So as you may have heard, there is a new rule in Mysore, India for those who wish to practice with Sharath Jois:
Students who are applying for Sharath’s class must have studied at least 2 months with any of our Certified/Authorized teachers (mentioned in our teachers list) before coming to study with Sharath in Mysore Shala.
The other day I was visiting YogaWorks to practice with Maria Zavala, who was substituting for the Mysore class that day. Because it was YogaWorks, there were two students in the room who had never done Ashtanga before. One of them was even trying yoga for the first time. Maria patiently explained the Ashtanga method, and guided them through how to do a sun salute while also trying to juggle somewhere around ten or twelve other students in a wide spectrum of skills (and even series).
Maria was having to do it by herself—no assistant in the room. She was super busy, but maintained her patience, picked her battles, and taught. This is a Mysore room to me.
My first Ashtanga class was a led First Series class that had maybe seven other students in it. I was there only because the Iyengar class I’d wanted to take was full; so I thought, what the heck. I’ll try it. The teacher took me through a whole bunch of things I couldn’t do while flinging a bunch of Sanskrit at me that I couldn’t understand. I was hooked. I had to know more, and I never looked back. In this way, Ashtanga finds its future students.
Years later, as a student in Tim Miller’s Second Series Teacher Training, I took my notebook and sat on a pile of blankets to watch Tim teach maybe 25 newbies the basics in his regular weekly Intro to Ashtanga class. Tim Miller. Teaching an introductory class. To Ashtanga. And everyone was clearly having a great time.
There are a whole complex set of reasons why I don’t think this rule from Sharath is a good thing, but you can probably see the roots of those reasons in these three anecdotes: I believe it’s good for both the practice and the student to be introduced to Ashtanga for the first time by the masters of the practice. Sharath has basically said he’s done doing that now.
To my knowledge, this will mean that for the first time in its (albeit relatively short) history, that what was formerly known as the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute will no longer accept new students who have never studied Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga before. What if Sri K. Pattabhi Jois had this policy when Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams knocked on his door?
I’m also worried about the echo chamber effect that may have for the Mysore, India branch of the community. I’ve never studied with Sharath (although Steve’s taken a class from him), and didn’t have a desire to do so because the heart of the practice is in Encinitas for me. But I have many friends and fellow practitioners who do and have. Some of them also study with Tim or another senior teacher who is neither authorized nor certified by Sharath. They go to Mysore because their teachers have told them to go to India, see the birthplace of Ashtanga. They will no longer be allowed to do this.
Also there is this: Among the senior teachers, there are differences in both the philosophy and the mechanics of the various series. There are some variations in the methods and approaches to teaching, and to how to teach teachers, and I think that’s a healthy thing.
If it becomes increasingly true that you can only go to the teacher who does the practice this way in order to eventually get to practice with Sharath, and that in order to teach so your students can go practice with your teacher, Sharath. . .well, then, that’s likely to curtail innovation. It’s closing the system, imposing a kind of set of franchise-type rules for new teachers.
So, I’m a little sad for all the teachers I know that are not authorized or certified by Sharath. And for the many future students who may not get a chance to experience the excellent teaching of those not on the authorized/certified list in Mysore, because the message is implied to them that if you want to study the right way, with Sharath, you must study only with those that have Sharath’s stamp of approval.
Posted by Bobbie