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May 17, 2011

Anusara yoga®?

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.

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