Is certification really the “highest” level of an Ashtanga teacher?

At the risk of ticking people off, I want to pose this question.

I saw something on the Interwebs — a listing for a teacher training or a vist by someone or something, it doesn’t really matter — that described the teacher as being certified and followed that with an explanation that that is the “highest level” of Ashtanga teaching.

My hackles went up. The yoga only does so much.

I know it is a simple way to explain things, but it also reinforces what I think is a problem with the authorized/certified dynamic. It doesn’t really capture every great Ashtanga teacher. (Anyone care that Nancy Gilgoff, Manju Jois and David Swenson aren’t even authorized? I know Lino Miele is a different case, but he isn’t either.) And, quite frankly, I’ve known plenty of awful — I mean, really, awful — authorized teachers. Maybe a few certified ones, too. (I know such judgments are subjective, but to that I say: So?)

So I toss it out there for discussion and maybe some sort of conclusion or compromise: Is certification really the “highest” level of an Ashtanga teacher? And, as a corrollary, how much does it matter to you, what does it represent?

Posted by Steve

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Where isn’t Ashtanga?

A couple years back, I wondered about the huge number of Ashtanga teachers in Helsinki. And got a few answers.

It struck me, then and still, as being a city where the number of Ashtanga teachers (if not studios, since that doesn’t always translate) was way out of wack compared to other cities.

And then yesterday I saw word that one of the teachers at the Encinitas Jois Yoga studio is/has moved up to Long Beach, where she (we’re taking Aimee Echo) has started Ashtanga Yoga Long Beach. (Another teacher, David Miliotis, also is leaving. That may leave just one or two teachers. It is still at its temporary location while work is being done on the downtown Encinitas store/studio. Today is both of their last days in Encinitas.)

Long Beach, for those who aren’t SoCal literate, is LA County’s second largest city, but like much else here it exists in the huge shadow that is the city of Los Angeles. But it is the sixth or seventh largest city in the state (neck and neck with our capitol, Sacramento) and in the mid-30s in the U.S.

So it makes sense that Long Beach would have an Ashtanga teacher. (For the purpose of this argument, I’m going to use the Mysore list of teachers, with a few additions of teachers that we — Bobbie and I — know to have legitimate skills.) But she’s it. One Ashtanga teacher for about 450,000 people.

And that got me thinking of places that are underserved when it comes to Ashtanga. Or: “Where Ashtanga isn’t.” (Oakland, which is slightly smaller than Long Beach, has a teacher by comparison.) A few places that jump out at me:

  • Dallas
  • Phoenix
  • San Antonio (and, really, Texas in general. Austin has just one Mysore-listed teacher, Shelley Washington [we know David Swenson is home-based there, too]. But, Austin? You’d think it would have Ashtanga via Yoga Truck; and Houston has just one)
  • Chicago (which has two listed, or one for every 1.4 million people)
  • Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming all have zero. That means major cities including Memphis, Indianapolis, Nashville and Baltimore don’t have any Ashtanga.

Now, it’s likely there’s some Ashtanga being taught there — and it could be very good and/or very traditional, just not listed by Mysore. So this isn’t scientific or anything.

But I’m wondering if there are other places you’ve come across (maybe in travels, when trying to visit a new shala) that surprised you by the lack or dearth of Ashtanga — especially worldwide.

Posted by Steve

David’s Psyched!

A confluence

David Swenson just nailed the best thing about the Confluence in his new websitecpost:

“There will be differences and similarities between how we present the system we all so love,” he writes. “This will be the beauty of the event. It is a flowing together.”
Apropos of Steve’s last entry, that will be the best part for me: Seeing these great teachers converse with each other, listening to them compare notes, finding the common ground. And there will also be a “confluence” of students–Richard’s students will be practicing next to David’s next to Eddie’s next to Nancy’s next to Tim’s. Some of us have spent a great deal of time with one teacher; some have dabbled in workshops with the others. We’ll get to see the greatness of the teaching.
During his teacher trainings, Tim was often asked about this or that detail from David’s book, or something Nancy or Richard might have said. Tim always treats these differences with respect and humor, never really disagreeing with the teachings of his “esteemed colleagues,” as he called them. Check out David’s post. You can hear the love and respect.