Teaching Modalities; Aging
February 8, 2013 § 9 Comments
It’s been an interesting week on the yoga blog front with yet another kerfuffle around a certain teacher’s approach to marketing herself and yoga teaching. As always, hubbubs like this just throw up the polarities, overlooking all nuances, contexts and exceptions. Which is why I really appreciated Boodiba’s post about the subject – she goes beyond the superficial arguments about attire and online presence to distinguish among professional workshop teachers (who spend the majority of their time travelling) and Mysore room teachers (who spend the majority of their time in one place). A good discussion to have, really, and if anything, the fact that we can talk about the presence of these two sorts of teachers in the Ashtanga world today should be a good thing isn’t it? The prospective yoga student now has a choice as to how they’d like to learn – via videos, books, weekend workshops, home practices, Mysore rooms….isn’t this a good thing? Of course, purists will say that yoga should not be learnt from books, yadda yadda yadda. Yes, to a large extent that is true. But if you live in the middle of nowhere with only an Internet connection and no Mysore program in sight, YouTube videos may just be the key to spark off an involvement with yoga or to renew one’s motivation during a slump.
I find hoohas like this problematic not because they happen at all, but because it quickly takes on the tone of absolute righteousness, with people speaking in “this and not that” sort of frameworks. When what is really needed is a discussion that happens in more inclusive terms. If Patanjali can be so chilled about that fact that you may or may not need to have a belief in the divine in order to attain Samadhi, why then are we so fixated on the “right” way to teach yoga, instead of looking to make the best out of each situation? We all learn differently and the fact that the contemporary Ashtanga student has the choice among teachers and various modalities is something that should be celebrated, not argued on.
Earlier this week I visited a photo gallery in San Francisco that has an ongoing exhibition focused on portraiture. 20 rooms of some of the most amazing work by the greats like Richard Avedon and Lee Friedlander, but the one that really stuck with me was the room with Hans-Peter Feldmann’s 100 years project. 101 portraits lined the perimeter of the room, from age 8 months to 100 years old, translating an abstract notion of age and aging into a physical space. For once, I realized…I saw, quite literally, the years behind me and the years ahead of me. Powerful, to say the least. It was also interesting to note that it wasn’t until the late-50s that the subjects started to convey self-confidence and assuredness in their postures compared with those that came before. Perhaps we only start to find, or get really comfortable with, who we are after the age of 50? That gives me hope.