Regular readers of this blog will know that late last year, I undertook a Level 1 Teacher Training. I was far from comfortable or happy with the course.
In fact, I came away reeling. This course challenged everything I felt, experienced and understood about yoga: it was inauthentic, more about pumping out asana teachers than anything else. Any deep explorations of philosophy, mediation, pranayama or anatomy were dismissed or discouraged.
As a result, I suddenly found upon my return that I didn’t like doing yoga any more. I certainly didn’t want to teach. I could not reconcile myself with the training: there was no mutuality of purpose, no depth, no connection. Why I was spending 1000s of dollars on something I no longer identified with?
Over the Christmas and New Year period, I withdrew from public yoga classes. This isn’t hard to do in Alice Springs at this time of year, as every single yoga school takes a break from mid-December until late January. I cut back on my own practice. I was also being overstretched by teaching Les Mills classes (Body Attack and Body Balance) at the gym. Quite simply, in Alice Springs there are always more jobs than there are people to fill them – across every profession you can think of. Thus, I was stretched to breaking and BROKE by the gym where I teach. More about this later.
I have retreated into running, another meditative, focussed and for me, an absolutely pure spiritual practice. I know not everyone will agree with this, however, running is moving meditation to me. In running I find the same connection with Brahman that I experience in seated meditation and yoga. Look here for a philosophy that mirrors mine in relation to running.
I am yet to write at length here about the incredible and authentic yoga sangha that exists in the remote town where I live. The Satyananda people do yagas once a month and hold kirtan every Sunday. We have people like Iyengar Master Alan Goode and Satyananda Acharya Swami Mukhtibodananda visit us regularly. There’s a dedicated kutir. The yoga community is close and varied – there’s no ‘looking down’ on those who teach at gyms (the most experienced Yogi instructor in the town teaches exclusively at the gym where I teach). We all know and respect each other. We have an amazing network, so that when someone needs a house or accommodation or pets babysat or to borrow a box trailer or whatever, you only have to put the word out and there it is. I cannot begin to relate how humble, encouraging and welcoming my teachers have been. This is true sangha.
This is what was missing at the training. The true sangha there were the students. I found the teachers shallow and inauthentic compared with the depth of community I am used to. I wanted mentors, not fake barbie-dolls from the cover of Yoga Journal. I want the warts, cellulite and wrinkles that make us human. Where was the guru I so yearn for?
After the training, what I didn’t expect was the withdrawal of myself from yoga. I didn’t expect to have a fear of returning to classes, to feel contempt for asana classes and everything associated with the contemporary yoga craze (of which I will admit I am a part). To feel so angry at the teacher training and its lack of depth.
To walk away from something which had saved my life…