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.


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§ 9 Responses to Teaching Modalities; Aging

  • We saw the Hans-Peter Feldman 100 Years Project first in Barcelona a number of years ago, then in Madrid two years ago. It is one of my favorite exhibitions. Thank you for letting me know it is here.

    • D says:

      Hi Elaine – nice to see your first comment πŸ˜‰ Highly recommend Pier 24 for a peaceful afternoon of photography, they limit attendance to 20 people at a time. Best of all, it’s free!

  • mariavlong says:

    paragraph #2? Genius! Also, I can corroborate that all late bloomers love their 50’s, heck maybe even early bloomers do get a second wind in their 50’s. great post D.

  • (0v0) says:

    ‘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 β€œright” way to teach yoga, instead of looking to make the best out of each situation?’

    Good call.

  • globie says:

    I know as I head towards the 50 mark I have started to care less about what others think and believe I am (only now) starting to make the right calls in life. It took an event in January 2011 to make me start to decide that some of the things I wanted to do (like Mysore) I had better get on with while I have the health, it gave me the self confidence to announce it out loud and do it.

    With regard to Mysore rooms and travelling workshop teachers, they both have their place. The visiting teacher may not know you as well, if at all, but sometimes they see something in a new light and can spot a simple tweak or come out with a new explanation of something that suddenly makes it all make sense.

    US ashtangi’s on the west coast have the opportunity to practice with a certified teacher who straddles the two. Dena Kingsberg runs her own Mysore program in Byron Bay Australia, but for a few months each year she teaches by invitation in Europe and occasionally the US, she is not high profile, completely the opposite in fact, but I have been lucky enough to practice with her in various places, she is a wonderful teacher. She will be teaching in Santa Barbra and Los Angeles this month. Check the when and where on her website, then go and book your place.

    • D says:

      Caring less about what others’ think seems more common the older one gets. Although I do know of a number of folks who will always worry about what others think, regardless of their age.

      Agree with you that Mysore and travelling teachers each have their place. Dena is one of the teachers I’d definitely love to study with if the time and circumstances are right. Serene Flavor will get a chance to practice with her later this month at the Confluence! I’m giving that a miss…..there’s Sharath in Encinitas coming up in April and Nancy Gilgoff is swinging by for a long weekend. Gotta ration out the yoga budget!

      • globie says:

        Know what you mean about the yoga budget, we have Sharath at the end of August. Dena is in Europe in June, but I think that may be too soon for my arm.

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