I am on my way home from a 5-day trip to Arizona. I flew in Wednesday and taught a class in Prescott at Lotus Bloom Yoga, spent a day at the ashram on Thursday and then taught in Flagstaff at The Yoga Experience over the weekend. As is so often the case, I found the teaching rewarding and the students wonderful to share with and I am returning home with great moments and insights upon which to reflect.
I am thinking a lot lately about lineage and what that actually means to me as a hatha yoga practitioner. In terms of my orientation to my spiritual path, I supose it is relevant as I am a student in a clearly outlined lineage of teachers. My spiritual teacher is Lee Lozowick. His master was Yogi Ramsurtakumar. Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s guru was Swami Papa Ramdas. So, I suppose that is straightforward enough. (But then again, I was brought up as a member in the Methodist church, I totally love Jesus, I have spent lots of time in hard-core, est-based programs, in 12-step communities and in more than a few spritually-oriented groups that could easily qualify as cults before I got invoved with Lee. And I have had great teachers since I met him so while I say that Lee is my guru I also have to say he is hardly my only teacher or the sole spiritual influence in my life. So maybe it isn’t such a straight line after all.)
Even Yogi Ramsuratkumar said he had three spiritual fathers: Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and Papa Ramdas who he said “finally killed this beggar” meaning that it is Papa Ramdas to whom Yogi Ramsuratkumar attributed the more “ultimate” loosening of the knot of personality, identity, etc. So maybe my “grandfather guru” didn’t walk such a straight path either.
And, if we want to go deeper in the idea of lineage it seems clear to me that the parampara, or lineage isn’t exactly linear in the sense that it did not produce carbon copies out of these seekers. What the lineage did as it moved through these people’s lives was produce a changed state of consciousness in each. But the Influence of said lineage did not create any of these men in the image of each other. They were very different people, very different teachers with different quirks, idosynchracies and methods of working with their devotees and students. They were given both similar and different work to do in the world.
I suppose the line gets even “less straight” when it comes to my relationship with hatha yoga becuase my asana practice is informed by many streams of insight and influence over the years. And while I have had teachers devoted singularly to Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and Bikram yoga, I also spent a lot of time with John Friend in the golden days of Anusara yoga, which from the git-go was a synthesis of styles and influences that were part of the confluence of factors that came together in him at that time. (Lots could be said about the influences of Iyengar yoga in that system as well as the genious of the loops and spirals that was more than simply “influenced” by Richard Freeman’s own genius and so on. Another blog for another day. Maybe another blog entry for another person on another day. Anyhoo....) And even during the time I spent as a certified teacher in Anusara yoga, I was still drinking from the well of other schools’ wisdom and teachers and so on. So, I have always been a bit of a mutt in terms of the asana practice. Nothing new to share there. If you read this blog you have heard all that before.
Some of my various inquiries into other methods is my personality, some is my circumstances where geographical location often dictated my choices beyond personal preference and style. When faced with a senior Ashtanga vinyasa teacher to work with or a newly-certified Iyengar teacher I would pick the senior Ashtanga teacher any day of the week. I have never lived somewhere where there were awesome, senior teachers in every style with classes I could get to. So I have always gone where I felt like I could get help with my practice, regardless of style. Style of practice was just never that important to me. I put some roots down for a long time in Anusara but that was because I found good help from Desiree Rumbaugh who then put me into contact with John, etc. But I found Desiree from my google search for Iyengar teachers. She and all the teachers at her studio had recently left Iyegnar yoga to join John in Ansuara but Iyengar yoga was still in their bios and so the search engine found them. I had never even heard of Anusara when I started it and could not have cared less about it at the time. I was looking or someone to help me in my practice, not for a new style to practice. And I found it. I am who I am today because of the personal interest Desiree took in helping me at that time.
But I digress.
I guess all of this personal story-telling is just my own way of musing about how little formal lineage in asana really means to me and how much quality teaching matters. Sometimes those domains overlap and sometimes they do not. Certainly the sets intersect quite often where adherence to a style creates good teachers. And certainly that is not always the case. And these days I think about, and place more value on, the idea and reality of legacy as opposed to, lineage. Perhaps this is simply semantics. (Although, I am not sure if semantics are ever simple as the use of speech is so powerful in terms of how it defines personal and shared experience, but that is another post for another day, I suppose.) Lineage- as in an unbroken line- just hasn’t been my experience although I have benefitted from my studies with people who have walked that path. My path has been more circuitous and more overlapping and anything-but -linear and my yoga has become what I see as a legacy from great teachers to great students.
As a trained guru-devotee I am schooled in the proposition that all these various influences are “all the guru”. The idea here is that if we are in a certain stream of Influence then all influences that come are way are our guru working in and through these various agencies to serve our unfolding and awakening. For instance, if we are Christians, then everything we encounter is a call to a greater knowing in Jesus. And so on. And you know, I can get with that in my Big Picture Moments. But I have to say that most days, this idea needs some unpacking, even interiorly, to be a meaningful construct for me.
But legacy- well it seems more obvious to me. I have had the great fortune to be taught by great teachers, each of whom gave me something of value that they learned from their teachers and from their practice. And in some cases some of the teachers gave me things that have been somewhat harmful to me and have not proved so useful to me to over time. Some of my teachers were shaming, critical, judgemental and angry and those qualities are not virutes I want to cultivate inside myself. And I also know that as a teacher who has made mistakes due to my shortcomings, I have passed some of these dysfunctional seeds on to some of my students over time. I have also helped people. It is both. It has to be.
At any rate, I think of the teachings like seeds and each one of us as practitioners as garderners. I get to decide which of the seeds that I have been given are the ones that I am going to water, fertilize, tend to and grow in my garden of practice. Likewise, I need to determine if some more-negative seeds sprouted into weeds or toxic plants and are choking out the flowers and destroying the possiblity of beauty and peace. In some cases I need to yank up the weeds, apply a little Round-up or simply fail to water the weeds so they die out-- but my point here is that not every seed needs a place in my garden of ongoing practice. This I know for sure. And not every seed I have offered to my students over the years needs a place in their garden. In the same way I have to become the gardener for myself, so to do my students need to assume the same responsibility for themselves. As I see it, there is no other way to stay healthy on the Path than to become responsibile for tending our own seeds for ourselves.
And so, to me, this is the legacy we offer one another. The offering, the planting, the nourishing, the weeding out, the pruning,and the occasional poisoning of the seeds we have been offered. Each one of us is part of a legacy of yoga, not through external forms, certifications and trademarked entities, but through the ongoing tending to the garden of our life of practice. I am not an “Iyengar Yoga Teacher” but I am tending to the seeds of alignment, awareness, inquiry, intropsection, experimentation and curiosity that I learnd from my teachers in that lineage. I am not a “Bikram Yoga Teacher” but I am tending to the seeds of conisistency, hard work, focus, intensity, dedication, precision and clarity that I have learnd from people who have invested their time and energy in that lineage of study. I am not an “Ashtana Vinyasa Yoga Teacher” but I am tending to seeds of appreciation for breath, bandha, and dristhi that this most wonderful discipined practice taught me. I am no longer an “Anusara Yoga Teacher” but I am tending the seeds of what it meas to me to Align with Grace, to Put the Highest First and to find balance in and through the body that I learned there.
And before we get to lovey-dovey about it all, please know that there is weed-eradicating work always going on- be it with my guru, my asana experiences, my life experiences, my patterns and my various hidden-even-to-me-at-times places of darkness and so on. That is just part of the deal.
Anyway- more could be said but this is already a long entry.
Onward with the day.
Follow This Blog
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."