I have more than a few rants rocking around in my head right now but as I sit down to write and I think of my teacher's teacher's advice to "say something useful" I am forced to push a few of my more irate commentaries to the side tonight in favor of the hope of going down the road of useful as opposed to indulging a commentary that might be somewhat gratifying but not necessarily so useful.
I mean, the thing is there is an increasing amount of noise out there in the Yoga Teaching Ethers, particularly coming to us via social media avenues. There are #blogsfordays on what is wrong with Yoga Alliance, what is wrong with the way we teach, what is wrong with posting picture of ourselves in fancy poses in fancy places, what is wrong with being white and skinny and narcissistic, what is wrong with green smoothies, what is wrong with our yoga pants and with their leadership, what is wrong with the gurus, what is wrong with our immature relationship to the path, what is wrong with yoga as a commodity, what is wrong with groupons, what is wrong with the heat, what is wrong with the non-heat, what is wrong, what is wrong, what is wrong.
And it is kinda funny that these commentaries bug me because I actually have a pretty long list of "what is wrong as I see it" and maybe this blog is beginning to sound like a rant about what is wrong with saying what is wrong.
Oy vey, what is a girl to do?
What does this girl actually do?
I do wade through some of this content and commentary since as a teacher and teacher-trainer, I think it is important to become familiar with the landscape in which I am participating. And lately I am thinking a lot about what Real Yoga actually is and why that actually matters to me. I am even thinking about IF it matters to me. I have occasional fantasies of "getting out of yoga" and "getting into mindful movement and wellness" as a way to bypass the conversation all together because I find it so enervating. Honestly, I lay no claim to Real Yoga and have NO IDEA if what I do is in that realm at all. I do believe what I do is valuable and meaningful to me and to my students and that matters more to me than whether or not it is "Real". Honestly, I really do not know anymore. I have even lost touch with how one would know. I know my guru liked the way I taught yoga. I know he told me repeatedly to teach. I do know I do my best. Other than that, well, it's a bit of a crap shoot, I think.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a marketing friend of mine who told me that all us "traditionally-trained yoga teachers" had to start shifting the way we taught in order to "stay relevant" to the new generation of practitioners. This person was interested in making the yoga more interesting and more compelling to younger students and thought that if we did not "stay relevant" we would find ourselves alone in our middle and older age talking to only a few other people in the room about the wonders of alignment in yoga because all of the younger generations of practitioners would be doing some new yoga that was somehow cooler, sexier and more "now" than well, the traditions and practices that, um, well, take us into NOW.
We had an argument.
As a marketing person he had a plan about how to do this and an exciting vision about the ways and means of wrapping the yoga up with relevant bells, whistles and bows. As a yoga teacher, I had an objection about taking something that I saw as so valuable and complete as it was and making it conform to the whims of consumeristic culture and a tide that was moving away from what I believed was the essence of the teaching.
His point was , "We can do this! We should!"
My point was, "Just because we can, does that mean we should?!"
We never agreed.
Look, I am not an idiot and I understand marketing. I am not saying I am marketing genius or anything so I know there is plenty for me to learn. But just about every marketing person who has ever come to my class has given me a list of things they think I should do to improve my "brand", including but not limited to: get a new website, use ONLY professional photographs, lose weight, change my hair style, take more photographs from more exotic places, give people more intimate glimpses into my life, give marriage advice, give diet advice, tell people what I eat for breakfast, tell people more about my eating disorder, make my life my brand, sell my lifestyle not my teaching, and so on and so on and so on.
And just so we are clear, I have also been given great advice I have implemented. But a lot of the time, I have to really think about this kind of thing because, while I believe that a lot of this advice would actually drive my numbers bigger-- I mean I do believe some of this would literally help my business grow--I have actually declined a lot of their advice because I am quite certain some of it would mean death for my inner life.
So, I have this funny idea that yoga is the brand, not Christina Sell. I, of course, am willing to play the game of branding myself. But only to a point. Because to me, the brand is YOGA. I am interested in helping people forge a deep and lasting relationship to the practice of yoga, not to the brand of Christina Sell. I believe that if people find a pathway to the principles and practices of yoga, then they have a pathway that holds within it the possibility of having for themselves a means of listening to to their inner wisdom, of resetting their inner compass according to their own values, not those of society and certainly not even "yoga society" and of creating moments of harmony between the various aspects of self in and through the body. I believe that this pathway has the possibility of being self-affirming, self-empowering and self-generating. I do know I have my own-- somewhat, yet not entirely-- unique ways of presenting those practices, but honestly, I am not interested in pitching that so much as I am interested in simply presenting a path of practice and a way of being in relationship to one's practice, that is intelligent, discerning, accepting and empowering.
I happen to think that dignity, self-love and self-respect are always relevant. I happen to think that knowing oneself will always be worthwhile. I know that yoga will get dressed up in tutu's, get put on stand-up paddle-boards and will be sent to wine-tastings, chocolate-pairings, love-ins, festivals and community gatherings of all kinds. I know it will serve as entertainment to some and as ego-gratification to others and that hordes of teachers who have no business teaching yoga are out there representing the teaching with no clue about the what, the why and the how of the tradition and the practice. There is tremendous momentum in the world of yoga right now that, at times, is nothing short of horrific and yet, well, I can't do so much about that other than watch, observe, comment occasionally and wait.
My guru occasionally talked about alchemy. He had this idea that the alchemists DID learn how to turn lead into gold. He was convinced- for a variety of reasons-- that the alchemists of old really did figure out how to make gold out of lead. But, he said, the folks that were in it for the money, got the gold and went on to do what people obsessed with money do-- save and spend gold. And other folks simply went crazy from the mercury, the agent needed for the alchemical process. (And as we all know, fame, other people, pressure, etc. can make you crazy just so we are clear how this related to the current yoga culture....) The alchemists who actually did it, who actually made the gold from lead realized what they had and kept their freakin' mouths shut because they knew the preciousness of what they had discovered. They used the gold to support themselves but they didn't exploit it and so as far as the world knew, they never really succeeded in alchemy. And that was how they wanted it.
Lee saw these three possible outcomes as lawful and the way Alchemy-- as an art, science and sadhana-- kept itself pure: 1.) you got what you wanted--money- and you backed out of Alchemy and out of the Path, 2.) you went crazy and 3.) you got the gold and stayed true to the path.
And so, I figure it is a popular trend right now to cry out about all that is wrong in modern yoga. I keep engaging a long-range vision where I see that hopefully some of the insanity out there either 1.) gives people what they want, 2.) makes them crazy and spits them out and/or 3.) fulfills the aims of the path and leads people deeper accordingly.
So that is what I mean by watch and wait. There are so many weird things happening right now and so many insanities rearing their ugly heads and yet, well, I do think yoga will keep itself pure. It seems to be doing a good job these days of revealing the crazy and of spitting certain folks out when it is time. And well, more could be said but in addition to watching and waiting, I also figure that simply residing in sanity might me a good way to go.
And I remember, Dignity is always relevant and Self-respect never goes out of style.
Keep the faith.
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