An interesting thing occurred in the previous week. I was asked to demonstrate how I teach to a fellow teacher here in the west. As I’ve always maintained, an eastern trained teacher commonly teaches VERY differently to a western trained teacher. This particular person was trained here in the west, in the very famous Byron Bay (the hub of yoga here in Aus).
With a well known reputation here in Melbourne, I would be lying if I wasn’t nervous at first. I almost felt like I was being tested or something?! My immediate thought was to teach how I thought this woman would WANT me to teach. My ego kicked in and naturally I wanted to impress her. But as soon as the ego came, I was quick to let it go and remember what is most important to me and my practice.
I wholeheartedly believe in the eastern approach to yoga. This is where I have gained most benefit (with little success under a western approach) so why should I compromise those beliefs to suit what I think someone else wants to see?
It is not important to me what other teachers or students think of my approach to teaching. I’m so aware that my style will never resonate with everyone - I mean, how could it! We are all on different paths and we all need to do what feels right for us. In my case, I developed a deep respect for a traditional approach to yoga. So this is what I shall teach. Those who like it too - awesome. Those who do not - then that is totally ok!
It’s good to be different. If I hear one more Gorilla pose or Wild Thing pose, I might just…. I’m not sure. But what I do know, is I have a profound respect for learning the traditional Sanskrit names and their correct translations and techniques. I feel this is fundamental to remaining respectful to the practice and its heritage. Whilst this particular teacher prefers to use terminology like Roadkill Pose and places little regard for guiding students into and out of the asanas, I on the other hand will not change my language/demonstrations to appeal to others. Not only would this be incorrect, but on a more personal level, it would be inauthentic.
In retrospect, this experience was so liberating for me. As the person who was never the popular girl at school, uni, work… as I was often too focused on my work to worry about anything social - the natural tendency is to do what others do to try and fit it. I also know this teacher was not fond of my approach to yoga. She didn’t tell me that of course, but after many years of working with all different types of people - the people pleasures, the outright liars, the worriers, the egotistical ones.. let’s just say I can pretty easily pick up what someone is thinking/feeling. The best part, however - for the first time in my life I was so pleased by this outcome. In the past I would have felt lesser than, judged, unimportant, questioned if i was any good at what i do. Not now. Now I take this as a sign of - “Yes! Look at how far I’ve come. How confident I’m becoming in myself and my abilities. To have the courage to remain true to myself despite probable judgement or ridicule. That I’m making my opinion matter” Woot!!
I went to India to train because I did not want to be like every other teacher out there. I went there because I wanted learn from those closest to the traditional heritage of this practice and then share this back here in the west. I don’t want to play Chinese whispers with this practice like many have (myself too to a degree of 10,000 years or so). So for me, it made sense to go to as close to the source as possible - to where it all began - for it is from this place that I believe that the most amazing benefits can be experienced.
What I’ve come to realise through my practice is - to hell with want I think others want of me. I love how I teach, and I have an amazing group of students who also appreciate my approach. Never before have I felt as empowered as I did in the moment I remained totally true to my practice. With nil capital and only a small audience, it’s very easy to be intimidated by the big boys. But at the end of the day - true passion, belief and guts cannot be bought. It comes from within.