely created such a hub in Seattle and what is really cool is to talk to her about her current vision for her studio.

Denise is 58 and she has been teaching as long as I have been practicing yoga and one of the coolest things about her perspective on her studio right now is that her work is really not about her, her personal success, fame or fortune. She is interested right now in having a studio, not for her to have a place to teach, but to provide a place where talented teachers can get experience, mentoring and opportunities that they might not otherwise have without her. As co-chair of our Certification Assessment Committee she works diligently to help maintain quality standards in our method and to assist people in being the best teachers they can be. And she tirelessly supports us assessors in being the best teacher trainers we can be.  In a culture that is ego-centric, personality-driven and guided by personal ambition so much of this time, I found her enlightened intention inspiring, revolutionary and instructive.  This is yoga in action for sure.

So much of modern conversation around being a yoga teacher has so much to do with "getting your message out there" and "branding yourself" and "breaking into the scene" and so on. And look, I do this for a living also and I get it. I am not anti-business. I am not conflicted about making money as a yoga teacher. I am not ignorant that we need good marketing materials that reflect the great work we are doing.  All that is fine with me.

That being said, I am more interested in being a yogi than I am in being a yoga teacher. I am more interested in my practice than I am "my brand." I would rather meditate, practice asana, write or take a walk in the woods than make a fancy website. I was recently told I need better marketing materials because I looked like a B-List teacher. And while I can appreciate what the person was trying to say, and I will at some point get a fancier website, I also realized that I do not want to teach people who require bells and whistles to think something is valuable. Call me old-fashioned, rigid, or even resistant to change, but people who are captivated by flash are not going to like me anyway so we might as well get it over with from the git-go. I have boring marketing. Fine. So be it. Come or don't come. It's your choice.

I want to keep growing as a practitioner so that my teaching improves because my practice has deepened. And if that work yields a following of people who find value in what I have gleaned from practice, great. If that work results in people inviting me to their studio to teach and to share, then that is awesome. I find every invitation to teach that I get an honor and a thrill. I am more interested in rolling out a mat and working on my poses then ongoing professional photo shoots to make me look as important as a more famous teacher.

Okay- small rant. And seriously, let's be clear, I am not anti-business. I am highly creative and hard-working and I actually love business as a an expression of that creative force. I also get the whole marketing thing. I really do. What I am saying is that those things are not what inspires me. Deepening my direct experience of The Light inspires me. Helping other people to recognize and live from their Light inspires me. Any of us, at any time, who chose our intrinsic dignity over and above our  patterns of scarcity, competition and insecurity inspires me. Empowered vulnerability inspires me. Service inspires me. John has always taught these as are guiding principles of our practice and teaching, not the pursuit of notoriety, which can quickly, while we are not paying attention, seduce us into their sphere and away from our higher aims.

Obviously, the invitation of dharmic work is to use the business to support the Heart-based work that it is founded on. And I think its possible. I think it is worthwhile. I also think it is a razor's edge so we can fall off either side.  Mostly I think we need good examples of how it is done, what it looks like and how to recognize it. And many times, good yogic service is not flashy or fancy. It is kind of like asana in that way. Deep does not always happen (or only happen) in the big external poses.

Denise reminded me of a teaching John used to give about super intense outer work in asana. He said, some people are so asleep in their bodies that they need maximum sensation to actually feel anything at all. As an entry point, that is fine but the trap of that approach is the poses have to get harder, the room has to get hotter, the music has to get louder and so on. Better, John said, is that we grow more sensitive so that instead of making the outside bigger so we can feel, we make the inside more receptive and fine-tuned. We get more done with less, in a way.

Flash, pomp, circumstance and bells and whistles are like outer body asana and if we are not careful as students, teachers and "consumers" in the current marketplace of yoga, we will continue to require bigger and wilder expressions in order to recognize something as valuable. Recognizing the value of deep, humble service over a long period of time is like developing  sensitivity in asana. We may not recognize it when we first see it because it may look so ordinary, boring and uninteresting that we do not even know we are looking at a lifetime of practice right in front of our very eyes. Wasn't it Jesus who said something about "those who have eyes to see?"

So the question to me is really:  Can this yoga help me and those I teach to get eyes to see what really matters in life? Can it help me to recognize "yoga" when I see it? Can I grow sensitive to what is Real so that as I walk the razor's edge of sadhana I am clear about what serves and  what is actually only smoke and mirrors?

I guess that was more than one question. Oh well.

Enjoy your day.


kwajnman said...

As usual your blog gave me an opportunity to mull over something that has been on my mind for a while…how my teachers try to evolve. I teach Danish to foreigners, I have taught for 35 years and I try to improve as a teacher still and all the time. I do it by sharing with my colleagues, reading, experimenting, thinking, consulting elders and betters, writing, but not by improving my Danish. My investment is in improving my teaching methods not my practice. When I learned to dance Argentinean tango the best teacher I had was not the best dancer but the best pedagogue. When I talk to my teachers they always talk about improving their practice not their methods. They are already light years ahead of me, and if we spend the rest of my life together they would already know enough to keep me busy till then. Don’t they need to work on their teaching skills and not their practice? If the practice is so important why not concentrate on that, get an easy day job and evolve as yogis and leave the teaching to people whose focus is not their own process but others’? I know I am a bit provoking here but don’t I have a point?

Alexandra Cordoba said...


Thank you so much for your words. As a yoga teacher in the midst of her own internal battle ... your words gave me freedom to simply enjoy the beauty of the yoga unfolding in and around me. Your words, "I am more interested in being a yogi than I am in being a yoga teacher. I am more interested in my practice than I am "my brand" ... connected me to the real battle that has been ensuing in my heart. Thank you for reminding me to enjoy the journey and to savor the unraveling more than the limelight and the numbers. In gratitude for you and your honesty! Alex

Jessica said...

Y-E-S. Thank you. I love your thoughts as always. xo

shikha said...

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