i’ve been in a bit of a rough patch lately, family deaths, work overload, travel, illness, mammograms, starting a new business, restarting an old one. that kind of thing.
but i’m really super excited for the upcoming Ekam Yoga Practitioner Training starting 1 july, which i’ll be teaching with my colleague 8LimbYogi. i’ve been hauling out all the books i haven’t read and re-reading the ones i know and love. and i know, deep down, that this is going to be a great experience for the practitioners and for me. but…
‘the practitioner will succeed, the non-practitioner will not. success in yoga is not achieved by merely reading books.’ -hatha yoga pradipika
the hatha yoga pradipika then goes on to say: ‘success is achieved neither by wearing lululemon nor by talking shit. only getting off your ass brings success. this is the truth, without a doubt.’ you can google that: chapter 1, verses 65-66.
one of the requirements of the training is that practitioners blog, tweet, write, journal, etc. their experience, and i’ll be joining them- blogging here about my experiences in delivering a quality yoga practitioner training. in one of my many journeys down the wikipedia rabbit hole i discovered that this is an important part of experiential learning. essentially: experiencing, reflecting, analyzing, decision making/problem solving and continuing on in the cycle. and i realized how fundamental this process is to an ashtanga yoga practice (or any yoga practice, or any practice). that is, the time and place to have the experience and to experiment with one’s experience, to reflect, analyze, try new things, make mistakes, change viewpoints, and then move on with the knowledge learned and apply it to the next experience. this thought process is very important in developing critical thinking.
the (western) yoga community these days is up in arms over injuries, scandals, and the complaint that a 200-hour teacher training just isn’t enough anymore (pssst: it never was). i think this is because of a lack of emphasis on providing an intellectual scaffolding within which to have an experience and a lack of interest in deepening a practitioner’s personal experience by allowing them to do the interpreting. and how can a (western) yoga teacher really provide that scaffolding when they themselves are trying to sell yoga mats and yoga towels and yoga socks to pay rent?
yes, many yoga teachers out there, for many reasons, are focused on selling their brand of yoga. someday i’ll tell you why. caught up in the practical workings of yoga, sometimes we forget to reinforce a student’s individual experience and encourage them to reflect on what it means to them. for example a student complains that their back hurts; a yoga teacher might respond: ‘it’s an opening, embrace it!’ and in that moment we’ve closed the door to critical thinking and experiential learning by solving the problem for them. in addition, we’ve limited ourselves and our own reflective practice as teachers. we could have asked so many questions: is this a new experience? was it a positive pain or a negative pain? does it remind you of anything? did anything else hurt? was it a physical pain or an emotional pain? let me know tomorrow if it’s still there… so much could have been discovered on both sides.
but yoga teachers are under a lot of pressure these days, to promote their brand, be competitive in the marketplace without selling their soul, avoid scandal, try not to get injured or injure someone else. we’re under pressure to have answers. logical, western answers to questions brought about by eastern practices, sometimes very much outside our cultural framework. yoga teachers are challenged with providing interpretations for personal experiences that perhaps would better be left to the person having the experience. after all, many of us have spent a lot of time on our own mats trying to assimilate our own experiences, shouldn’t we allow others to have the same pleasure? dear yogis, i can provide the space for your experience (when we open again), and i can even provide a philosophical framework for you to hang your experience on. but as for your experiences…they’re for you to reflect upon.