Anusara yoga®?

Via Bernadette Birney
on May 17, 2011
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Let’s Talk About Leadership.

Photo by Richard Freeda Photography at Elements Yoga & Wellness Center.

I became certified to teach Anusara yoga® in March 2005.

It’s a big deal to become a certified Anusara yoga® teacher. In all this time, there are still under 400 teachers who bear this title.  My certificate is numbered 132.  I’m proud to be in such elite company.

In 2005, the certification process concluded with a telephone conversation with John. I was far too dazzled, speaking to John Friend, to say anything coherent, let alone intelligent, or witty.  At the end of the call, he congratulated me.

I was certified.

I hung up the phone, and sat, primly, on the couch, for what seemed like a long time.  There was nobody home to celebrate with, and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. It had been a long process, and I think I’d half-expected lotus flowers to fall from the sky upon my official certification.

I think I’d thought that becoming certified would make me somehow–different.  Better.  But I just felt like plain old me, and to be honest, I felt a bit blue about that.

The certification process prepared me to tell people how to use alignment principles, and how to take their thighs back.  It gave me a solid understanding of tantra’s power to free minds and crack open hearts, but it didn’t prepare me to lead.

I didn’t then understand that it would take time to grow into the role of certified teacher.

Fast forward six years.

There is now a robust Anusara community in Connecticut, my home. I am awed by the deep roots that have taken hold. Sometimes I feel like I must have planted one of Jack’s magical beans.

Yoga communities often spring up around around certified teachers, with the certified teacher becoming a sort of hub.  Ready or not, these certified teachers are thrust into the position of leadership.

In my own case, I had no idea what it meant to be a leader.  I had zero life experience preparing me.  In fact, I’d spent most of my life dodging commitment and responsibility, and making sure that no one held me accountable for anything.  I wasn’t even particularly good at leading myself, let alone anyone else.

I have had to get a lot better at it.  Recently, there have been ample opportunities to do exactly that, as a fair amount of local conflict has come to a head.  I believe that I was at least partially responsible for  some of those situations, even if only by being absent.

It feels good to step up, roll up my sleeves, and take some responsibility for both conflict, and resolution.  I’m grateful to everyone who was willing to sit down with me, and have conversations that weren’t necessarily comfortable.  Thank you for helping me grow.  Thank you for being essential to the CT community.

Consequently, I feel passionately that fellow teachers, and students, have the right to expect things of people, including me, in leadership positions.

I believe it’s fair to expect leaders to have:

  • Commitment to a vision for a local–or global–community with room for everyone to contribute, co-operate, flourish, and grow
  • Clear, frank and skillful communication
  • Ability to receive feedback
  • Insight as to how, and when, to offer loving guidance to those who haven’t yet walked quite as far down the path
  • Good conflict management skills

I used to have an aversion to being called a leader, but no more.  Now, I aspire to continue to grow into my role.  The work I’ve done thus far with The Handel Group has been of tremendous value to me in this arena.  I am so grateful for the training I’ve done.  I would also  love to see leadership training included in yoga trainings, so that we can all be more effective. It’s important.

Recently I read that leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.

I am all about that sh*t.


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


12 Responses to “Anusara yoga®?”

  1. Love this, Bernie.

    When I was in the software business, I used to run my own leadership development workshops, instead of bringing in someone from the outside. I thought it was too important to delegate.

    Here is the definition of leadership I used to open the workshop with, which is strikingly similar to your own:

    A leader is someone who figures out the right things and makes them happen.

    You might find this useful:
    Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology–
    The Four Strokes You Need To Be A Great Player
    (With Apologies To My Egyptologist Friends)

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  2. Tali says:

    oops, typo above. Second paragrah should read "I am NOW in a place.."

  3. James Hackney says:

    Becoming a certified Anusara instructor sounds a lot like finishing a PhD. You think of it as a goal, but soon you find that the training is really meant to become a tool to accomplish something new in your chosen field of scholarship, or, in this case, facilitate growth in students and colleagues.

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  5. bernieb says:

    James, I often make that same comparison! Well said!

  6. bernieb says:

    Thanks, Jennifer. Yes, the cool thing is that we step into this process that invites us to rise to the occasion.

  7. bernieb says:


    Will you marry me? I think I just fell in love with you.

    Seriously, I LOVE your brutal honesty, and insight. We are so on the same page.


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  9. […] often come to me with the idea that training alone will prepare them to teach and then they experience disappointment when this is not the case. […]

  10. theawakenedlife says:

    Hi Bernadette, I really enjoyed reading your post. I particularly liked this line: "I am awed by the deep roots that have taken hold." It resonated with my own feelings about the depth and breadth of the Anusara kula, world-wide. I am only a practitioner myself, not a teacher, but everyday I continue to be amazed and how connected the community is, and how much love is being spread around the world as a result. I'm honored to be a part of the community. Thank you for sharing!

  11. […] image for long enough and it seems to shift before your eyes. This is the pulsation of nature. In Anusara’s Tantric tradition we call the stillness Shiva and the movement Shakti. Stillness defines motion and […]