I’ve returned from Kripalu from the Desikachar tribute weekend put together by Leslie Kaminoff and Lydia Mann that I wrote about here. Leslie entitled it “Celebrating T.K.V. Desikachar: We Are the Lineage” and in the photo above are the presenters who took part.
There were three yoga sessions daily by each presenter, each one presenting an aspect of what they learned in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition. Each night the presenters talked about how they came to the Krishnamarcharya Yoga tradition, what inspired them about it, and how they interacted with Desikachar.
Each one learned different things from Desikachar but the consistent thread was learning one-on-one with him and relationship. Desikachar always taught that Yoga IS relationship. Each of them went to India with different agendas, each one wanted to learn something different from the other so Desikachar taught to the individual according to their interests.
None of them went through a typical yoga teacher training with him as one does now, like a 200 or 500 hour training. Listening to their stories it reminded me how differently they were taught then by Desikachar as opposed to now where people chase the pieces of paper that declares them a “yoga teacher.”
Does studying a mere 200 or 500 hours make you a yoga teacher? In the 1970s and 1980s you would study with a teacher like Desikachar who would one day tell you “OK, now you’re ready, go out and bring what you learned into the world.” Nowadays, who would be willing to study with a master teacher until they were told, in the master teacher’s opinion, that they were ready to teach? What if that took two or three years instead of less than one year? Be honest.
Each of the above presenters wanted to learn different things — Kraftsow was into religious studies while Kaminoff was not. Johar went to Chennai to learn dance at the famous Kalakshetra dance school and met a man on a bus who said “you should go see my yoga teacher” and told him to go to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. Kraftsow learned something that Payne did not learn that was different from Miller’s training and so it went with each one. Same same but different as we say in India.
Which brings us back to yoga teacher trainings as they are currently taught and what makes a good teacher.
I’ve never studied with Rod Stryker but he said this:
“Above all else: never, never stop being a student; study with the best, most notably, those who truly embody what they teach. Only then can you become a teacher of distinction. Only when you grow to understand and feel a legitimate link to the vision of yoga as seen by the tradition of yoga, and relate to it as something that breathes with sublime life and wisdom––and has long before you took your first breath––will you truly thrive as student and only then can you become a great teacher.”
My first teacher training in 2002 was not even 200 hours and my teacher did not belong to Yoga Alliance, he grandfathered into it. He also did not go through a typical teacher training. He was living with his Indian guru who told him, “You’re ready, go to Chicago and teach,” so he came and opened one of the first yoga studios in Chicago, if not THE first one in 1984.
I went back in 2003 to do Suddha’s course again where he taught it a bit differently. I ended up meeting Srivatsa Ramaswami shortly thereafter who introduced me to the Krishnamacharya tradition and the rest is history. None of the intensives or private one-on-one classes I took at KYM from 2005-2015 were “teacher trainings.” I do not have one piece of paper from KYM that says I am a “certified yoga teacher” in the lineage, yet I’ve been told that with all my trainings since 2002 I have a PhD in Yoga. I once received an email from KYM referring to me as a “senior teacher” in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition. Cough, cough. Yeah, that and $3 will buy me a Starbucks.
So where are the students who want to study with a lineage holder in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition AKA me? Crickets.
After teaching for 17 years I finally have a mentee whom I adore because she said she wanted to study with a teacher from a lineage. Lineage was important to her. She drives from Indianapolis (about 4 hours) once a month for a weekend and I teach in the old school way as Desikachar taught each of the presenters mentioned above: she comes with what she wants to learn, asks questions, and I answer them. Simple.
She leaves and then until we see each other again, she allows what I’ve taught to resonate with her. She recently told me:
“I have been processing a lot about being a modern yoga teacher — what is authentic and truthful to the practice and what resonates as authentic and truthful to me (in my understanding of that truth)?What I am finding is that the Krishnamacharya lineage, as I am learning through you, has strong resonance. I am looking forward to continuing under your mentorship. I am also rediscovering and reengaging my practice on a very basic level. I’m getting to my mat and simply making shapes and witnessing my body respond. …I am feeling more relaxed about my learning journey. It’s a lifetime. … I am letting what I learned settle and integrate. There is no need to hurry the process. I was seeking to obtain some definition of who I am/what I do. It does not matter. The label is the suffering and has often been my suffering. I do not fit the mold. It’s okay. I am enough.”
Who wants some?