Looking through my notes from the Confluence, one of the interesting themes I find is the focus on Guruji’s influence as a teacher.
It came through very strongly that Guruji didn’t just teach the five Confluence teachers the practice. He taught them how to teach. Or, it seems to me, it was more a matter of his being a model of a great teacher. Because what strikes me is that each one of the teachers developed their own style and manner.
But it was clear they all came from the same source.
Eddie Stern was probably the most specific on this. In answer to the question, “How has Guruji influenced you in your teaching,” he replied: “In every single way. He was my model for everything in life. He was always so concerned about all the students. Yoga is about caring about the person in front of you.”
I think it is that focus on the student, especially the student “in front of you,” that is the commonality among all these teachers, as well as other ones in the Ashtanga tradition that I’ve encountered who are, if we have to put a word on it, “good.” When they are adjusting you or instructing you, you feel like you are the only one there.
If you’ve read some of the awed accounts of Richard Freeman back bend assists, I think you are reading about this quality.
It might just be, as I think about it, the measure of a good Ashtanga teacher.
Nancy Gilgoff provided a different perspective on this.
“The issue isn’t whether the postures have changed,” she said. “It’s the sincerity of the teacher, and whether we are becoming more compassionate to ourselves.”
In describing Guruji, she added: “He was there to support and help those who needed it. I learned from him a lot of trust.”
Guruji’s great love of teaching also came through again and again. There were tales of his shortening breaks from teaching when the Westerners would arrive. “His joy was in teaching,” David Swenson recalled.
And Eddie added this: “He was there for all of his students all the time.”
Through these five teachers, and others, he still is.
Posted by Steve