Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Tell Me

I have been in the world of the ashram this last week. Kelly and I drove out to Arizona a  week ago and dove into the festivities of Lees mahasamadhi (his passing) and also his jayanthi (birthday)  which are within days of each other. We had a 5-day celebration full of pujas, feasting, song, dance, talks, seva and good company. It was a glorious time full of great food for the body, mind and heart.  The formal festivities ended late Sunday night and then we have been doing a bit of clean up and catch up after everything.

I have received so many calls and emails from folks following my Anusara resignation asking me "what does this mean for me?" and I suppose I need a better answer than, "I have no idea." I mean, that answer just does not sound very compassionate nor does it even sound very smart! And I think some of this is going to make more sense and become more obvious as the form of my direction continues to emerge and come into being.  But in a simple way, its like this for me: I am going to continue being the teacher I have always been- I am going to teach who is in front of me as sensitively, passionately and creatively as I can. I wrote this on Facebook a while ago but  I am still me. I still love to practice asana and to explore new and juicy ways into the majesty of the heart and mind through through the vehicle of the body through asana. I am totally into translating that experience into my teaching and staying as fresh as possible in my presentation of what I am learning. Simply put, I am still practicing and I am still teaching from my practice. If you are interested in that, keep studying with me.

If, however,  you are primarily interested in studying and practicing  Anusara Yoga and you are actively accruing hours toward certification in that system, then you will need a new Anusara yoga  teacher, if I was your primary Anusara teacher.  This is not because I am going to be teaching something radically different or because I have any negative feelings about Anusara yoga or people who want to be certified. I don't. I love Anusara yoga, I love John Friend, I love my colleagues,  I learned a lot from the system and benefitted tremendously from my association with it. I would wish that for other people. There is NO problem with people continuing down the Anusara path on my side of things. It's just that I can not sign off on your hours nor will I be committed to "modeling the method" the way I have been. I am officially off that hook. So, on a practical note, that's something to consider.

However, if you want to continue down the Anusara yoga path and you are interested in learning what I am doing then its as simple as staying in touch and coming to a workshop or training and staying open to the process that's evolving. I will be happy to teach you no matter what certification you hold. My love of learning and my love of teaching has never been limited to Anusara yoga. I have always studied in a variety of methods even as an Anusara teacher and teacher trainer. I am happy to go learn in different environments and cultures to get the teaching. I have never required that the teaching be packaged in  a certain way. It's really not a big deal to me to take hot yoga, flow yoga, Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga so long as I am learning and improving from my efforts.

It's really about being a student of what the teacher is teaching that day. My experience is that when I go to a class or workshop in another method and I am in a place of sincere studentship, then I learn. A lot. It's very simple. It's the law of adhikara, really. If a student has passed the bar, so to speak, the teacher MUST teach them. It's not a conscious thing either. It's not like the teacher is actually considering or choosing whether or not they are going to help the student. In fact, I have watched purist teachers in other systems try NOT to teach me for a while but after an initial period of hazing, my persistence has always been rewarded. Always. Without fail. Good studentship evokes being taught. Its that simple.  Its the law of the thing.

My guru always said that a good student could wake up around a bad teacher way easier than a poor student could wake up around a  great teacher. His view on  the responsibility of the student was that strong. Now, put a great student in front of a great teacher and that is a radical opportunity to really transcend the ordinary boundaries that often keep us from waking up to our potential.

I am, as you mostly know,  working on creating some very cool programs and trainings and Darren and I are going to be creating a School of Yoga. I have said many times that I do not want to make a method or a new system of yoga. This sentiment  is mostly practical and philosophical.

On a practical note- I want to teach yoga and teach people to teach yoga and eventually help train people to train people to teach yoga. I want to be in that work. Once we make something a "method" then, in my experience, the curriculum runs the risk of getting a bit frozen and standardized and the order of the day shifts from the organic response to the moment and become focused instead on teaching to the test and to the standard and to the system. Add in the reality that systems need trademarks in order to be  "preserved" and "valued" in the marketplace and before you know it you have to manage all of that nonsense. You have to implement standards, licensing agreements and implementation is shortly followed by policing and enforcing. None of that is at all interesting to me.

And what also happens is that subtly, without realizing, a shift in consciousness occurs where emphasis is off the yoga and on the trademark and I am not interested in that at all. Lee called it "churchification". He hated it and was always warning us as his devotees about the danger of turning his teaching and what he called  The Influence into a system. He said transformation just didn't work like that.  The idea was to align ourselves with the influence- and, sure, there were techniques and forms for that- and then to get ourselves out of the way so that we could each become an individualized, authentic expression of The Influence. For instance, his teachings live in me in both similar and different ways than they live in my sangha mates.

So I am totally in to teaching a seminar on "Heart Themes and The Conscious Use of Metaphor in the Classroom" but I am totally uninterested in having a discussion with you about using them if you don't want to. I am totally into teaching you how to do demonstrations effectively but I am not interested at all in convincing you to use them or telling you how many is enough or how many is too much. I am more interested in a discussion about how can you be the teacher you want to be, not a teacher that meets  a system's criteria. I am interested in how each of us can be the most authentic individualized expressions of The Influence in our lives as yoga practitioners, teachers and well, human beings.

So what Darren and I are creating is a school and a resource for practitioners and teachers and you will get to be a graduate of that school but I do not want to manage- for practical and philosophical reasons- what you do with the education and inspiration you receive from your training with us. Seriously, think about it, Harvard gives you a degree. They do not come into your life and tell you how to do business and they do not  take your degree back if you fail to agree with administrative, curricular, personal or marketing decisions. You go to school, you get your degree and then you have your life and work. And its up to you. Think about it. I want to be part of a new paradigm in teaching yoga that is less concerned with systems, trademarks, and accruing hours and more concerned with living in the Light of the Teachings and sharing the joys of the practice in profoundly real, accessible and effective ways.

So, what does it mean for you that I resigned my Anusara certification? (Oh, technically, I can't resign a certification. I can, evidently, resign my legal right to use the trademark. Funny, certification lasts for a lifetime but a the legal rights to the trademark can be terminated.  Anyhoo--)

So what does it mean for you that I resigned?  You tell me.


Shannon said...

Ha! Well done.

Tracee said...

I say that I can't wait to study with you and Darren.

Maria said...

right on. thank you for your clarity - it's the real deal. refreshing and spot on. looking forward to meeting you in MPLS. @ Yoga Garden. :)

daniel said...

Um, well, honestly it excites the (expletive) out of me. Why? Because it means, I think, that you are living your Yoga. That you are committed to RE- Signing Yourself to the path that you identify to be Your own. Okay okay, it would be convenient for ME that I could continue to accrue Anusara hours with you, but I protest convenience if it disallows the natural flow!-- I mean.. I don't buy nor consume my food for convenience, I do it for its nutritious qualities. I love training with teachers who have been enlivened by the magic of their OWN encounters while endeavoring towards new and profound discovery in Yoga. I LOVE and have infinite gratitude for my Anusara teachers. I also tend to have Love for most things that aim to be their very best. What I am saying is that Homecooked is ALWAYS better than convenient. As your student, in fact, I could only live out MY Yoga if I knew that You were living out Yours. If the work that you will continue to do keeps you centered, creative, compassionate, and charismatic then I say Hooray! Your move towards Grace can only inspire mine! I'll see you in Prescott !!!

Sage Mountain Apprentices 07-08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hannah said...

Christina, we don't know each other, but I had to leave this note. This post is so inspiring and, to be honest, makes me so excited for yoga in Austin. Congratulations on what was undoubtedly a complex decision for you. The path to truth is fantastically involuted sometimes. Thank you for following yours and for sharing it with others on the road. All the best to you.

Jessie said...

It means clarity and a great opportunity to get my teachers, unveiled.

Dawn said...

Thanks for putting into words what many of us feel.

annie said...

amazing. i love this!! thanks!!

amber said...

     Observing a teacher who is following her own soul's authentic promptings is the teachings. Garnering adequate understanding of various teachings deepens one's comprehension and sharpens one's clarity and direction; following a set of fixed principles which don't breathe or bend organically is the sure path to spiritual sterility. Churchification is an excellent way to describe it.
     You have the courage of Joan of Ark!!!
     As a result of your authenticity you will attract students who truly wish to find themselves rather than those who desire a certificate.
     In this way, you are upholding the integrity of the original yogic teachings: to guide those who are ready and thirsty for self transformation and self (God) realization.
     For this there can never be a certificate or a prescribed set of principles. You may not attract hoards of students now for any form of "marketing" will have to be geared toward a rare type of "customer", and enlightened yogis were content if they found one true student!
     For me, the initial awakening came before any outer teachings or before I knew what an asana was, and then the teachings, from as many sources as I had energy and enthusiasm for (Anusara from John being but one) only served as a corroboration, a temporary support system, while I deepened (and still deepen) in "Infinite Being", (the unnamable).
     I, too, am grateful to all my teachers and I know, IF they remember me, that in their hearts they bear me no ill feelings, for it is a wise teacher that releases a student when she is ready.
    Since your process has been high profile while mine was virtually in the confines of a solitary and private meditation space, your courage is all the more amazing!!!

Hanuman Tatsat said...

IT does not mean a thing to me. I 'resigned' from Anusara over a year ago for similar, and dissimilar reasons. Bottom line, is yoga is about yoga, not about drinking someone's 'koolaid' version of yoga...

John Levis said...

It means that once the system that has nurtured your growth and your freedom stifles that growth, its time to choose your growth and your freedom.
It means that your head serves your heart.
Thank you for the reminder!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your clarity....it inspires my studentship and that yoga truly is universal!

Laura said...

I heart you.

KathZ said...

It means for me that I too would like to study with you & Darren. I am often conflicted regarding the path to certification, and I thank you for your honesty. Your words also bring to mind a very fun & funny workshop I once did with Angela Farmer. I've always liked her humor regarding certification. John said in Boston a few years back that if we are teaching from our hearts, the students who want to hear us will find us. I found that statement to be the best thing I heard all week. I only need to be in my heart. All the best to you.

MichelleI said...

Thank you for writing this. I haven't studied with you before, but have always heard amazing things. I love Darren and will probably study with you two some day. Your article clarifies a lot. One thing I particularly resonated with was this notion in Anusara that certification seems to mean a lot mire as far as ongoing control than it does in other fields. For instance, I am board certified in two medical specialties but never feel that my creativity or autonomy are impeded or controlled by the certifying boards. I have watched teachers in Anusara try too hard at times to make everything fit into the 5 Principles rather than paying attention to the students and their bodies. So, good for you in your striving for excellence. I of course am curious, why now, but it's none of my business.

kwajnman said...

When their teacher rejects something, the students feel that their choice is in question as well, and insecurity spreads, as we can clearly see in your case. So people need to be reassured that all their efforts and feelings are still ok. I don’t know how to do that.
I myself have always chosen the teacher/person and join his/hers ride on the yoga carousel.

Dan said...

With respect and well deserved humility…

Let me begin by saying that I am not a yoga teacher and am unlikely to ever become a yoga teacher. I have been practicing yoga for less than one year. I have almost no knowledge about yoga teacher training.

As I understand it, the styles of yoga reflect particular philosophies and, as you wrote in a blog post not too long ago, have different aims. One isn’t necessarily better or worse than another, they just aim to achieve different things.

I like the idea of teachers being trained within a specific system. It’s too easy to imagine that a teacher in training gets to know a little bikram, a little anusara, etc. but isn’t well enough grounded in any particular style to be an effective teacher. In order to understand the philosophy and aim behind any particular system, and in order to teach that system well, I would think that a teacher would need thorough training specifically within that system. If, as you say, you aren’t interested in creating a new system, then what, exactly, are you training a new teacher to offer?

It sounds to me as if the type of training you are interested in offering is best suited for someone who already has a solid grounding as a teacher in a particular system and is now ready to expand their teaching and practice by being open to diverse influences. Someone who is ready to take advantage of learning from two extremely experienced and creative teachers/practitioners both of whom can model being well grounded within a particular system but who are interested in using that grounding to integrate knowledge and learning from a variety of sources.

This would be a worthy offering and contribution and one that you and Darren are unusually qualified to make.

Andra said...

My dear Christina,
I was already a yoga teacher when I moved to US in 2000 and while I was aware of the different yoga styles I hadn't realized how strong the whole trademark/branding had become here.
It was an interesting experience to observe that, in a way, people were more interested in the style or name than in practicing and really living their yoga.
Like everything else in life, I have also changed a lot, by learning, practicing,and sharing my personal experiences. But one thing has not changed. I have never been interested in becoming a part of a trademark and will never choose anything that binds me to certain rules of how I teach/live my life.
I respect my students and trust that they are strong enough and intelligent enough to make their own choices in teaching/living. We each have a path and I honor that.
So, I look forward to seeing you again when you come to LA. Perhaps share a tea or go for a hike in Claremont.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!

jalaBlu Journey said...

"Inhale the shakti, exhale the shri"

Can't wait to expand my wings even more with you and Darren...You are BOTH my teachers within this life!!!! I need to see you guys soon because I'm going through MAJOR withdraw!!! MAJOR!!!!!!! :)


Audra said...

Hey Christina -- I have really loved reading your blog over the last few weeks, and find it to be really fresh & exciting. I was one of the people who were very apprehensive at first, very much "What the heck!?" and a little scared about whether there was some kind of rift that no one knew about.

But your honest, as always, provides such clarity and insight, not only into your own choices, but into things that I have been wondering and meandering through in my thoughts... In your ability to put your heart so fully out there, to change, to grow, you inspire everyone around you to do so -- even when it is through virtual means, as I have not (yet!) had the chance to study with you in person.

That being said, in practical terms, will you still be teaching and adding new classes through YogaGlo? I certainly hope so, and look forward to them if so!

Mickie said...

It means as always, I have more to learn from you, that I need to make some time in my schedule and come see you, and that you have get again evolved, you keep doing that:)

carol said...

I am excited to train with you and Darren again in Tucson.
In your last blog you mentioned that a few years ago your blog entries were about much simpler, sweeter stuff. Off to get a mani, teaching classes, sequences ect. Well, I went back and checked it out and that is quite true. I also noticed in your older blogs that often there were a few comments, but not many.
Your last few blogs have had a ton of comments, which i enjoy reading almost as much as your blog entries. Your most recent blogs have started a conversation that truly engages us in contemplations about what our yoga means to us, to our students and to future generations that might find their way to the mat. In short, you have cut right to the heart of the matter. I love it!
Thank you for your clarity, insight, matter of factness and your courage.

Kathy O'Rourke said...

You are a claiming a much needed leadership mantle in the American Yoga movement with this impulsive move to Hatha Yoga from Branded Yoga. Very ecumenical.

From the very beginning of hearing about 'certification' 10 years ago, I have made the point you have here about Harvard -- how come we keep having to come back after we 'graduate' for more hours to keep what we have earned? I've got enough hours in two 'brands' (Para and Anusara) to get certified and am in limbo in each, probably because of the issues you are articulating in this blog so eloquently -- on a deep level there seems to be something out of sync with a deep inner-knowing for me. It has always struck me as somewhat controlling and power-wielding -- and actually paternalistic -- how there are on-going demands made to stick with the party-line and conform to really strict guidelines in line with the 'integrity of the system'. I left the Catholic Church after 25 years and found yoga -- I'm a little sensitive to dogma and strict control.

I so much more like talking about applying our authentic voice and integrating all that we have learned everywhere in our studentship. A professor is not spouting just what he/she learned at Harvard, but lots of places, OF COURSE. It just lets us be all of who we are and be with all ideas -- even within a system. I'm not talking about wishy-washy, new age blending. But seriously, I have many Tantric teachers -- you, John Friend, Rod Stryker, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Rolf Solvik, Douglas Brooks, Sally Kempton, Gary Kraftsow. To the extent my students in rural America particularly care what the politics of the yoga scene are -- I tell them the source of the teachings and I am careful to differentiate sources of practices I am offering. I also make a point of clarifying the common misperception of the sameness of Buddhism and Yoga and take the time to differentiate the world-views.

I do see value in understanding 'a system' and it sure is a great foundation. But I can be clear with my students about what is 'Anusara' and what is 'Para' and what is 'plain-old Sri Vidya' and what is 'all 3". And you know what my students get? Lots MORE than they would get if I studied with just one teacher. That said, I do have a guru -- a dedicated teacher - Yogarupa Rod Stryker, but I love what I get from John and it is essential to my asana teaching. I am a better teacher from drawing on several sources.

Maybe it is helpful to have some people keeping things pure -- systematic -- but I am better served myself by drawing upon several and if a Brand is going to make a point of limiting my free speech and expression, then I walk away with thousands of dollars and hours invested in the training without a way to complete the training without a moral compromise.

There are a lot of issues around this certification stuff and I'm glad we're talking about them. I am glad you're not creating another system. I love to talk about teaching yoga effectively and will be at your trainings now that you are freely teaching without a strict Anusara context. I've actually been waiting for years for someone to standup for the big picture -- and I love that it's a woman, too.

Terra said...

I can't wait to study with you again and truly hope I get the chance to do so in more depth. Hugs & love always from CO Springs!

Julia Zatta said...

Any plans of teaching in Europe? I´d love to come learn with you and Darren. <3