Tag Archives: Krishnamacharya

teacher trainings: then and now

desikachar kripalu
L TO R: Leslie Kaminoff, Navtej Johar, Mirka Scalco Kraftsow, Gary Kraftsow, R. Sriram, Mark Whitwell, Richard Miller, Larry Payne  ©2018 Metta Yoga: Mind-Body Education

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.”
That’s REAL YOGA.

Who wants some?

meet me at Kripalu

IMG_0150
T.K.V. Desikachar chanting, September 2005 ©METTA YOGA 2018

For those who have studied in the Krishnamacharya/Desikachar Yoga tradition or for those who are wondering about it, June 2018 will give you a good opportunity to experience what that tradition is all about and you don’t have to go to India.

Leslie Kaminoff has put together a weekend in tribute to T.K.V. Desikachar at Kripalu, June 21-24.  Presenters include Leslie, Navtej Johar, Gary Kraftsow, Mirka Kraftsow, Richard Miller, Larry Payne, R. Sriram, and Mark Whitwell.  You can see all the teachers’  information and register on the Kripalu website.  My flight tix are bought and I am registered but I can tell you that most of the private rooms with private baths are gone.  The site is also very buggy and gets hung up (no matter what browser I used) so it is best to call to register.

For the last three years I haven’t done any major yoga things so I’m excited to attend as I’ve never been to Kripalu.  If you go and want to share the cost of a car from the Albany airport to Kripalu, contact me.

If you are not familiar with the Krishnamacharya/Desikachar Yoga tradition this is a heartfelt piece written by Gary Kraftsow.  Yes, there are still teachers who have never heard of Krishnamacharya or Desikachar.  I met a Canadian yoga teacher during my trip to India last year who had no idea who they were.

This part of Gary’s piece rings so true for me:

“From the beginning, he emphasized what his father had told him: “The teaching is for the student, not the teacher.” He taught me that I was not teaching students to do yoga techniques correctly, but that I was teaching them how to use yoga techniques to help them understand and transform themselves. My job, he told me, was to see the student’s needs and interests, meet them where they were, and provide appropriate and accessible tools to help them move from where they were to where they wanted to go. He said that my real goal with students should be to inspire and empower them to deepen their own understanding of yoga and to commit to a personal practice.”

  I have recently started mentoring a young yoga teacher and we did not talk about one asana for the entire weekend.  We talked about personal transformation because she wanted to know how to incorporate that idea into her classes, how to move beyond the physical practice.

While I studied directly with Desikachar in only my first two trainings at KYM, every teacher there who studied with him and were teaching us always imparted that as teachers we are teaching students “how to use yoga techniques to help them understand and transform themselves.”  I remember how nervous I was to chant a few lines of the Gayatri Mantra for Sir (as we called him) during my second visit.  He said “Good” when I finished and that was all I needed to hear.  🙂

Every year for 10 yrs, from 2005-2015,  I was immersed in the idea of YOGA AS TRANSFORMATION via the trainings and the personal one-on-one classes I took with Desikachar’s senior teachers.  At the same time from 2012-2014 I also studied with Ganesh Mohan, son of A.G. Mohan, in his yoga therapy program.  I’ve always said that “Yoga cooks us” so I was definitely getting cooked!  😀    I am so very grateful to Srivatsa Ramaswami for introducing me to the tradition in 2004 on his first visit to Chicago.

While I will never be a well-known teacher like Leslie Kaminoff, Mark Whitwell, Gary Kraftsow, Erich Schiffmann or other famous students of Desikachar, sharing the wisdom to thousands of students a year as they do, I am glad I can impart my small pieces of Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition in my tiny yoga space in suburban Chicago, one student at a time — Yoga as it is meant to be taught, in my opinion.  My mentee has already started taking it out into her yoga world in Indianapolis and that does my heart good.

I am sure this will be great weekend.

Viniyoga (trademarked) and #MeToo

pondicherry sign
Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining

The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?  Life in this here Modern Yoga World.

I’m coming out of self-imposed writing exile to write about Kausthub Desikachar again.  The latest is that he trademarked the word “Viniyoga.”   Here is his justification for the trademark.   The word “viniyoga” is in the Yoga Sutra-s so it is as if Kausthub is trademarking the word “AUM.”  Whaaat?!  I’m told that he is already sending cease and desist letters to those using the word “Viniyoga.”

Leslie Kaminoff wrote his response to Kausthub’s trademarking.  Leslie has said all that needs to be said about it, in my opinion.  I won’t add anything else other than I believe it’s all ego on Kausthub’s part and extremely misguided.  It would make more sense to trademark “Desikachar Yoga” like “Forrest Yoga” or “Bikram Yoga” or “Jois Yoga” but “Viniyoga” as a style?  Since he does not have an heir to carry on the Krishnamacharya Yoga lineage (he has a teenage daughter from a first marriage who has no interest in yoga), maybe that is his reasoning?  One can only speculate.

The ill will and anger he is creating is his own karma.  It would not be the first time that shit rains down on a yoga teacher because of EGO.  You can draw your own conclusions from both writings.

BY THE WAY, KAUSTHUB, I AM ALSO LINEAGE HOLDER
OF YOUR GRANDFATHER’S YOGA TRADITION.
JUST BECAUSE YOU TRADEMARKED A WORD
DOESN’T MAKE THAT LESS SO.

As for the #metoo movement, it affected me.  Deeply.  I have my own #metoo stories as a survivor but not from the yoga world.   At the time I looked at the Facebook pages of certain yoga teachers who were accused of sex abuse to see if they came out to own their shit, to support women.  Kausthub was one whose page I looked at.  Nothing.  Crickets.  For those who need a reminder, this is the first piece I wrote about him in 2012.  I also wrote about him here and here.

I know those who are currently studying with him in India and I respect their judgment.  I am not going to disavow friendships because of whom they choose to study with.  I also attended a workshop he taught last year in Dixon, IL given at a woman’s house because frankly, no Chicago area yoga studio will host him (that I am aware of.)  That being said, John Friend has no shortage of workshop opportunities from what I hear so who knows if Kausthub will teach here in the future.

Quite honestly, I went because I was curious, to see if things had changed with him.  I last saw Kausthub at length in 2006 in India.  Kausthub was an arrogant albeit excellent, even brilliant, teacher.  I previously wrote about him when he gave a lecture in one of my KYM intensives about 5 years later.  At the Dixon IL weekend the wisdom teachings in the yoga tradition that I have studied for 10+ years were wonderful, but all weekend I felt that something wasn’t right, something felt off to me about him.  Kausthub asked me if I wanted to bring students to his new school in Chennai as I had to KYM in 2013.  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.  I also would no longer bring students to KYM either (given another “yoga war” which is another subject), however, I won’t tell people not to study there.

Now Kausthub says that Viniyoga (R with a circle around it) “honors women.”

I will leave that right here and you can digest it given all that went down in 2012.  As Australian yoga studio owner, Nikola Ellis, asked, “What does Kausthub Desikachar have in common with Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein?  They’re all great supporters and defenders of women (and partial to trademarking).”

The stats he cites are just that.  Stats.  Everyone knows that yoga is practiced mainly by women and the majority of teachers are women.  KHYF does not hold women higher merely because a high percentage of women study there.

Kausthub also mentions his mother.  When I was in India in 2013 I was told that his mother was encouraging women to study with her son even during the uproar of the accusations against him.

Ironically Kausthub’s message about how he honors women arrived on the same day that Yoga Alliance published their new policy on sexual misconduct.

This morning I received this email.  I don’t know who sent it (obviously someone who has my email address) or who the “concerned yoga teachers and women” are, but I believe the trademarking together with his statement on “honoring women” lit the flames of a long simmering seemingly unresolved outrage:

Kausthub Desikachar, son of TKV Desikachar and grandson of T Krishnamacharya, was reported to have abused numerous students in 2012. The allegations were extensive, pointing to serial and systemic misconduct, but were either covered up or not examined impartially.

Kausthub, and his organization, KHYF, are now aggressively promoting themselves through his family connection to his famous father and grandfather. He is offering program on topics closely related to his alleged abuses, such as granthis, shadow side of yoga etc.

He has also been registered by the Yoga Alliance recently.

More details here: https://saveyogasavewomen.org.

By sharing this and adding your voice to this message, you are doing the right thing. If the allegations have no foundation, then Kausthub will address the issue and clear himself. If there is truth to it, as we have significant reason to believe, then you will stop more people from being hurt.

Please share this email and our website. Speak up against serial and systematic misconduct. Support ethics and abuse prevention in yoga.

You can also write to the Yoga Alliance at: iwanttohelpya@yogaalliance.org.

Thank you.

Namaste,

A group of concerned yoga teachers and women

I knew in my bones that as soon as the shit hit the fan with his trademark, that someone would again raise the topic of his sexual misconduct.  It was only a matter of time.  Some of the things I referred to in my posts in 2012 are also mentioned on this new website such as how KYM and long time teachers knew and did nothing.  You can read all the links on the site.

As much as I abhor Kausthub’s actions from 2012, still think he has a massive ego, and his trademarking of the word “Viniyoga” is extremely misguided, I believe that anonymous attacks are questionable.  When I wrote about Kausthub, I put myself on the line.  When I reviewed his book on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika,  I put my reputation on the line.  When I attended the weekend workshop with him last year I put myself on the line because of what I wrote in 2012.  I was accused of being an enabler by people who don’t know me and by some who do, none of whom knew anything about my reasons for doing his workshop last year.  I am not responsible for what people think about me.  My true friends never doubted me for a moment.

I understand the need for an outlet for victims/survivors.
During the #Metoo discussion I saw the face of my rapist in my mind’s eye daily. 

But an anonymous website, should it be done that way?  I don’t know and I am certainly not going to tell a victim/survivor what they should or should not do.  You can draw your own conclusions about the “save yoga save women” website.

Kausthub will never see the inside of a courthouse.  Instead, he will have to deal with the court of public opinion that can be more brutal than what happens inside a real courthouse.

Karma bites us all in the ass in one way or another.  The Universe pushes us towards things we are supposed to do and things we are not supposed to do.  Sometimes we go against our better judgment and do questionable things anyway.  There are lessons in all of it.  My teacher in Chicago just shrugs his shoulders and says, “Life.”

One thing I’ve come to realize in my old age is that there are no enlightened beings, only enlightened actions.

ain’t nothing new…

Last year I became a certified Reflexologist.  I love doing the work.  For most of last year I worked with a friend who went through chemo, surgery, and finally radiation for breast cancer.  She said…“I could not have made it through my ordeal this year without you.  Your mojo is what balanced out all the scary medical stuff.  I knew I could get through, but relaxing as you did your thing was one of the only times my mind was clear enough to truly embody that message.”

I became a Reflexologist #1, because I was inspired by some awesome reflexology I received in India and #2, I wanted to learn something new and different.

But the bottom line is…

Nothing new under the sun… all it is is re wrapped and sold in a different language

I also do what I call “Shamanic Energy Work” (I use the word Shamanic because I’m Native) but there’s a ton of energy healing modalities out there.  Reiki, Quantum Touch, Reconnective Healing.  Same same but different as we say in India.  Aint’ nothing new.  Energy is energy.

It’s so true that there is nothing new under the sun.  I’ve been teaching Yoga since 2002. Today I looked at the Omega and Kripalu offerings just to see what’s what.  My first thought was, “I’ve been teaching these same things for 15 years.”

“Trauma sensitive yoga? I was teaching Yoga in a domestic violence shelter long before anyone even heard of Dave Emerson or “trauma sensitive yoga.”  Other than learning about the physiological aspects of trauma in the body, the training was a rehash of what I had already learned in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition.

“Introduction to Yin Yoga”?  I was one of the first Yin Yoga teachers in the Chicago area and taught classes and workshops at least 12 years ago.  I brought Yin Yoga to the Yoga community in Arusha, Tanzania in 2010.

Sorry J. Brown, but I was teaching “slow yoga” before it became a thing.  Breath-centered Yoga?  Starting teaching that way in 2005 and ever since.

“Mindful Yoga”?  I was in the first Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock in California 2007-2009.  Combining the Buddhadharma and Yoga in my classes felt right to me before I took that training.

“Therapeutic Yoga”?  I offered a workshop on Yoga in the Krishnamacharya Tradition for Yoga teachers after my first time at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  No one signed up.  Not one teacher at the studio where I taught at the time was interested.

Ain’t nothin’ new, kids.  The only thing is that those teaching at places like Kripalu and Omega can market themselves a hell of a lot better than I can.

As a long ago private student told me, it’s hard being a pioneer because pioneers get the arrows shot up their asses.  Much easier to follow the leader.

Like anything else, I see a lot of people running after that new, best thing.  It’s always been there, right in front of you.

Look for the Yoga Elder in your neighborhood.  You might be surprised at what you find in the deep hole you dig once you stop digging the shallow ones.

arf-arf! recommended by da' Dawg...

 

 

do I need to be anointed to be credible?

 

So much goes on in the Modern Yoga World (TM) now that it’s hard to keep up without it sounding like a constant rant.  Maybe I should just write about what actor or rock star does yoga, post a photo of them drinking a latte with a mat under their arm, and comment on what brand yoga pants they wear.  That would really be so much easier and would probably get me more readers.  But I digress.

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about the Yoga Alliance stance on using terms such as “yoga therapy” or “therapeutic yoga” or anything that sounds like a teacher has anything to do with “healing” or “medicine” or even “alleviating.”  You can can go on their site and see the restricted words.  As someone who worked for litigation lawyers for 20 years I know it was a CYA (“cover your ass”) move.

The policy does not only apply to your YA profile but also to your personal website IF you are YA registered.  Don’t register with the YA and you can say whatever you want about what you do or how you teach.

I am now an E-RYT 500 teacher with the YA and also an official “Continuing Education Provider.”  Yes, yes, yes, I know — I ranted for years about the Yoga Alliance, I totally own that.  You can read what I wrote in 2011 here when I was a mere E-RYT 200.

But the fact remains that there are those WHO WILL NOT STUDY OR TRAIN WITH A TEACHER UNLESS THEY ARE ANOINTED BY THE YOGA ALLIANCE.  I resisted reinstating my YA registration for years and finally broke down.  Of the teachers I know who also consider the YA useless and a waste of money, 100% say that the reason they pay up is because of the above reason.  The teacher training I took at the old school Chicago studio where I originally certified in 2002 was never YA registered until people starting asking the owner whether his training was YA registered.

The fact is that I re-joined the YA purely for marketing reasons, not because I think it means anything.  The fact is that after teaching for 15 years, training for 10 years in India, and being featured in a book, I am a yoga nobody where I live so if the YA seals give me “credibility” and “presence”, so be it.

I do not have the luxury of owning a studio that can attract students.  And yes, if you are surviving and making money with a yoga studio that IS a luxury in today’s yoga business market, consider yourself lucky.  I live in a town of 25,000 and there are three studios besides a park district that offers yoga.  Fifteen years ago when I started teaching and basically knew nothing, I had 40 students in another park district’s class.  Now I am lucky if I have five students who show up consistently.  Those students don’t care about the YA but if I can get teachers who want more training by using the YA seal, I am going to use it to my advantage.  It ain’t personal, it’s business, baby.

Cora Wen told me that back in 2001 Judith Lasater told her: “Every profession has an organisation and YA looks like they are winning in the registry.  Get the certificate now.  Or you will one day have to pay someone less qualified than you are to get a certificate.”

There ya go.  Like I said….

YACEP

Now the International Association of Yoga Therapists has rolled out their “certification” for yoga therapists.  I’ve been an IAYT member for years and even wrote an article for their journal on teaching trauma sensitive yoga.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think there should be some type of measure of a yoga teacher’s ability just as there is a measure for massage therapists, for example.  And yes, I know MTs are licensed which I absolutely do not agree with for yoga teachers.  But for these paid for labels to be the be-all and end-all and the only thing that makes a teacher worthy in the public eye makes me very itchy.

I looked into the IAYT certification process but I don’t have the proof that in all the intensives I took at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram that there was any “yoga therapy” involved.  But there was because there always is something about yoga therapeutics beyond asana practice.

What got me thinking about all of this was the article “Are We Entering a Golden Age of Yoga Therapy??” by Eden Goldman.  According to Goldman’s quote…

“Yoga Therapy is the philosophy, art, and science of adapting classical Yoga techniques to contemporary situations to support people with physical, mental, and emotional ailments. According to the definition of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), “Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.”

Practically speaking, Yoga Therapy is the reinvention of a personalized Yoga experience where the practice is modified to meet the individual’s ever-changing needs. Since ancient times, adaptability in one’s teaching, practice, and approach has rested at the heart of Yoga’s most fundamental influence: the relationship, insights, and trust created through the practice by one teacher working with one student.”

…I’ve been a “yoga therapist” for 10+ years.  Do I still need to be anointed by the IAYT to be credible?

I’ve done 10 years of many intensives at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, multiple yoga therapy trainings including two levels of Phoenix Rising, 300 hours of Svastha Yoga Therapy with Dr. Ganesh Mohan, a Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors training at Duke University, and trauma sensitive yoga.  Besides teaching in India and Africa.

Can I call myself a “master teacher”?  You tell me.

Do I still need the YA and IAYT seals on my website to prove my worth to the rest of the world?

It’s become crystal clear to me that the name of the game in the Modern Yoga World is MARKETING because no one gives a damn about all of the above.  I don’t have the $6,000 that I need to upgrade my website to grab SEO and make it the latest and greatest Yoga Business site.  It’s much cheaper for me to lose myself in South India and hang a shingle that says “YOGA TEACHER TRAINING.”

In my 15 years of teaching I’ve never put myself out there as a “yoga therapist” because I believe all yoga can be therapeutic if applied in a beneficial manner.  Even Bikram Yoga was beneficial to the Vietnam War vet who spoke to us about his PTSD when I did the trauma sensitive yoga training.

I’ve always said that no one called Krishnamacharya a yoga therapist, he taught YOGA.

Krishnamacharya’s principle was “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.“  He taught that Yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.

Does one who jumps through the hoops and pays for the IAYT “certification” automatically know more or is more capable of supporting or empowering someone than I am?  The buying of labels has been problematic for me for years. It’s the same old story: people will study with a Yoga Alliance or IAYT labeled teacher before they will with someone who has the years of experience.

In the end, I don’t need validation.
I know what I offer.

But then in this Modern Yoga day and age there is this passing itself off as “Yoga Medicine.”  Yes, you CAN think yourself thin AND sexy!

It’s Tara Stiles’ Slim Calm Sexy Yoga all over again.  Just use the word “meditate” and it makes it all credible and so deliciously New Age.

THAT POST IS EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH MODERN YOGA.

Women with eating disorders feel bad enough about themselves already, how much worse will they feel if they can’t “think themselves thin”?  At least she didn’t mention bra fat.

How is this in any way empowering?  I’m all about mindful eating and eating healthy foods, but the buzzwords used by this “master yoga teacher and specialist in sports and Chinese medicine” are what is typically found on a magazine cover at your grocery store check out line, the same bullshit that sounds like “LOSE YOUR BELLY FAT IN 5 EASY YOGA MOVES!”

No wonder us old school teachers throw in the towel

Funny.  I did not see the Yoga Alliance or IAYT seals on her website.  Anywhere.

Without them you can say whatever you want to say about yoga.

let’s give ’em something to talk about

Fasten your seatbelts, kids!  I’ve seen a flurry of articles about yoga on Facebook that SCREAM for pithy comments!

Here goes:

Tony Perkins Upset That ‘Goofy’ Yoga Classes ‘Driving Religion Out’ Of Military

Christian conservative leader Tony Perkins is upset — this time, about yoga classes being offered to military members.

Why? Because the “goofy” style of exercise has been used as a “wacky” substitute for a “personal relationship with God,” effectively driving religion out of the military.

My first thought on that was hmmmmm……maybe if yoga was not taught as strictly a fitness regimen in many places (“power” yoga, “yoga boot camp”, etc.) and the therapeutic (healing for both body and mind) aspects were emphasized, maybe this guy wouldn’t think it was a “goofy style of exercise.”  Maybe if he knew that real yoga is all about healing and transformation……  but I know I ask for too much.

I am  not talking about yoga therapy.  I am talking about therapeutic aspects of yoga in general.  I don’t separate the therapeutic aspects in my classes.  I occasionally do private yoga therapy sessions (such as trauma sensitive yoga), but I consider ALL my classes therapeutic in one way or another.  In western yoga culture, there is yoga and then there is yoga therapy.  Separation.  Duality.  No one called Krishnamacharya a “yoga therapist.”   Krishnamacharya’s principle was “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.“   He taught that yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.   When people lined up down the street outside his door he prescribed practices for them based on their individual needs, asana+pranayama+meditation.  It was just yoga.  It saddens me that I still have to explain to people that yoga heals, it’s not all about getting your ass kicked in a yoga class.

Actor, columnist, cook: Meet Yoga’s glamour girl Kathryn Budig

Damn, and I thought I was yoga’s glamour girl!  Ripped off again!  A comment from my Facebook page:  “‘she realized she was meant to be a yoga teacher.’  I never had that realization.  Rather, my teachers told me.  And I resisted.”

My teacher also told me to become a teacher and I resisted, too, but I became a teacher at 48, an age that some people think you’re all washed up.  I read something the other day:  in this culture when a woman hits her 50s she becomes invisible to men.  When a woman hits her 60s she becomes invisible to other women.   Good thing Ms. Budig is already a sensation at the ripe age of 29.

A New Year’s Resolution for Queer and Trans People of Color: Forget the Gym, Occupy Yoga Studios

This piece rocks!  I absolutely love it.  Although I am not black/brown/L/B or T, I feel the same way:

I’m tired of Googling “yoga” only to have images spat back at me that scream entitlement–the kind of entitlement that comes with being able to pay $18 for a class that takes place in some bourgie studio with the words “om” and “namaste” printed on everything and giant pictures of the Hindu God Ganesha everywhere.

I’ll tell you what I’m tired of:  yoga bleaching. 

yoga bleaching: 1. a form of marketing in which yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle is used to make an otherwise unrelated product appear to be in line with yogic principles. 2. the act of using yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle to sell an unrelated product. 3. a form of spin or marketing intended to deceive consumers into believing that a product is related to yogic practice or theory when in fact it is not.

The local studio is selling a natural deodorant with the name of DeOm.  Yes, you read it correctly:  DE OM with a conspicuous AUM symbol on the bottle.  It was created by a teacher at the studio using minerals and organic herbs.  You can sweat like a horse in your hot vinyasa class but not stink like a street in India:

pondicherry sign

Now I am all for women entrepreneurs and I know the teacher; she’s very nice, I like her, and I hope she makes a lot of money, I really do.   HOWEVER…..using a sacred symbol to push your product a la yoga bleaching makes me all types of itchy.  A different name and image perhaps such as LOTUS, even AKASHA?  I would probably buy a natural deodorant named Lotus or Akasha but wiping something with the AUM symbol under my arms?  But hey, that’s me.

Would it be any different if I invented some new fangled toilet paper and named it “Jesus Wipes” and put His image on it?

Just askin’.

Not Your Parents’ Yoga

Jason Brown once again knocks it out of the park:

Among serious-minded practitioners, there is palpable discontent with the course the yoga industry seems to be on. Teachers, who in the past were voices defining what yoga is in the 21st century, are now understandably more concerned with enjoying their latter years than attempting to push back against entrenched forces that care little for the soul of yoga. The newer generation has often been thrown out into the wilderness without the tools or knowledge to fulfill their impulse to carry the torch. In the absence of teachers framing the conversation and defining yoga in authentic ways, the market will always fill the gap with whatever sells….

One of my readers here wrote to me and said how refreshing it was to see someone doing “old school” with no apologies. There is much to be said about staying true to yourself and not caving to mainstream.  I may not have lots of students because I no longer teach in studios but as a friend told me, I and my students have created a true sangha, old school yoga way.

Folks are not buying just anything as yoga anymore. And they are telling their friends. The rampant commercialization and co-opting of yoga has become so overblown that even the unfamiliar are skeptical. Times remain too tough to effectively continue hocking candy-coated platitudes. From out of the daunting malaise of pressures and seeming demise, conditions are becoming more ripe to slough off obsolete thinking. No more will we be led around by false gurus or complacent with hypocrisies. No longer will success be defined by status or achieved at the expense of others.  We can and will do better. Let us have the courage to imagine it so.

I’m certainly not a yoga sensation like Ms. Budig but when a woman younger than her tells this Crone, “You are a life saver.  Without you I would be a stressed out 20 year old bitching about everything.  Now I live my life and I’m writing my own story and I have never felt better.  I tell everyone about you and how you guide people to find not only  happiness but themselves.  I thank you for opening my eyes to that.”….

….. THAT is success.  Priceless.

The New Mantra: Replacing ‘Om’ With ‘Glam’

The athletic-wear company Lululemon, known for its yoga togs, introduced a meditation-specific capsule collection in fall 2012, with pieces retailing at relatively affordable prices, including a Devotion Long-Sleeve Tee ($68) and an Intuition Sweater Wrap ($178) that doubles as a meditation blanket. With its extra-deep hood, the Please Me Pullover ($118) is perfect to wear during Zen Buddhist meditation practice, said Amanda Casgar, a spokeswoman for the company, since during the process “you keep your eyes open but focus on a point on the floor in front of you. Pulling the hood right down over your eyes automatically creates that line of sight,” she said.
For the more affluent enthusiast, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen line, affiliated with her charitable wellness foundation of the same name, has become a popular choice (sweat pants, $995).

Oh.  My.  Goddess.  How the hell did anyone meditate before the Please Me Pullover?!?  I mean, really?  Apparently these guys don’t know a damn thing about yoga and meditation ’cause they’re all nekkid!  How did they survive all these years?

IMG_1373
Real Yogis, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, 2010

“When meditating, the author Gabrielle Bernstein avoids belts or drawstring pants. “Tying anything to your body blocks the energy flow,” she said.”  Please show me the palm leaf in India where that is written.   Is that in the secret palm leaf library in Tamil Nadu?

Note the traditional red string tied around the waists of these babas.

Just sayin’.

Lastly, while this is not a post on yoga per se, I believe it is relevant considering the NYT piece.

Creativist Manifesto:  Consumer v. Creator

I think it absolutely ties in with modern yoga.

Being a consumer means accepting an essentially passive role in our life, one in which we seek fulfillment through the accumulation of stuff, whether it be material goods, a high status job, or even in terms of our relationships.

And yet, increasingly, we know that living our life as consumers is damaging us—damaging us as individuals and as a society, and damaging the earth that supports us. As consumers, we are left searching for that which will give meaning to our lives, as we fail to find lasting satisfaction in consumption….

Instead of seeing ourselves as consumers, I believe we need to see ourselves as Creativists.

A Creativist is a person who creates and connects and acts. Creativists are connected with who they are and are driven from the inside out, rather than being defined by a position as a consumer in society. Creativists fulfill their need to create which is part of all of us. Creativists use their gifts, and in doing so connect with others and in turn society benefits.

The distinction is clear. Consume versus Create. And the forces of consume versus create contain within them a series of choices that we make everyday in our lives—in our relationships, at work and in our communities.

And that’s why Yoga — REAL Yoga — is a radical act.  As Krishnamacharya said, “Yoga is a process of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate patterns.”  Real Yoga enables us to make appropriate choices for our relationships, work, and communities.

The renouncers of the Vedic rituals, the ancient yogis, the sramanas,  were radicals who made the choice to break free of mainstream 8th Century BC.

No special clothes required.

what’s the line between ego and service?

Sometimes readers email me to shoot the breeze about yoga stuff.  Last week a reader and Facebook friend wondered about this (he gave me permission to quote him.)  He said:

“I had a conversation with my mentor…whom has been my connection to the Krishnamacharya lineage.  We were discussing the effects of traditional systems vs. Innovative systems, most specifically the relationship between Ego and a teacher’s “need” to innovate.

Obviously one of the key features of Krishnamacharya’s teaching was the importance of adaptation of the practice to suit the individual…..and American teachers seem to be very good at adaptation….but that adaptation seems to be more about their own ego and “self value” in creating the newest and most “effective/clever” system of Yoga.

I’m not really asking a direct question, but more your thoughts, maybe you’ve written something of similar subject?  I figure your being connected with KYM, this is something you guys discussed?”

Interesting discussion!

I actually have never written about this and in all my times at KYM, this topic has never come up.  If I understand the question correctly, it is:  where does the ego and service, so to speak, separate?

I can’t comment on what other teachers “invent”….Anusara, Forrest yoga, etc.  Does it come out of their ego on wanting to control or change things?  I don’t know.  Someone once said that I created METTA YOGA.  Did I?  I don’t know.  I say that Metta Yoga is the Yoga of Awareness, i.e. being awake to reality, all the good and especially the bad, our shadows.  All I know is what informs my practice:  trainings at KYM, with Srivatsa Ramaswami, Buddhism.  “My” yoga is all about the breath, meeting people where they are (both aspects being totally KYM), being aware of what is happening now (the Buddhadharma.)  Yoga, for me, must contain pranayama and meditation for it to be called Yoga, but that’s me, that’s the lineage in which I study.  Am I going to totally spin the teachings to suit my own purpose?  No, because to me Real Yoga (and I don’t care if that phrase upsets people) is about Transformation and Healing.

We all know what happened with John Friend and Anusara…karma?  And people applaud Ana Forrest’s “new” way of teaching — isn’t it supposed to be a bit more therapeutic now?  I’ve been teaching that way for years, i.e., about watching what comes up, digging down to face your demons.  In my opinion, she did not come up with anything brand new.

No one called Krishnamacharya a “yoga therapist.”  When I was in India this year, A.G. Mohan told us that Indians did not come to see Krishnamacharya for “yoga for fitness”, i.e., purely asana practice.  They lined up literally down the street to see him for yoga for depression, bad backs, and other conditions.  He did not teach “yoga therapy”, IT WAS JUST YOGA.  So did he change what he learned from his gurus?  Of course he met the individuals where they were, we know that he taught Iyengar, Jois, and his son Desikachar differently because that’s how those styles evolved.  But did he make up something that was dramatically different from what his gurus taught him?  I don’t think so.

All I know is that I must meet people where they are and as Desikachar has said, whatever happens, happens.

What I do know is that in the end, it’s all the same, really.  What did Friend create?  Anusara is Iyengar inspired and he put a new spin on things, his whole tantra-esque thinking is nothing new, he just made it sexy palatable for Westerners.

After I responded, the reader went on to say that “the direction American Yoga is moving in is pretty darn interesting.  In fact, over contemplating your email, I started wondering what drives most Western yoga students to become “teachers” in the first place, let alone trying to reinvent their “own” system.   Part of it, I’m assuming, is the ego wanting this seemingly luxurious life of being a yoga teacher……because let’s face it, the way most Americans work their lives away pretty much sucks!  The American Dream has essentially become Corporate Slavery.

I think Americans turn to Yoga because it almost seems like a way out.   In a way, it’s a very distorted approach to Moksha!
 
The other reason I think students are going the “teacher” route is that it kind of offers students a way of deepening their own Yoga practice/sadhana — [quoting his teacher] “teaching is a fierce sadhana”.   Ain’t that the f%$#ing truth!  I think American yoga students do want and are hungry for more than just “asana classes” so why not go through a teacher training course!  They are always also described as an “opportunity to deepen one’s own practice”!  I think the American yoga community is maturing enough as a whole to realize there has to be something more to yoga than just asana…..hence so much innovation and crazy weird shit happening in yoga classes.
 

As bad a rep as the Guru principle has received in the US, I think it’s a missing element.  The idea that a teacher has done the long hard journey and come back to help others along.  Not to say they are totally missing….but I think there is a lack of very experienced teachers amongst the yoga population here.  And the ones that are around are too busy traveling around teaching workshops to thousands of students around the country rather than working closely with a student for a long long time!”

I absolutely agree that the the missing piece is having a Guru or at least a long-term relationship with one teacher which I kinda sorta wrote about here:   https://lindasyoga.com/2012/03/29/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-guru/

As for everyone doing teacher trainings, I personally think there are TOO MANY teacher trainings.  It feeds into what I wrote about babies teaching babies….https://lindasyoga.com/2011/08/03/babies-teaching-babies/ — which ironically has a video of John Friend!  Hey, who knew, right?  😉

As for yoga teacher trainings helping someone to “deepen” their own practice….really?  In what way?  Always?  For everyone?  I tell my students that if their path is the length and width of their yoga mat, that ain’t much of a path.   How are you treating people, what are you saying to people?  “Deepening your practice” is a loaded phrase.

I believe that teacher trainers do a disservice in taking everyone into their training, like those who have been doing yoga for a month.  Uh, no.  If I did my own training my requirement would be one year of solid yoga practice, at least once a week.  I am damn old school.  I was a student for 7 years before I became a teacher, not 7 weeks.

Another question to ask is, is yoga teaching a job or a way of life?  I know what it is for me.  I don’t care anymore about “success”, I just feel blessed to teach the students who seek me out in my home shala.   I did not want to come back from India this year, I wanted to stay in India and study study study.  On that false merit of prestige and “success” as a teacher:

“What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world.

[…]

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.

[…]

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.”

Talk amongst yourselves.