Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thoughts on Teacher Training and Community Building

I am on a plane on my way to teach a 6-day Teacher Training with Darren Rhodes at Yoga Oasis. I have been reviewing the notes from Part One and remembering the dynamic group we had for training last time. I am  getting excited to see everyone again and to add the next layer to the discussion. 
I say it all the time on this blog but teaching Anusara Yoga is not easy and there are so many components at play that when mastered, create the wonderful synergy that we love. Anusara Yoga, after all, is  not just a great sequence, not just a good message or heart-based theme. Nor are we  just good  alignment principles, a community of lovely people or even a shared vision.  We are each of those parts brought together consciously and skillfully. And when these various components are brought together, its Anusara- that wonderful thing that is decidedly greater than the sum of its parts. 
And for that to happen, each ingredient has to hold its own. I think about it a lot like cooking. One of my favorite ways to eat (And therefore cook) is with a few high-quality ingredients. For instance, I love a few in-season vegetable at the peak of the flavor, perfectly roasted in a high-quality olive oil and tossed into pasta or served over rice with maybe a few herbs. Maybe put a block of artisan cheese or olives or something nearby and I am ecstatic. I do not need crazy sauces and embellishments to be satisfied. However, take tasteless out-of-season vegetables, low quality oil and a cheap pasta and I am going to be looking for a way to make it somehow fancier, sauced-up or whatever because the individual ingredients are not holding their own. 
So in Ansuara Yoga, when the whole thing is combined it is definitely more than the sum of its parts but this mostly happens when each part is refined well, as in the above example of my dinner preferences. (And don’t get me wrong, I love a great sauce.) But let’s get back to the asana class: So, for instance,  as much as I love a good theme, I adore  a great sequence. And a great sequence without clarity of alignment and key actions is not going to stand alone either. And while I love my yoga friends, community is not all its about for me either. When I go to class, I  want to do some poses, learn some technique and get some inspiration! I want it all. (no shock there, I suppose.)  
So me and Darren have been doing our best to tease out the very bare bones and the most essential ingredients of the method to begin with, focusing most on “How to put it together for a 90-minute public class”. Then we slowly layer in skills and techniques and inquiries as we go along. The last training we gave together was one of the best we have ever done in this regard. We were so careful not to overload the students and we maintained a very solid discipline about only teaching one element at a time and layering component parts slowly. We had no major breakdowns, no major anxiety attacks and a fair amount of positive, empowering experiences shared together. I know Part 2 is going to be just as awesome, if not more so.
I always love going to Tucson to teach. Darren is such a good friend and the community there is so stable, deep and open. It really is an oasis. 
I have been thinking a lot about yoga community these days and what it actually is. This may be another one of my “blinding flashes of the obvious” but there is this way that, for me, community is more simple than I think many people realize. I think the people I consider “my community” in terms of yoga, are the people I practice with. I mean really practice with.  I mean the people I roll out a mat with, sweat with, help into poses, get help from, and so on. It’s  a really practical thing. To me, it has very little to do with potluck gatherings, Facebook forums, charming Twitter feeds or sharing fond feelings about the practice over a glass of wine. Nope, to me, my yoga community is, and always has been,  centered around who I am actually rolling out a mat with. 
And the form of that has changed over the years due to varying circumstances and so has the size of the people involved in the endeavor. But this clarity hit me like a ton of bricks when I was leading a group practice in Boise a few weeks ago. I was struck by the simple joy it is to practice yoga with people and to be together in that way. It is truly one of my favorite things in life. And I realized that my closest, most enduring yoga friends are the people I used to do the Eye of the Tiger Sequences with regularly. Like every week. 
And then I got to thinking about how people write and share with me- from all over the world- a kind of dissatisfaction and  genuine sometime-heart-breaking struggle they are having to create community where they are.  And I got to wondering- are we thinking community is something much bigger and grander than just being together on the mat? Are we, as a community, looking for the large expressions of community and skipping the mundane, ordinary and enduring connection of practicing together for no other reason than because we love the practice? We may have to share in the love of practice first, I think,  and then we might -slowly over time- grow to love each other.  
And yes, I know the bigger vision of a caring community that supports each other off the mat is and always has been John’s vision for us. And I believe in that for sure. When shit hits the fan in my life, who do I call? My yoga friends. And they have never failed me. Not once. But I am just saying that the foundation of that “off the mat” connection- for me- is the “on the mat” investment of time, energy, attention and commitment.  
So my advice if your “community” hasn’t gelled is to hold some donation-based group practices. Divorce the community from the finances a bit for an afternoon and just get together, ut on some good tunes, plan a solid sequence and give some boundaries and a bunch of freedom and be together in the love of the practice. And then do it again. And again. And see- if in a few years, you all love each other more. And if more of you are there loving more.

Obviously, more could be said and the issue is not exactly this simple and yet, thats my two sense on the topic for today.

1 comment:

mark mckinney said...

the practice in Boise inspired me. the idea of growing a passionate group of people to really practice with is wonderful. how would someone find the eye of the tiger sequence?