“Someday You Teach”

This week, one of the editors of The Confluence Countdown—namely me, Bobbie—has found herself in a Primary Series Adjustment Clinic run by Nancy Gilgoff. Our friend Jodi Blumstein, in yet another amazing get, is hosting at her shala.

I didn’t meet Nancy officially at The Confluence (although she dropped me back in one practice), so I’ve been looking forward to it. The group is small (only 20), and I realize, as a new teacher, I have a lot to learn. Hands on stuff is very important, you know. But it’s already been a lot more than that, and I’m just on Day One (of Five).

Readers of The Countdown know that I also teach writing, and that I mentor new writing teachers. One of the things that I encourage new teachers to do is to develop a teaching persona, a personality to use as a way to reach students, which can be tough with something as personal as writing. I encourage them to stay true to themselves, but to select qualities they found inspiring in the best teachers they had themselves. This sort of thing is really only done half-consciously, but you have to bring it to the fore to let it inspire your teaching.

So I actually teared up a little when Nancy began this morning by correcting an often-quoted line from Guruji, “Practice and all is coming.” Nancy:

What he actually said was, ‘You practice. Someday you teach, and all is coming.’ In order to connect the practice with the higher self, you need to share it.

Then, she asked us to reflect for a moment on the qualities we most valued in the teachers we’ve had, and what qualities we’ve liked the least. Before we began to talk about teaching, we thought about how we like to be taught.

The journey that has me sitting listening to Nancy Gilgoff talk about the teaching of yoga has been a long one. When I started Ashtanga, reaching my hands over my head was searingly painful. Forward folds hurt so much I used to have nightmares about them. The very idea that I would be thinking, over a decade later, about how I should teach—what kind of a teacher I’d like to be—is so remarkable to me I’m in a kind of shock. But I’m very grateful that teaching itself is familiar enough to me that I can recognized the value in observing a master work.

The value is not just in improving my own teaching, but in understanding my own practice, and through that understanding, to become a better teacher.

More to come.

Posted by Bobbie

A Few More Words on the Vanity Fair Article

Steve’s posted his thoughts on the March Vanity Fair article titled, in full, “Yoga for Trophy Wives: The Fitness Fad That’s Alienating Discipline Devotees,” with the online title, “Who’s Yoga Is It Anyway?”

I have a just a few things to add. As you might guess, it’s about the title.

A few friends have asked why in the world Vanity Fair would care about the Ashtanga world. The answer, of course, is it doesn’t. It cares about “57-year-old Paul Tudor Jones II,” who “runs the multi-billion-dollar hedge-fund empire Tudor Investment Corp.” and, apparently, his “trophy wife.” I don’t know about how they feel about that title (“trophy wife,” not “II”) on the east coast, but out here it’s an insult.

Granted, journalists rarely get to write the titles for their articles–editors to that. This one seems to be designed to sell magazines and get web hits, since I’m not sure it makes sense. Technically, it means Ashtanga is alienating me, as a “discipline devotee.” Not so, Vanity Fair.

But, really, I’d like to address “Who’s Yoga Is It Anyway?” and Sharath’s comment, “Everyone has their own rights to share the knowledge with others. Nobody owns this.”

Standing on the porch of the Mercantile in Mt. Shasta with Tim last summer, I said to him how much I admired Guruji for his choice of name for the practice. He didn’t name it after himself. When Sharath Ragaswamy changed his name to Jois, and the word got out that the studios would be called Jois Yoga Shala, I got nervous. This was beginning to feel like branding. When I heard from the Millers last summer how things were going down with the opening of the studios–the things reported in Vanity Fair–it began to act like branding. Branding means ownership, by definition. And often leads to declarations and exertions of power without acknowledgement of equal worth.

So my thought is this: How different it would have sounded if Guruji had not said, “Ashtanga yoga is Pananjali yoga,” and had said instead, “Jois yoga is Patanjali yoga.”

Posted by Bobbie

Guruji on Ashtanga, breathing, yoga, our bodies

I’m sure most of  you have seen this, but isn’t it worth watching again and again, every now and then?

Early (for us in the West) Guruji on Ashtanga:

“Yoga means your self-knowledge.”

“More asana, asana.”

“The more asana you do, very good strength and stamina.” (Take that, doubters!)

“Your mind is also correctly standing.” (I wish!)

“95% practice. 5% theory.” (It’s on film as 95/5 … I’m sure it’s elsewhere 99/1.)

“External body. Internal body. Spiritual body.”

“Breathing is very important.”

“Inhalation 10 seconds. Exhalation 10 seconds.” (Did I already say, “I wish!”?)

Posted by Steve