March 6, 2012

Evolution of a Formerly Licensed Anusara Teacher.

Begin in Child’s Pose, please.”

Instructing a yoga class to take Child’s Pose is hardly super newsworthy, right? I mean, I’m not talking landing on the moon, or curing cancer. I get that.

It’s only in the scheme of my own personal, and professional, evolution that there is any significance, whatsoever. See, for over a decade now, after looking around the room, inquiring about injuries, and introducing a theme, I have started every single class I’ve taught with the same instruction:  “Come to sit up tall and close your eyes.” 

As a licensed Anusara teacher that’s just how it’s done.

Changing the first pose might seem insignificant but my pulse quickened. I was cautiously poking one toe over an invisible boundary, and it felt, well–naughty.

It also felt wonderful.

Let’s rewind to 2001, when I completed my first yoga teacher training. Upon graduating, I quickly realized how much there was to know, and how little of it was actually known by me. Feeling that I needed to get up to speed, I quickly gobbled two more teacher trainings in quick succession.

I got on the Anusara fast track. That meant Continuing Ed. It meant Weekend Workshops. It meant traveling to events, to gatherings, and to teacher’s gatherings.

After I was “up to speed,” being on the fast track meant staying current. I started to accumulate trainings the way I once accumulated shoes. My bookshelves groaned under the weight of notebooks and binders, most of which remained on the shelf where they gathered dust, and made me vaguely uneasy.

There was never enough time to return to the embarrassment of information contained inside them. I was too busy staying current. Staying current was practically a full time job, except it didn’t pay as well. In fact, it cost plenty.

For the next four years, I continued to train in earnest. When I had to miss a training–because resources of time and money were limited–I got antsy. What if everyone else learned something that I didn’t learn? What if a particular loop or spiral was designated so last year, and I missed the memo? Would my teaching be less relevant? Would I be less professionally desirable or somehow exposed?

I wasn’t the only one suffering from these worries. A friend of mine dubbed the affliction F.O.M.O:  Fear of Missing Out.

By 2005, I was certified but I was also exhausted, and slightly depressed. For all my hard work, nothing was all that different. I felt like the same me, only with more pressure to keep up.

Eventually, I shoved one notebook too many onto the shelf, and it collapsed–both literally and metaphorically.

The time had come for less consumption of teachings, and more ownership of them. I made the conscious decision to get off the training wheel. I had been taught a lot. I kinda knew stuff. I wanted to see if all that I’d taken in could possibly emerge as my own expression.

I started a blog, and was immediately mortified about it. My desire to add my voice to the great conversation of yoga felt presumptuous. I stopped writing.

I continued to study, and to find value in my studies, but I slowed my pace. On my calendar, between seminars, I left more space for contemplation. I spent more time in the company of the teachings I planted inside myself, curious to see what kind of fruit they would bear.

When students ask me how to deepen their yoga practice, I always say:  “Start by taking a lot of different kinds of classes. Date around. When you find something you really love, settle down and stay a while. Hunker down. Go deep.”

I stand by that advice. I’ll never regret the time I spent in a monogamous relationship with Anusara yoga. (Although I do regret being complicit in going about it in such an insular way.) I believe there is real value in sticking with a practice long enough to taste its nuance. Certainly, my ideas about teaching have been greatly shaped by Anusara yoga, and I don’t anticipate a radical overnight change. In the words of the inimitable Christina Sell, “It’s not like I’m teaching thighs forward.”

I’m still me, and my teaching is still my teaching.

However, this is also a super-duper juicy time. Unexpected freedom feels incredibly invigorating. I have no plans to simply slap a new name on the Anusara alignment principles. I plan to take my time to discover what I might become. There’s no rush.

I’m excited to be a student again. I’m excited to rediscover the larger yoga community. I’m excited to take my time studying with teachers from other traditions. I’m exited to spend time in my own company. I have thoughts and ideas that I’m excited to give voice to. I’m excited to percolate, collaborate and cross-pollinate.

I’m excited to evolve.



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