Why Teach?

October 27, 2009

Before I began training my belief in yoga and my practice was so clear.   I did yoga, it made me feel better. Good, better, whatever. In a way it just made me feel at all; struggling with anxiety and depression for years prior there were a number of barriers I had erected to keep myself from the apparent physiological danger of emotion. Once you start to open the lines of the body that hold tension, you can’t really help but feel.

I bought it all. I bought chakras, I bought energy lines, I bought the existence of a subtle body. I was all up on yoga.  Upon REALLY studying the subject with the intent to teach, though, is where my openness began to hit a brick wall.

Part of it was beginning to see hypocrisy in the system – in what it preaches versus how it’s manifested in the west – with teachers’ words versus deeds, with guru focus and quiet misogyny. In general, the idols had clay feet and were beginning to crumble.

Having recently seen the new release of Where The Wild Things are, my best friend made an astute point about things which purport to be “magical” and transporting: they never quite live up to what the experience of magic is in our heads.  The movie’s never quite as good as the trailer.

I guess in a way  my 2+ years of practice which lead to my initial teacher training last June was the trailer.  Now I’m in the movie theater and I’m not sure I buy the narrative framework.  In particular, I’ve discovered I’m not a big fan of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika – an ancient text formative to the physical practice of Asana we know today.  I won’t go into my specific struggles with the text here, but in general, its insistence on “the divine,” its claims of absolute “scientific” knowledge of the benefits of and requirements for yoga (including but not limited to swallowing 20 feet of gauze, or distending the rectum out of the body to cleanse….) and its overriding dogma just don’t fly with me.

So if I don’t buy the basis of the system, and I shirk from the spiritual elements, why exactly do I want to teach this particular form of movement?  At the moment, I’m not convinced I have an answer. I know these things to be true: yoga makes me feel good, better than any other form of exercise; I am a good teacher; I take to teaching naturally; I believe everyone would benefit from yoga.  But why, I’m not sure I know just yet.

A larger issue has stemmed from this investigation, though.  I’ve realized in my enthusiasm for the Buddhist world view – which believes we ultimately don’t know anything, that no “fact” is ever perceived objectively – that I’ve become certain about uncertainty.  I’ve become attached to the idea of unattachment, leaving my heart and mind closed to that which purports anything other than uncertainty.  It’s an interesting Koan to struggle with – how do you become unattached so much so that you’re not even attached to unattachment?

Figure that one out.

Right now I’m just trying to find apertures where I can, and compassion for myself where I can’t.  As I learned in AA, ‘take what you want and leave the rest.’

“Why I Teach” could very well become a journey that never ends; I guess I’ll just cash the (small and infrequent) pay checks in the meantime…


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