Today Thursday is a New Moon. In the Ashtanga tradition, you take rest from vigorous asana practice. So enjoy your day of quiet, restoration and rest. =-)
New Moons are associated with new beginnings. It is a time to plant seeds, to start new projects, to take on new challenges. So it is unusual, yet also fitting, that I announce that, as of Friday June 9th, I will be stepping back from teaching the morning Mysore program at Yoga District, for the foreseeable future. Claudia Paredes will be stepping in to start teaching the Mysore program on Monday June 12th. I would like to thank Jasmine, the owner of Yoga District, for giving me this opportunity to teach the morning Mysore program for the past year.
I will continue to teach some led classes at various studios and corporations, and I will be conducting workshops and intensives once I am able to get some time to recuperate from my exhaustion. I will also be available for private instruction. So please stay tuned and share my information if you are interested in learning Ashtanga, Vinyasa Krama, meditation and pranayama.
In short, Rogue Ashtanga is becoming more of an individual project, more like consulting than a regular program tied to a studio.
This has been a hard, but necessary, decision to make, because I am, frankly speaking, burned out and I need to make this more sustainable. I’ve been teaching yoga for over 17 years, practicing yoga for nearly 20 years. I’ve given a lot to the yoga community. I’ve seen it all. I’ve been a yoga teacher, a studio manager, a teacher training director. I’ve taught regular weekly classes, special workshops, teacher training modules, donation-based fundraisers, Mysore programs (twice now), and international yoga retreats. My studio was a part of the yoga landscape in DC for 6 years, before rent obligations and flagging sales caused us to close last year.
And most recently, I have taken to blogging about the “whys” and “hows” of yoga practice, specifically Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Krama as taught by Matthew Sweeney.
I’ve advised yoga teachers on their classes and their career paths. I’ve advised yoga studio owners on their business strategy and their vision. I’ve aspired to be what Keith Ferrazzi calls a super-connector in the yoga community. I have lived, breathed, eaten, slept yoga for a long time.
And it seems that I am reaching a midlife crisis (3 years early! Early bloomer!). I am questioning everything about what I am doing, about why I am practicing yoga, about why I am a full-time yoga teacher, about how the yoga community is organized, about how yoga as a business is conducted. I’ve been asking myself, “What are we doing when we say we practice yoga? What are we teaching when we teach yoga?”
In fact, why is the image of yoga presented to the public, mostly through Instagram and Facebook these days, about being tanned and flexible, posing elegantly in a difficult yoga posture (or handstand, more and more on one hand) in an exotic location, hash-tagged with the following bizarre litany: “#yoga #yogapants #yogachallenge #yogaeverydamnday #yogainspiration #yogapose #yogalover #yogagram #yogafam #yogateacher #yogamat #yogaforlife” ad infinitum.
Dig deeper. A casual search of the instagram hashtag #yoga delivers 34,647,365 posts (that’s over 34 million, just to write it out for full effect), the top posts showing one yogi in an oversplit (see image), another yogi in a jumping split (like a cheerleader?), a protein vegan bar, a model in a white dress (doing pout-asana? upward-facing duck-face asana?), a video of a student “nailing the straddle press” into handstand (while on Keramas Beach, in the yoga hotspot Bali, Indonesia), a student taking a selfie near her mat, a video instructional on bakasana, a quote from the Dalai Lama, and a post on the law of positivism (whatever that is).
And that’s just for #yoga. The second most searched #hashtag is #yogapants (and of the 9 top posts for that term only 5 appear to be wearing yoga pants), followed by #yogachallenge .
I don’t know. Am I being too jaded, too cynical? Is this the burnout speaking? Maybe. And I know that there are a lot of genuine, authentic teachers and inspired students out there. These are the people that I look up to, that I love to work with, that I constantly refer to my friends. So, it’s not all doom and gloom (or spandex and fairy dust?), and yoga, as a decentralized system of individual self-development, will persist, regardless of the plastic pantomime of the media monkeys and their junket junkies.
I am just trying to make sense of it all.
You know, my father passed away three years ago. He was a computer programmer by trade, a genealogist by hobby, an archivist and memorialist by preference. He kept every paperback book he ever read, noting in red ink on the front cover his name, followed by the dates he read the book. After he passed, I found a book called Yoga for Perfect Health by Alain (nom de plume of Max Alain Schwendimann, about whom I could find nothing else on great Google), written in 1961. Alain seems to have been a student of Swami Sivananda. My father read it in February 1965. I’ve been reading it for the past few weeks, and I’ve been imagining what he was thinking when he read it. He even underlined certain phrases, such as “Much of the success in Yoga training depends upon this condition of affective (emotional) indifference to results.”
The front cover states that yoga is “a system of health and hygiene of body and mind that can help give you a vigorous and happy life.”
But is that what we are teaching? Is that how we are representing yoga in our social media crazed society nowadays?
Is doing a one-armed handstand going to “give you a vigorous and happy life?”
So why are we doing yoga? If you are teaching yoga, why are you teaching? If you are a studio owner, why are you running a yoga studio? And is teaching yoga as a profession really that sustainable in our current marketplace?