February 21, 2012

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner.

Personal collection of Emma Magenta

Last week, after a bunch of us had resigned our Anusara yoga licenses, one of my staff called me.

“Emma, what I am going to do about all the times I say ‘we’ in my classes? All the times I say, ‘this is how we do it in Anusara yoga’, or ‘my teacher John Friend teaches that…’?”

I have only just begun to figure that stuff out myself. My teaching is peppered with self-referential comments about Anusara yoga’s founder, method, and community. Now that I’m re-examining these phrases, I realize why I used them so much: I never felt that my personal authority was enough to support what I was teaching.

As I told my friend, these events make me question: on whose authority do I speak? For eleven years I have rested on the authority granted me by John Friend and Anusara yoga. Now that I’ve resigned my license, what gives me the right to tell the 30 people in my class this morning what to do with their bodies?

I’ve concluded that it comes from this:

– my deep personal study of and inquiry into the matters under consideration
– my long experience of observing human bodies doing hatha yoga
– my community of students who choose to come to class and listen

I wish I could say that my authority is derived from my teachers (one of whom was John Friend) and my community of colleagues (Anusara yoga teachers and otherwise). But frankly, it doesn’t. Nobody’s listening to me because I have the John Friend seal of approval or because I have a good relationship with my colleagues. They’re listening to me because they perceive that I know what I’m doing. The people who don’t think I know what I’m doing, or don’t like what I’m doing, don’t come back! But enough of them DO come back that I know my offerings are striking a chord.

Any one of my regular students could have told me this, and in fact they have been telling me so over and over this week. I am so grateful. I feel that I’ve suddenly awakened to the fact that I have practiced hatha yoga for 13 years, I’ve taught it for eleven years, I have a degree in acupuncture, I am a well-educated, intelligent, creative, funny, mostly kind person. It’s time to claim my authority as my own.

Film: Dirty Dancing

Phrases I’m using now:

“In my experience…”
“The first time I tried this I…”
“Many of my students have told me that…”
“I’ve found that…”
“One of my teachers once told me that…”


Watch out, world.



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