Evolution of a Formerly Licensed Anusara Teacher.

Via Bernadette Birney
on Mar 6, 2012
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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.




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 berniebirney.com .


13 Responses to “Evolution of a Formerly Licensed Anusara Teacher.”

  1. Cheryl Chaffee says:

    It's exciting! Yesterday, I began my class with <gasp!> kapalabhati pranayama! Unheard of opening for an Anusara class! I was actually so excited about the pranayama, that I forgot the invocation….we did our opening "om" in Downward Facing Dog when I realized my omission. 😉

  2. Bernie, I undertsand your excitement… I had 17 tears with RF before Anusara and this has never left me..deeply embedded in my teaching and so important.. Keeps us real,keeps us out of dogma… Thanks dear one,xo

  3. babu says:

    Sounding a bit stepford wife-ey….

  4. G.C.Aloha says:

    I'm not a teacher (yet); I was just contemplating whether or not to embark on the Anusara teacher training process when all of this came down. And now I feel as a student exactly like you do as a teacher, exploring different teachings and spending time playing with poses at home as I consider which certification path to follow. Everything you describe–right down to the dynamic of naughtiness and freedom–is how I feel right now. Six years ago, Anusara saved my life. But for the past year or so, I've been feeling like I was in something of a rut. Now I'm experiencing the yoga world fresh once again. Thanks for this very resonant piece.

  5. diane says:

    Encourage you to look into the Urban Zen Integrative Therapist trainings that will take place at Omega in the fall. The emphasis on true service and self-care might be just the opening to new tomorrows.

  6. brad says:

    It's just that sort of thing that kept me out, blissfully, as it turns out, of the A-yogaTribe. Way back in 2003 or something, I was doing A-yoga in San Francisco. There was a teacher's class that I liked and and that seemed to help, but over time she was never there — always running off to some training or event — and some bland no-nothing sub showed up instead. So I looked for a teacher who was not only knowledgeable, but stable and reliable. I found a couple, but they were not from the A-yoga Kula.

  7. Bernie, you have such an eloquent and graceful voice. I so enjoying reading your pieces. Lots of love to you as you explore and unfold along your exciting new journey.~ Jeannie Page

  8. I guess I'm kind of confused.
    I can think of a number of Anusara classes I've been to that started with child's pose.
    I understand your point – but it's not my experience.
    In way that Air element is taught in the Anusara method is to see "what is" from a different perspective. This sounds as if it was as dogmatic as a Bikram sequence.

    "F.O.M.O." seems to be a natural part of maturation in any evolving system – not limited to Anusara. Over the years I've seen a variety of teaching from various Anusara yoga teachers. When I began studying Integral Enlightenment and weaving the teachings into my Anusara Yoga classes I didn't sense a discrepancy as much as an evolution. I'm the teacher sharing a conversation with my students.. not some emoticon instructing a manual.

    I'm curious if your lack of creativity to this point was real, or if you're exaggerating your recent breakthroughs to create another blog post?

    I've also weaved the deeper teachings of Ayurveda into my Anusara yoga classes the entire time I've been a certified Anusara teacher. I've never been told by other certified Anusara teachers that I was out of alignment with the method. I'm curious if you identify your experience of rigidity and the need-to-catch-up-to-stay-current as part of what was taught in Anusara… or as part of your own shadow work.

    I'd love to hear from other certified teachers if your experience was similar to Bernadette's.

  9. UnWonderment says:

    Can someone please start a support group for whatever these X Anusaris are calling themselves now? Please please please it's about time that these "yogis" who lost their label realize that they are just like every other peep out there……whether they have their heathers clique functioning or not……Waylon could you start a separate blog for these peeps? It could be members only, just like the jacket, a good revenue stream

  10. Michelle Corey says:

    OMG, Bernadette your latest musings are exactly what I've been trying to articulate to share with others as to my future plans as a yoga teacher! If you don't mind I'd love to share this as an explanation as to what I've been thinking and where I am going? 🙂 With much love, Michelle

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