teaching trauma sensitive yoga

Last year I wrote a three part series on trauma sensitive yoga after my training at The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts.  I posted the series on the LinkedIn page of the International Association of Yoga Therapists  and shortly thereafter Kelly Birch, the editor of Yoga Therapy Today (IAYT’s magazine for members), asked me to write an article.  I was honored (and humbled) to be asked!

My article, Compassionate Presence: Teaching Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, has finally been published in the current issue (Summer 2012.)  And let me tell you, it is damn hard writing for someone else!  I now know the value of a good editor because Kelly was fantastic.  I am even more honored to be in a magazine that also has an article about the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

At this point in time only IAYT members can access the site to read the article, but you can download the .pdf from the above link.  Please share it with someone whom you think might benefit.   Kausthub Desikachar told us in one of my trainings that we must share what we have learned, otherwise we are nothing more than thieves, taking and not giving.

For me, real yoga is about personal transformation and healing.  My long time readers know that I teach at a domestic violence shelter and some of the women have started to come to me for classes.  Coincidentally, the day I received word that Yoga Therapy Today was being mailed out, I received a call from a woman suffering from PTSD because of an incident four years ago.   She had googled “trauma sensitive yoga” in the Chicago area but was concerned that maybe I would not drive almost an hour to see her.  The drive did not concern me because after I talked with her I knew yoga would help.

As I wrote a practice for her, a voice told me, “give her a mantra”, something which I’ve never done before with a private student.   Somehow I knew she would connect with a mantra.  We met, she did the practice, and I gave her pranayama and the mantra, OM JYOTI AHAM — “I am the Divine Light.”

The change was noticeable after the practice.  She looked lighter and happier and her eyes were brighter compared to when I walked in.   She smiled and said that it was the calmest she had felt in four years even though she takes medication.   I told her that all I did was give her a road map pointing the way out, now she has to drive.  I told her that she had to something from practice every day, even if it is merely sitting and watching her breath.  She wants to continue working with me once a week.

Humbled, honored to do this work — who needs to be a yoga rock star?  This is priceless.

karma yoga and yoga community

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and before it ends I want to make you aware of statistics on domestic violence.  This is a post I wrote last year with things that may shock you.  Or not.

The yoga fundraiser on Saturday was a success in that a dozen people attended (mostly my students and others who know me) and once the cash is doubled by a private charitable trust, the shelter will receive a little over $1,000.  Included in that amount is a check for $300 sent by a woman who took a few classes with me a long time ago because she could not attend the fundraiser but she would “be there in spirit.”  Nice!

I met with the shelter director during the summer and we talked about starting a weekly yoga program, but at this point in time there is no money for it (I only teach one night a month.)  People always ask me, “why don’t they just apply for a grant so they can pay you?”  The shelter recently received a $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation and this is what the director told me about that:

“The $20,000 is general operating money that is really just filling a hole we had where we had lost funding over the last couple of years.  We are still running with a skeleton crew that are stretched way too thin.  On top of that, they have not gotten even a cost of living increase in over 3 years.  So that is my first priority as far as funding goes…then I can start thinking about new projects and expanding different projects.  The grant writer is still looking for money specific to a new and innovative way to help victims.”

“A new and innovative way to help victims” means my yoga program.  And so it goes.  And that’s why I do a fundraiser for the shelter.

For about a month before the fundraiser I busted my asana trying to get the word out — emails to local papers, emails to local yoga peeps, tweeting, Facebook, posting flyers in health food stores and coffeehouses, etc.  I understand now how people working for non-profits get burned out.  The owner of the dance studio where the fundraiser was held did a great job getting the word out, she put a flyer into everyone’s hand who came into the studio.  The Nia and dance community also helped spread the the word.  But one group was conspicuous by their absence, in fact, their silence was  deafening.  Need I say it?  The local community of yoga teachers.

I’m beginning to think that use of the phrase “yoga community” should be banned because it’s basically meaningless — at least where I live, but your mileage may vary.  The phrase is used (overused?) in the yoga blogosphere when people write about a group of teachers and/or students getting together for a cause.  My own “yoga community” (which will forever be placed in quotes) is relatively small and most teachers know of or personally know each other.  Hell, me and 7 other yoga teachers use the same massage therapist so every month I get the local yoga 411.

But it never fails to amaze me when a group of people that speaks so much about seva and karma yoga, and who think Seane Corn and Russell Simmons are so cool to occupy Wall Street, can be silent about something going on in their own locale, for a local cause.  To quote two yoga teacher friends (one who attended and one who helped spread the word every week, both who also consider themselves yoga outsiders), they were “amazed” and “horrified” that despite knowing about a yoga fundraiser for a local women’s issue, there was little interest shown by local teachers.  I did hear from two (out of the 20+ teachers who got my email blast) who told me they were sorry they could not attend.

Why is this so-called “yoga community” that is coveted so much so elusive?

Believe me, I get the fact that everyone has their own favorite cause that they donate to, my cause isn’t your cause, but that’s not the point at all.  I don’t care if someone donates $1.00 or $100, support is given in ways other than money.  Sometimes time and interest are more precious than dollar bills.  Don’t support someone expecting to get something in return.  I mean, really?  Read the Gita.  That does not even karmically compute.  Sometimes you do things to help, unasked.  Just ’cause it’s the right thing to do.

The kicker was when a local teacher who was a Facebook “friend” deleted my comment about the fundraiser and defriended me.  Wow.  Didn’t know promoting seva is such an evil thing to do.  She had posted on her FB page about an event at the local studio that was in the evening on the same day as the fundraiser.  I commented something to the effect, “don’t forget about the yoga fundraiser: karma yoga, go out to dinner, then go to the event.”  That was it.  Innocuous.  The thing is, I’ve known this teacher for about 7 years, I’ve been in her class, she’s been in mine, not friends (as I don’t use that term loosely), but acquaintances, knowing the same local yoga peeps.  Delete.  Defriend.  Uh, what?!?  The irony was that she had sent me a message a few weeks earlier about how important domestic violence issues are to her and she wanted to donate money.  Guess I’m not getting that dough now.

With one of the themes being superficiality, I always loved the way Burl Ives’ character in the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof spit out the word mendacity as something unacceptable.

When another blog reader posted this on my FB wall, I had to chuckle.  Good in theory, in practice, maybe not so much:  “hold a fundraising event for a local charity…the success of working and coming together to do something good close to home creates a perfect opportunity for students to connect with one another.”

Over the the past month I’ve had a good think about this whole “yoga community” idea/ideal that is perpetrated in the we’re-all-one-big-happy-kula, kumbaya.  It is something that some yoga person somewhere is always telling us to strive for, i.e., the collective yoga thang.  Buddhists refer to it as sangha.  The Universe must be sending me messages because just when I needed to hear it, I received another email from a relatively new reader in Canada.  The writer told me that while her yoga journey is not as seasoned as my own, she does know that “the ‘yoga community’ is the one you create, in your heart and in your space.  I only allow those that resonate my values into my space.”  Very wise.  And true.

I will also take the words of my Sister Kali Grrl, Svasti, to heart:  “work at defusing your road rage, and/or all those little things that niggle you in life. The stuff that makes you snarky, snippy or snappy at yourself/others on your bad days. Because my lovelies, THAT is all inflammation. And too much inflammation will make you sick.”   Because Svasti and others who resonate my values ARE my yoga community, my sangha, and it’s not necessarily where I live.  It was serendipitous to also read that “real communities live because of a passion that is shared by those who belong to it. And when it’s strong enough, that community can exist anywhere.”

I’m universal, and I forgot, for a short time, when I was at my lowest yet again, my passion all wrung out, that I am indeed swimming in grace.

In the end, does any of it really matter, that is, is it really important to me who gives a damn?  Maybe, maybe not, but a wise friend told me a long time ago, “stay passionate and keep holding that mirror up because somebody’s got to do it.”

But if you see Seane Corn, tell her to put her money where her mouth is and send a yoga sister some healthy bucks from her organization to start a weekly yoga program at the shelter.

Kumbaya, y’all.

re-inspired for #realyoga

This year has been on-again, off-again for me insofar as yoga.  While I am always grateful for the small, group classes I teach out of my house, the private yoga biz, i.e,. one-on-one yoga/yoga therapy, sucks.  The highlight this summer was helping one of the top-ranked college hurdlers in the country rehab from hip surgeries.  Her mother found me online and the funny thing is she lives down the street from me.  Small world.  I worked with her twice a week and it was a joy.  But a consistent income from that?  A student increase in my small group classes?  No.  This is the first  year I’ve spent more money on my yoga biz (such as trainings) than I brought in.  Someone tell me again how popular and mainstream yoga is.

After 10 years of teaching I seriously considered quitting this year.  “My yoga” is not popular because I am not mainstream, status quo.  Because I have been burned by yoga studio owners and am tired of all the drama yoga studios generate — and I will add IN MY AREA, but from what I hear, it’s not that different in other parts of the country and sometimes even worse — I no longer teach weekly classes in studios.  The style of yoga that I teach is not about kicking your ass and making you sweat, and if you bust out a handstand when I say “child’s pose”, I’m going to call you out.  I love traveling to teach workshops but as for teaching weekly classes, no thanks.  I suppose I would return to teaching classes depending on the studio AND the owner, but I have to say that even thinking about it brings up a physical sensation that is similar to PTSD.  Seriously.  That’s how badly I’ve been abused treated.  Don’t even get me started about the “yoga community.”

I became certified in teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga this year, a training that I consider one of the most influential that I’ve ever taken, but getting people such as counselors to even consider it has been like pulling teeth.  As I was with eco-garden design with native plants (I am also a garden designer and a certified horticulturist) and thai yoga massage, I am once again ahead of my time.Then I decided to to finally conduct a teacher training and went through the Yoga Alliance rigamaroll.  Instead of being energized about finally being annointed an EXPERIENCED REGISTERED YOGA TEACHER, I became even more depressed.  Finally seeing all my training hours in 10 years — literally 1000 hours — written down in black and white made me think, “what the fuck am I doing?  why bother?”   All my training doesn’t mean shit to a tree, as Grace Slick sang, when it seems that all people care about is getting their ass kicked in a hot yoga class.  It is a rare person in my area of far west suburban Chicago who is willing to pay for private yoga classes — and I live in an upper middle class area.

And please don’t tell me that I am “manifesting” this.  If I hear one more person tell me to “let go of negativity”, “be open”, “throw it out to the Universe”, or any other New Age Secret clap-trap, I’m going NeNe Leakes on your asana.

The fact of the matter is that when one is passionate about  yoga as a path of transformation and all you get are closed doors and little interest, it is very discouraging and frustrating.  My private students understand my frustration and are extremely supportive.  They know I need to go to India because it is there that I am renourished, it is there that real yoga renews me.  Yeah, you read it: “real yoga” — and I don’t care if you don’t like the phrase because I am sick of the political correctness of modern yoga, yoga blogs included.

In all this mix, when I was at my lowest, once again someone whom I’ve never met lifts me up.  A new blog reader — yoga student for 20 years, teacher for 5 — emailed me and told me her story of frustration and indeed, hate, of yoga as it is now taught.  She told me that my writing here is an answer to a prayer and she wanted to express her gratitude.  She told me how her yoga mojo vanished and she entered the dark night of the yoga soul….as what is happening with me now.  She wrote:

“…living in the land of the yoga OBscene, southern california, made matters much worse.  i began to loathe and even used the word hate in re: to yoga.  i officially declared DIVORCE in june of this year.  what had it become?  where are “they” taking it?  who are all these 200 hr YA stamped people who know nothing about, nor care less about, living the yoga??  a friend suggested i stop cursing the dark and light a candle. and lindasyoga.com arrived.”

Her email overwhelmed me.  I started to cry.  Maybe I am doing something right, I thought, if my writing about yoga can have such an effect.  Aside from my regular weekly students, the support that I receive from those near is practically nil.  Almost all the support in what I do comes from people whom I’ve never met, YOU, out there, globally.  And that amazes me.

This August I finally met a long-time blog reader from Texas and we are collaborating on a yoga project that is going to rock the yoga world, IMO.  I got an email from another reader with a yoga contact in Nova Scotia.  I have another contact for yoga in Cuba.

So should I be depressed that hardly anyone gets me where I live?  Don’t we all want validation, approval from our community, isn’t that human nature?  After I read the above email to my husband, even he said that my home is OUT THERE, NOT HERE.  I just reside here, but I live OUT THERE.  As my friend in Texas reminded me, a prophet is never appreciated in their homeland.  Not that I consider myself a prophet, but I get the analogy.  A long ago private student told me that it’s hard being a pioneer because the pioneers get the arrows shot up the ass.

Ouch.  That’s what that is.

yoga in OMerika: what $95 buys

The Official Blessing

$95 bought that logo.

I don’t consider my posts about the Yoga Alliance as rants, although I am sure some would consider them as such.  I consider them a public yoga education.  I am reporting my own experience in order to help any newbie teachers make their own informed decisions.

I gave my reasons in this post as to why I renewed my registration with Yoga Alliance.  $150 later I am now officially an E-RYT 200 — “EXPERIENCED REGISTERED YOGA TEACHER.”  I know, I was such a hack before YA’s official blessing.  I can now conduct a 200 hour yoga teacher training after YA’s approval of my curriculum, of course.  After paying the requisite fees.  Of course.

I decided to upload more teaching and training hours to the YA site, so I pulled out my four inch thick folder with my teaching and training records.  I was amazed to finally see it all laid out in black and white, all the time and effort I’ve put into my yoga teaching since 2004 when I first registered with YA  — over 2000 hours of teaching and almost 900 hours of advanced training.  I did not even count each and every three hour workshop.

I thought what the hell, I will try to upgrade to E RYT 500 – 500 because one day I might want to conduct a 500 hour training.  The upgrade is another $95.  Piece of cake with all my hours, right?  Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.   This is the email I received from YA:

“In order to upgrade to an ERYT 500, one must first meet the criteria for an RYT 500, having graduated either from a YA registered advanced 300 or complete 500 hour program  (please see standards below).  

RYT 500-
A yoga teacher with a minimum of 500 hours of yoga teacher training, either:

o   500 hours from one school, or
o   200 hours plus 300 hours of advanced training from one school (training that requires participants to have a 200-Hour certification.

As you have not completed a YA registered training, but  have spent many hours of in depth study with Sri Desikachar, I would recommend that you complete the “graduate of a non-registered school”  application (attached) for your RYT 500 upgrade.”

Out of my 800+ hours of training, my three intensives at KYM plus private classes with Desikachar’s senior teachers total 300 hours of advanced training.  Apparently the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is NOT a registered school with YA.  AS IF that would stop me from studying there.

I am sure Sri Desikachar stays up at night wondering whether the school he started to honor his father, the Source Scholar of Yoga, the Grandfather of Modern Yoga, should be registered with the Yoga Alliance.  Please.  Really?  The YA can’t cut KYM any slack?  Let them “grandfather” in as a registered school?  Seriously?  By the way, someone who certifies you in “Goddess Yoga” IS an approved school of the YA.  Right.

Here’s the kicker:  in order for me to upgrade to a 500 level teacher, the “graduate of a non-registered school” application costs $150 together with the $95 to upgrade to E RYT 500.  So another $245 over and above the $150 I already paid to renew and upgrade to E RYT 200.

Oh my Goddess, I am in the wrong business.  I need to be in the certification game.  And can someone tell me why YA is officially a non-profit organization?  I said “no thanks.”  I don’t want to pay another dime to YA especially considering all that dough is a lot of rupees in India which I will need starting in January.  But eventually I will have to pay it if I ever want to conduct a 500 hour level training in the future.  AS IF I could not do that RIGHT NOW.

Of course I can conduct teacher trainings without being “Yoga Alliance approved” but how realistic is that?  With the current mentality of yoga in OMerika, would anyone sign up for my trainings?  I doubt it, because even the most staunchly anti-YA teachers (Ganga White - a must read; Lex Gillan; and my teacher in Chicago, to name a few), ALL ended up registering their schools with YA.  Because that is what people look for.

So here is my question, good readers:  the curriculum being equal, if you had a choice of a non-YA approved 200 hour teacher training with someone like me, with all my hours, 5 times at KYM OR with someone who is YA approved but does not have the hours of training and teaching experience that I have, which would you pick?

And I will say this before anyone else does:  yes, I know hours of training does not automatically make one a “good” teacher, the same way inexperience does not automatically make one a “bad” teacher.  There are always variables.

Yoga in OMerika.  Travel at your own risk.

in my humble opinion

Sergio DiazGranados of the Yoga Teacher Training website contacted me for an interview when I wrote the “babies teaching babies” post.  He also published an interview with David Frawley so I am in good company!  Maybe my thoughts will benefit someone out there so I am posting a few of my pithier answers.  You can read the entire interview on his site next week.

Sergio also has an opportunity for someone to win a yoga scholarship for a 2012 teacher training program by teachers such as Rod Stryker, Rolf Gates, Shiva Rea, or David Swenson, among others.  The deadline to apply is November 18.

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What was your biggest challenge during your teacher training process?
I think my biggest challenge during my first yoga teacher training was doing chatarunga dandasana!  I had never done that pose in a beginning yoga class and I felt intimidated by the younger students (I did not become a certified teacher until I was 48) who could do it without thinking twice.  Fortunately I’ve come to realize that real yoga is not about the asana!

What has been your biggest challenge in continuing your craft as a yoga teacher?
I think my biggest challenge is teaching the style of yoga that I teach.  I must qualify this by saying “in my geographic area.”  My yoga is informed by my spiritually which is Buddhism and by my vipassana practice.  The yoga that I teach is grounded in the Krishnamacharya lineage and mindfulness practice.  My style of yoga is not what you would call mainstream.  I call it the Yoga of Awareness and many times it seems that people are only interested in yoga as a workout.  My yoga will make you sweat but not because you’re doing 100 chatarungas.  It’s one of the reasons I no longer teach in yoga studios, only privately.  I let students find me.

What do you think makes a good yoga teacher?
Someone who is always a student first and a teacher second, no matter how long they have been teaching.  Authenticity.  Walking your yoga talk even if you stumble.  And if you stumble, then owning it instead of making excuses.   Practicing what you preach, especially meditation.  Compassion and empathy.  Constant self-inquiry.  The ability to say “I don’t know” if a student asks you a question instead of letting your ego answer for you.  And the ability to laugh and not take yourself too seriously.  We are always laughing in my classes.  I tell my students that laughter is the best pranayama!  Notice I said nothing about asana — because asana knowledge is a given!

Do you feel that teachers are doing a disservice to the Yoga community if they only focus on the physical asana practice and leave out the spiritual component?
I used to think it was a disservice, but I now believe “you do your yoga and I’ll do mine.”   I only know what’s right for me and most of the students to whom I teach have been with me since Day One of my teaching, 10 years ago.  If someone comes to me and doesn’t like what I teach, that’s fine, they will find a teacher better suited for them.  I would not exactly call it a “disservice” because any type of movement is beneficial for the body.  

But I also do not believe what many teachers believe that everyone will come to know what “real yoga” is, i.e., with the spiritual components, if they practice long enough.  Yes, of course that happens with some people, but I don’t believe that’s true for everyone who starts out with yoga as a purely physical practice because not everyone is on the same path.  That is like saying everyone who runs a marathon is on equal footing.  They’re not.  There will always be someone in front, running with you, and behind you.  Again, everyone is different and we all have our karma to work through in this lifetime.

For me, yoga is ALWAYS asana + pranayama + meditation and yoga always was a spiritual practice.  I’ve heard Desikachar say that yoga contains X, Y and Z, and anything else is acrobatics.  The bottom line is that you can call a dog a cat all you want to, but that doesn’t make it a cat.  Calling your morning stretches yoga without having X, Y and Z doesn’t make it yoga.  Would you still call it a chocolate cake if you left out the chocolate?  It might still be good, but it’s not a chocolate cake.

What is Yoga to you?
Yoga to me is about personal transformation.  You can only change the world by changing yourself, a day, a moment, a breath at a time.  Through our inner work and self-inquiry, yoga teaches us to treat each moment as brand new, to be present with whatever arises in our lives, pleasant and unpleasant.  It teaches us to observe and listen to the inner voice that bubbles up that is our connection to whatever it is we believe to be greater outside ourselves.

WITH METTA…..

yoga and the evolutionary process

No, not yoga and evolution.  Yoga and YOUR evolution.  Change.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my student said in class the other night, about what she thinks “real yoga” is.

It was her belief that mainstream yoga caters to this culture rather than trying to change this culture.

To this student “real yoga” is about change on the micro- and macro- level.  Or as I’ve heard Desikachar say, anything else is acrobatics.

I know the phrase “real yoga” irks some people.  People don’t like to hear that phrase used, considering it judgmental or arrogant.  They say that all yoga is good yoga and so what if someone does a 60 minute yoga DVD to get a slim, sexy body.  And contrary to popular beliefs about this Krazy Old Yogini, I agree to a point: so what.  The way yoga is advertised is a separate and entirely different issue.

Because as a wise reader told me recently, reality means that not everyone sings like Cecilia Bartoli or plays violin like Jascha Heifetz.  So why can’t we accept that there is talent involved in yoga and meditative arts also?  The democratization of everything (democratization being another word for mainstream) makes us think everyone should benefit equally from martial arts, yoga, or tea ceremony, but that simply is not true.

Many say that the more esoteric benefits of yoga will eventually come to those who practice for purely physical reasons.  I’ve never believed that because that assumes that everyone is on the same path, running at the same pace, equally.  That’s not true in a marathon and that’s not true on the yogic path.  There is also a little thing called karma.

There are plenty of people in yoga classes who practice for purely physical reasons and become stronger and more flexible, but they are still unhappy and depressed or full of fear. Some will be that way the rest of their lives, in varying degrees; others, not.  There are those who will run from teacher to teacher, from one ‘ism to another, and still die with their most intense fear buried deep within their hearts.  There are others who have suffered horribly in their lives, studying with one teacher or even none, but through their internal work will fly on wings of joy on their dying day.

Life. Change. Stages of evolution. Karma.

The reader who wrote to me believes that it is only natural that some will not connect with the esoteric levels of yoga and will remain happy with a basic understanding of yoga, the basic level being purely physical.  A lucky few on the yoga path will know enlightenment. Most will be stuck somewhere in between.  This has to do with talent, but also with what the Chinese call yuanfen.

So even a basic understanding of yoga and attaining purely physical benefits are better than none at all, but I have my own standards of what constitutes “real yoga.”  And just as there is nothing wrong with someone doing yoga for purely physical benefits, there is nothing wrong with my standards either.

As I’ve come to believe over the years, students get the teachers they need at the time, teachers get the students they deserve at the time.  Think about that.

One of my standards is that yoga is about physical and emotional healing.  Another standard is that yoga is about accelerating our personal evolution.  I’ve told my students many times that if something isn’t changing for you off the mat, then it’s not yoga.  If your path is only the length and width of your yoga mat, that’s not much of a path.  That’s my standard.  And someone can choose to accept that or not because frankly, in the end, I don’t care.  It’s your own personal evolution.  Or should I say revolution?

In his book A Life Worth Breathing Max Strom writes:

“Hatha yoga is a profound evolutionary system that will benefit everyone who has the passion to change his or her troubled existence into an extraordinary life. It has changed my life forever, and every day I see it transform more and more people into happier, healthier, and more empowered beings….

 

Imagine two people practicing side by side. One is still and struggling in a posture, barely able to open his hips, but he is not letting it bother him. Instead, he feels calm in this difficult moment, centered in deep breathing.

 

Then there is the second person next to him, able to wrap his legs around his neck, but breathing erratically, thinking negative thoughts. Whose practice is better? Flexibility is not the aim; it is a side effect….

 

If you find joy and you are living a meaningful life, then you are becoming good at yoga….

 

Remember, the goal is not to tie ourselves in knots — we’re already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the intimate, loving, and peaceful power of the universe and fully awaken into the highest level of human consciousness.”
(Max Strom, pp. 122-125)

A spiritual adept once told me that it is not my job as a yoga teacher to change people. They have to change themselves.

I can only give you a road map — you have to drive the car yourself.

just an old-fashioned girl

Last night in class I only had two students. Believe it or not, this no longer bothers me — I show up and I teach. Despite how “mainstream” yoga people love to believe yoga is nowadays — and I would really like someone to explain to me what mainstream is — the number of students in class is diminishing. I’m not the only teacher in my area who finds this to be true. More on that later.

So since it was a loosey-goosey class, we yakked for the first 30 minutes, me and my two students about the State of Yoga in America. I will add that this was totally unsolicited by me, these two gals just wanted to let loose. Of course this is not a scholarly study by any means, merely anecdotal, but interesting just the same.

One woman told me that she was glad she found my class — this woman is older like me, I would say in her 50s. She told me she was glad she found a “real yoga” class — her words, not mine, unsolicited. By “real yoga” she meant not “power yoga” (her words) as is taught in her gym where she takes Pilates. My class is the first yoga class she has ever taken (because her chiropractor recommended it), so she had nothing to compare it to. In spite of knowing nothing about yoga other than it was supposed to help calm her down, she somehow knew she wanted to take a “real yoga” class.

She was dismayed at the lack of commitment from the drop-in students. She asked why students feel that a yoga class is supposed to be convenient for them, instead of making it a priority like anything else in their lives. She asked me why students feel they don’t have to support a yoga class, that they can just show up whenever they want to. We recalled the couple who came once and said that they “maybe” do yoga once a month. Uh…why bother? Was it a night they were bored and wanted to spice up their evening with my class? OK, I’m kidding.

I shrugged. I have no answers anymore to questions about yoga in OMerika. But I smiled and thanked her for calling my class “real yoga” and thanked her for her commitment to herself.

The second woman, younger, 30s maybe, was also dismayed at the lack of students in my class. She had been coming to this venue for yoga for a long time and told me the class used to have about 20-30 students in it. I was asked to take over this class to try to build it back up — I had heard that the class had too many subs and people had stopped coming.

The younger woman told me — again, unsolicited and her words, not mine — that I was old-fashioned. I smiled and she laughed. She told me, “I think your class is the way yoga originally was before it became mainstream. You know…real yoga.” Ahhhh….there are those words again.

I asked her what she thinks “mainstream yoga” is. I said to please explain it to me because I’m stuck in my little ol’ boring box of asana-pranayama-meditation, so I am out of touch.

She said this: that the more mainstream yoga becomes, i.e., yoga taught all over the place, the more people will lose sight of what yoga really is. She said that yoga right now is trendy and popular, it’s merely “the thing to do”, just another fitness trend.

It was her belief that mainstream yoga has been dumbed down (her words) to cater to this culture rather than trying to change this fast-paced culture.

I will let that sink in because it is a very powerful statement.

She believes that people are so used to moving fast in their daily lives, that that is the type of yoga people want instead of yoga to slow them down, to go inward. She told me that to her, that’s not “real yoga.” She said, “if I wanted that, I’d go to an aerobics class.”

I smiled. I told her thanks for saying I’m old-fashioned, but I prefer the term “old school.” “Now let’s do some old-school yoga,” I said, as I started the vinaya krama class.

Out of the mouths of students.

I found the exchange interesting. According to my student then, “mainstream” merely means “popular.” But is popular always a good thing? This student also believes that with the popularity of yoga nowadays, the sheer number of yoga classes being offered outside of yoga studios (her emphasis) actually devalues yoga and cheapens the real message of yoga, which is personal transformation. This student lives in a suburb that is far from my class. She told me that there is plenty of yoga around her house but it is the “fast food yoga”, as she calls it, and will have none of it.

“Fast food yoga.” I like that description. Sure you can survive on a diet of fast food, but how healthy is it for you in the long run?

And now for another real life yoga teaching experience….

A yoga teacher friend has a small studio, trying to make a yoga buck as is every other local studio. A chiropractor in her area organized a lecture on living a holistic life via healthy eating habits, exercise, meditation, things like that. About 200 people attended.

I will say that again: 200.

Every yoga business guru will tell you that is the perfect opportunity and place to advertise yoga. I have heard that suggestion time and again — that in order to get your yoga name out there you must hook up with chiropractors or other holistic businesses.

My friend spoke about her studio, what yoga can do, handed out flyers, and spoke about the yoga fundamentals class series she was offering. She asked me, “and how many people do you think signed up or even asked a question?”

None. Zero. Out of 200 people.

Do you want fries with that?