Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I taught yoga for the first time in the suburbs today, and noticed that each and every student's poo hand was weighted down with big diamond wedding / engagement ring combos. Later it was explained to me by one of the women that, "We don't live in the suburbs because we like it. We live here because we have kids." And all this time I thought it was to get away from "urban culture."

We also discussed certified vs. authorized vs. well-intentioned vs. poseur ashtanga yoga teachers, and who exactly is qualified to give out intermediate series poses.* (Later in the day I got an e-mail from a shala that just opened downtown. It's boasting a "certified" ashtanga teacher, but I didn't notice their name on the ashtanga.com web site** -- only Pattabhi Jois and the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute can certify and authorize teachers -- and one suspects they haven't been going to Mysore regularly and flying through Advanced B, either. Perhaps in some circles "certified" means "took a week-long teacher training with X." Which is not to say that those people aren't "qualified"). Indeed, some of the most maladjusted, non-yogic people I've met are very far advanced in their physical practice (you can't help but wonder what they were like BEFORE yoga). And some very good teachers haven't ever been to Mysore. It seems to me that one way to become a good teacher is to study with a host of senior teachers and then choose one or two with whom you click... and cultivate a regular, steady practice while actually making the effort to incorporate the yamas and niyamas into daily life. And try to go to the source, and study with Pattabhi Jois. Or so I'd like to think. Students may do best by looking for someone who's been teaching for more than a couple of years and whose style / philosophy is earnest and rings true and seems right for them... and be wary of hubris and teachers who veer far from tradition and / or hand out poses like so much parade candy and end up injuring people. It also doesn't hurt to check out their practice; if they're breathing like a locomotive going uphill or futzing around the whole time, what does that say about their teaching (not to mention their own "moving meditation")? On the other hand, if they have a too-perfect practice that looks like a performance, it very well could be. If their student-teacher boundaries are blurred, that's another consideration. And it never hurts to ask why someone started teaching in the first place. A lot of it has to do with intention. And lineage. Editorial finished, Madam.

After teaching I went to Devon Ave. (Little India) which is usually dead on Tuesdays. I sat down for a thali meal at Mysore Woodlands, and when it arrived I took a whiff of and was immediately transported back to India itself, and I started to cry. Again. I guess last week's sobbing jag ain't over yet.

*Apparently I am, according to Manju Jois (with whom I have studied, and did a teacher training this year). Not that I have. Yet.

**One person in Chicago is authorized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois -- Amy Beth Treciokas. Her studio is YogaNow, www.yoganowchicago.com.

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