I want to share with you a little insight I’ve picked up since returning to Mysore, India…
There are many yoga students here, many of whom are totally committed to the practice as well as those who are looking to give it a try (which is wonderful). Talking specifically about the former group (i.e. those who are super committed), there is a common trend appearing which I didn’t expect among them. The trend of jumping from teacher to teacher. I would expect this of practitioners who are dabbling in yoga to see if it’s for them, but not those who are devout practitioners. Let me explain what I mean by that.
Since being here this year, I’ve had a number of conversations with different practitioners (from different styles of yoga - Ashtanga, Hatha) about their journey with yoga. One practitioner in particular really caught my attention when he told me about his decision to train with various teachers over the years because you can just “outgrow” your teachers. It’s been recommended on a number of occasions that I complete additional teacher training courses with other teachers and in other styles of yoga as a strategy to become a better teacher and practitioner.
To be totally honest, this has left me a little bewildered but on the flip side it also it helps to make sense of the mess that has become yoga in the west. Whilst I do not profess to be an expert in yoga (and probably never will be), after having trained with many teachers in the west and feeling totally disheartened by such experiences (...remember, these are my personal experiences - not to say all western teachers are bad. That is absolutely untrue), I felt so relieved to find a teacher who I really resonated with. I mean really resonated with. So I can’t help but wonder why I would look elsewhere for additional training when I have him?
With nothing fluffy about his approach, my teacher has committed much of his life to studying this art form intensely and has not only trained under some of the most inspirational teachers of our time, but he has managed to teach himself through constant trial and error. Of course I am speaking of none other than Yogacharya Bharath Shetty, who I am currently assisting in Mysore.
After having trained intensively under this man’s guidance, and witnessing phenomenal changes in my body, breath and mind, I can’t help but wonder why I would seek out another teacher as so many other practitioners seem to do (and are recommending I do also). The insecure part of me wants to indulge this way of thinking. To start looking at other TTC opportunities so I can boast many certificates, but upon much reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that I could never outgrow this man with regard to my knowledge and asana experience. I also do not want to become a “jack-of-all-trades” in the yoga industry, because frankly there are enough of those out there. I want to study this art form in its purest sense and deliver only the highest quality yoga to my students. I personally don’t believe this can be achieved by jumping from place to place. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I need to be patient with this practice and accept that I could spend a lifetime trying to master just one asana - because it is impossible to master any at all. Living in such an ADHD society where we struggle to sit still or are looking for the next shiny thing to capture our attention, for me a huge part of this journey is recognising that I need to maintain the discipline and commitment from learning this art form from the Guru whom I respect and trust. That it will only do an injustice to my practice and knowledge should I too employ the belief that I should train with many other teachers. In my opinion, this just confuses the message and leads to a wishy washy understanding of the practice.
When I came to India the first time, I came with the intention to train under the best because mediocrity just won’t do in my eyes. And whilst I’ve learned so much following such experiences/intensive training, I don’t think I will ever be in a position to say I’ve outgrown my teacher….. I’m not sure this is possible in any case, for anyone… but I could be wrong.
Yoga helps us to cultivate stillness and bring patience into our lives. I feel the changing of teachers, the constant searching and never truly committing (to a style and/or teacher) is a sign of impatience and insecurity - worry that there could be something better or more popular out there. And what I’ve come to realise, is that there is nothing out there that can give me the results I’m looking for. It all comes down to me, my perception of particular experiences, and my willingness to grow from them, no matter how challenging.
With all of that said, I want to finish with a quote my Owen sent me when I was chatting with him about this exact topic and the turmoil it was creating for me. I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
If you should end up with a teacher who doesn’t seem right for you, first look inside. You might well be expecting more than any teacher can give.