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General thoughts (rant?) on looking for a teacher
 

 

 


Lizpagan
Novice

Apr 11, 2005, 12:32 PM

Post #1 of 15 (4655 views)
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General thoughts (rant?) on looking for a teacher Can't Post

I'm not looking for a specific recommendation -- this might belong in the more general thread, as it might turn into a rambling, splenetic monologue about the state of my practice and even the state of yoga teaching in the US today...

If you think that there's no place for crabbiness or criticsm in yoga discourse, please don't read on.

I studied with an Iyengar teacher and was very happy for 9 years. If you told me 3 months before I left her that I wouldn't be studying with her (indeed, wouldn't be doing a teacher training with her, or even studying in the Iyengar system) I wouldn't have believed you.

But owing to a series of events too tedious to enumerate here, I ended up leaving, and went on to do a 200-hour Yoga Alliance teacher training at an [insert other style of yoga here] studio. I enjoyed it, and I've been doing some subbing over the past year, and am starting to become comfortable in the role of teacher but feel I still have a long way to go. Face it, a 200-hour training barely scratches the surface.

But I've come to feel that...hmm... in this [insert other style of yoga here], let's say "their bench lacks depth." There's a lot of enthusiasm, but a lack of experience and context. You see people all around who take classes for a year or two, do a 200-hour training, quit their jobs and PRESTO! they're yoga teachers.

I don't want to be taking classes from them.

I feel like I barely have scratched the surface in terms of what it takes to be a good yoga teacher, but know I have a lot to offer -- my old teacher was a really great teacher. I haven't always been made to feel that this experience was valued -- even though this newer system came off the same branch of the yoga tree as Iyengar. Frankly, it came off the Iyengar branch itself.

And if you want to call Tadasana action "inner spiral" and tailbone tucking "pelvic loop" that's all very well and good, but it's still Tadasana action and tailbone tuck in my book. Don't give me the jargon, tell me exactly how to do it, in a way that will make my body understand!

I'm old enough to remember the good old days, when yoga was Hatha Yoga, and there wasn't any this-system or that-system, and this is system is better than that system...

And the other thing that really bugs me is the culture of "drop-in" classes that is so prevalent. I don't think that type of training can match a long-term relationship with a single teacher. Where's the continuity?

So now I'm looking for at teacher. I thought I found one -- but he is going on something of a sabbatical and won't be teaching regularly.

Sigh.

The good thing is in the part of the country where I live, there are lots of yoga teachers. There are 4 studios in the next town along (including both my old and recent studios). Unfortunately I'll probably have to drive a longer distance -- not really that far but ya gotta factor in the New Jersey traffic.

It think it's a lot harder for a long-term practicer to find a teacher than for a person who's new to yoga. I feel like I'm in yoga-limbo...

Do I sound like someone who needs to go off and do some serious 6-part breathing?

:-)


Bryan Alexander
Enthusiast / Moderator

Apr 13, 2005, 5:25 AM

Post #2 of 15 (4646 views)
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Liz, thanks a lot for your comments, after which I feel I'm not alone. I share your sentiments about the schools and divisions and "depth of bench." What I'm experimenting with as I go along without a teacher is noticing what I can find out for myself, without the teacher's voice so loud in my memory-ear, so to speak. And the fact is, I practice yoga a little less intensively now, while engaging in other challenging pursuits such as dancing, which I milk for all of its enlightening potential. But to some extent this is unique to my history and karma.

I wish you the best. Please continue the conversation if you wish.


Lizpagan
Novice

Apr 13, 2005, 7:40 AM

Post #3 of 15 (4642 views)
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And thank you for the supportive response.

You know, you raise an interesting idea -- the possibility of not having a teacher for a period of time. I hadn't even considered that as an option (habits die hard, even if they're good ones).

I can see how it would be helpful in getting away from the attachment to being the good student & seeking the approval of the teacher, as well as competitiveness with other students and myself.

One of the reasons I detoured into Anusara is that I had developed such a negative relationship with my legs (really!) after years of being told in practically every class that they weren't working had enough, even as they were shaking with effort.

I had to find a place with a little slack, and I don't regret it -- my practice didn't stagnate, it grew in other areas. (I will be interested to find out, though, if I end up with another Iyengar teacher, what s/he thinks of my legs!)

There is another benefit of attending classes (other than having a teacher) which is feeling like being involved in a community of fellow-travellers, and I think I would miss that (plus, I work from home as a freelancer most days and am slightly fearful of becoming isolated, even though I have a spouse & am quite active in a folk music community).

And class is usually fun.

But I'm going to add the no-teacher possibility to the mixer and see what comes out!

This brings up a related aspect of the teacher/no teacher dialogue:

The yoga tradition is based on the notion that one needs to submit to the guru in order to advance spiritually. I think that's embedded in the Hindu tradition -- as much as the requirement to submit to God and a set of laws is in the Judeo/Christian world.

So is the person working without a teacher going to be doomed to self delusion?

I have another teacher (ha, ha -- I have a lot of teachers to give up -- I work on meditation with this one) who is a former swami in the Himalayan tradition and when I brought this issue up, he said "Yeah, well who's telling you that you must have a teacher... it's the TEACHER!"

I guess that's why he's a FORMER swami. He's big on finding the answer within oneself.

So maybe being able to be comfortable going without a teacher is a sign of maturity.




Bryan Alexander
Enthusiast / Moderator

Apr 13, 2005, 1:33 PM

Post #4 of 15 (4635 views)
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I don't think the guru is limited to a specific body/person. Not having a teacher doesn't mean I have rejected my guru. I personally have never seen my guru as embodied in any one person. But I think it's generally accurate to say that no one's guru is limited to a specific body/person. Therefore I cannot conclude that my putting myself in one place or another (with this teacher, or away from that teacher) during asana or meditation practice says anything about how I'm relating to my guru.

Liz, I really relate to what you said about wanting to avoid isolation. I think that in my case I do have fun in class and enjoy having other students there. But to have a real friendship with anyone requires socializing away from class and the studio, because practicing asanas is not for anything but the teacher-student relationship.


Nadia
Enthusiast

Apr 13, 2005, 6:24 PM

Post #5 of 15 (4630 views)
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Bryan you said something interesting at the end there about teacher/student relationship. How do you think that relationship should be? Is it something primarily "professional" as in solely teacher/student, or should the relationship also be based on friendship over the long term.? I ask you this because I tried to become friends with my teacher, who is much older than me, but it never really developed further than aquaintance, and I wondered in the end if he just didn't want to have "friend" relationships with his students (or, if it was just me!). He was never rude or mean or anything like that, I don't konw if you understand what I mean when I say that the friendship just didn't happen.

I just wanted to know your thoughts on this.
Nadia Smile


Bryan Alexander
Enthusiast / Moderator

Apr 15, 2005, 5:02 AM

Post #6 of 15 (4613 views)
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You ask me how I think the relationship "should" be. I try to stay away from making "should" statements about anything.

If the teacher sees himself as conveying a professional service, then he may well decide that he will maintain a "professional distance" with his clients. He may also want to avoid the "appearance of impropriety" which could arise when a male teacher gets emotionally close to a female student.

Between any two human beings, it is mysterious sometimes whether a friendship forms or does not.

What to think when someone resists your offers of companionship? The American yogi Bhagavan Das said in a public talk once, "It's none of my business what other people think of me."


DamienL
Enthusiast

Apr 15, 2005, 7:13 PM

Post #7 of 15 (4603 views)
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In Reply To
I don't think the guru is limited to a specific body/person. Not having a teacher doesn't mean I have rejected my guru. I personally have never seen my guru as embodied in any one person. But I think it's generally accurate to say that no one's guru is limited to a specific body/person. Therefore I cannot conclude that my putting myself in one place or another (with this teacher, or away from that teacher) during asana or meditation practice says anything about how I'm relating to my guru.


I have to agree with Bryan here after all it is said in the yoga sutras of patanjali; I.26 God is the first, foremost and absolute guru, unconditioned by time.
God resides in our hearts and when we are in tune with our hearts then we can more cleary know how to follow God.


Lizpagan
Novice

Apr 18, 2005, 5:53 AM

Post #8 of 15 (4557 views)
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I see a subtle split in the way people approach postings -- on the one side, is discussion about people's personal experiences & how they deal with the interpersonals of finding/working with a teacher. On the other side, is the bringing of the question to the philosolphical/impersonal/universal level.

My first (personal) response is to think "gee, I'm stuck here in my personal, self-centered life, someone who is able to look at it more impersonally must be more advanced than I am." (invoking how I "should" be)

My second thought is "but it's not necessarily a good thing to ignore the personal, some people use that as a way to avoid connecting with others."

My third thought was "hey, in this thread 2 women are looking at it more personnaly and 2 men (I'm assuming) are taking the more philosophical part."

Interesting!


astakoume
Regular

Apr 19, 2005, 1:17 AM

Post #9 of 15 (4546 views)
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You are right Lizpagan. It is indeed interesting. But then isn't also the personal view, a philosophical view ?
"Who am I ?" isn't that one of our first philosophical questions ?
"As above, so bellow" it is said...
So a way to start may be... from bellow, from inside.
Talking once again from my personal point of view, it was yoga that made me really understand the essence of this wise saying.
I will not be able to visit this forum for the coming 10 days. So you may get no answer soon in case you reply to my post.
I hope I find lot's of interesting opinions when I come back home.
All the best
Kristi


Bryan Alexander
Enthusiast / Moderator

Apr 19, 2005, 5:37 AM

Post #10 of 15 (4542 views)
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Liz's comments remind me of the old feminist slogan, "The personal is political."

Liz, if my comments sound more philosophical, please don't let it fool you. I am a person who is emotionally wracked by the problems of yogic practice. For every calm saying that I quote, I could tell you a related story that would bring tears to my own eyes if not yours. Hey, let's cry to together some time.

To me, this practice is about discovering what's true. Something that's true is not ravaged by time. You could call it principle. In this practice we take tentative principles and put them to work in our lives and in our bodies. Then we find out what was true and what wasn't.

So isn't it true that we're working with something that is philosophical (philo = wisdom, soph = love of)? We're not working with "shoulds" though. And the fact that we're "working" at it means it's like any other work: we're pushed about by sudden passions, injured by losses, fatigued by exertion, riddled with laughter.


Lizpagan
Novice

Apr 19, 2005, 2:09 PM

Post #11 of 15 (4534 views)
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I actually had that "personal is political" idea in mind and meant to post, but I've been at a job without my password.

Ub fact, I very quickly went from having time to think about these kinds of philosophical things to barely keeping my head above water as clients throw buckets of work at me...

So I am not abdicating this train of thought, merely on a side-trip into the necessary, more worldly pursuits.... they're still important ideas.

As the governor of the great state of California has been known to say, "I'll be back..."


DamienL
Enthusiast

Apr 19, 2005, 6:59 PM

Post #12 of 15 (4529 views)
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I am of the same opinion as Bryan. I too have stories of every day life which challenge me, I find that the teachings of yoga are of great benefit. I am still amazed at the knowledge contained in the Yoga sutras and know that I have only had the smallest peek at these realisations inside myself. I have struggled with my ideas of what a teacher should be as I was searching for a guru. More and more I'm coming to see that the guru exists inside of me and it is that knowledge that is unfolding that I should seek. I treat my yoga teacher as a human and no longer expect him to be a guru of godly abilities.


Nadia
Enthusiast

Apr 19, 2005, 11:53 PM

Post #13 of 15 (4523 views)
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Hmmm, that's interesting what you said about teaching your teacher as a human, not as a guru of godly abilities. I think that's natural for a beginner in anything new (yoga, academic teacher, spiritual leaders) to see their teachers in such a heightened way. I know I certainly looked at my teacher like that, and now I think I just look at him as a person. Perhaps it's similar to the feelings people have about celebrities, they seem like somebody larger than life, but really when you think about it, they are just people like you and me. Actually, now that I think about it, I always have that attitude to teachers that I admire, especially male teachers, and it's not only that I idolise them, but I am also intimidated by them, which is a strange mix of feelings.

I guess emotions are part of everything you do in life.


DamienL
Enthusiast

Apr 21, 2005, 11:08 PM

Post #14 of 15 (4479 views)
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My tendancy is to actually expect them to be greater than an ordinary human and be more saintly, which unsurprisingly they cannot live up to. I am far less conflicted now that I have accepted my teacher as a seeker much like I am. I dare not even call Mr Iyengar a Guru as I'm sure I would be dissapointed with certain aspects of his development. What I do recognise as important now is in examining what they see as truth and see if it resonates inside of me. I don't believe in full submission of self to an external guru, but see that submitting self to see truth where truth lies externally and internally without ego is what is called for.
Sorry if I just paraphrased my previous post but you got me thinking.


Nadia
Enthusiast

Apr 21, 2005, 11:47 PM

Post #15 of 15 (4477 views)
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One of the things I have realised about yoga through the practice of it, and which most people here seem to have also mentioned is letting go of your ego. Do you ever wonder to what extent BKS Iyengar has done that? I remember jot1 (does everyone else remember Tongue?) criticising his family for naming a style of yoga after himself, and it was answered that he did not actually choose that name, and that his students gave that practice its name. But I can understand how that may seem a bit hypocritical to some. Also the fact that they are so strict on who can be a certified Iyengar yoga teacher could seem egotistical (I don't think this, I know it is to ensure that the Iyengar style is taught properly). The funny thing is that when I think about BKS Iyengar I wonder, he must really be an amazing person. I tend to think of him as saintly in the way you said you think of your teacher, but I wonder how he really is. Well, I don't think I'll ever meet him in the near future to find out!

 
 
 


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