I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to move forward as a ‘teacher’ in this ‘industry’, and my vision for the yoga industry.
As you may know, I have a ‘Ruth’. Behind the scenes, Ruth is the person who keeps me accountable to my commitments and makes sure all the business things are running smoothly. Recently, we were in a planning process. I sent her a map of the next 12 months which included the courses I’ll offer, the trainings I’ll run etc and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for being so organised…until Ruth said:
“Why are you doing all of this? What’s your big ‘why’? Do you have a vision for the yoga industry?”
WE ALL HAVE A ‘WHY’ FOR THE THINGS WE DO
Often, though, that ‘why’ feels hazy. It’s there on the periphery of our vision but if we haven’t been asked to articulate it, it can be surprisingly hard to pin down.
I took some time to think about it.
I’ve always had a rough idea of my why. It’s there when I rant about things in yoga that I’m passionate about, when I lament where the yoga industry places the bar too low. It’s there when I question my motivation for teaching and (as is happening now) when my supervisor at university asks for a draft of a literature review exploring issues around gender and empowerment in yoga. That in itself puts me into contact with some uncomfortable contemplations around cultural appropriation, colonialism and power.
It’s actually, also, the perfect soup to roll around in when I’m contemplating my ‘why’. It forces me to think about who I am personally, what I represent, and what I want my offerings to represent too.
The Western yoga industry is a weird, wonderful, and slightly problematic thing. Commercially, yoga lives in the realm of exercise practice, but there’s not a single traditional text that views it as such.
When I began practicing yoga (like many of you) I viewed it as a movement modality, oblivious to its deeper dimensions. As my relationship with the physical practice deepened, though, so did my relationship with those dimensions.
OVER AND ABOVE THE MOVEMENT, OF COURSE, YOGA IS ABOUT PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Beyond that, it’s a spiritual technology that draws each of us deeply into the heart of every big question we’ve ever had about our existence. In the process of asking those questions, we meet ourselves, our neuroses, our fears, our doubts, our trauma and our potential.
It’s a big deal.
Now think about the teacher trainings you’ve done so far. Mostly, they focus on poses, on alignment, perhaps they touch lightly on philosophy. Rarely do we learn about yoga as a spiritual practice…
Rarely do we consider the fraught and complicated process by which yoga’s centre of gravity moved from east to west…
Rarely do we acknowledge the massive responsibility we have as yoga teachers to hold students’ experiences safely. Think about what students carry to class: anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, uncertainty, potential and hope.
Do you have the skillset to hold these things safely (the physical, the emotional and the historical)?
Do you want to be a teacher who can?
This is what I thought about in response to Ruth’s questions. Then I went back to her with my vision for the yoga industry. My big ‘why’:
To foster a greater level of integrity in the yoga industry. To develop teachers who have it and who care (both about the tradition and the people that tradition supports). To make sure people know about the deeper dimensions of yoga so we can all play our part in moving modern yoga from the shallow end of the pool, to the deep end where it belongs.
Would you like to join me?
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