It seems as though there are teachers of yoga whose aim is to get more people doing yoga period. I call these folks the yoga evangelicals. And I don’t mean it negatively at all. I use it to refer only to the active conversion of the population not doing yoga to the population doing yoga.
We need these kinds of teachers.
These kinds of teachers help others cross over the threshold onto a path of wakefulness. It is an important job these Bodhisattvas have. The great boon these teachers have is that they are constantly pulling from a large pool of people. The population not doing yoga is still larger than the population doing yoga. So the yoga evangelicals or bodhisattvas or whatever you want to call them are lucky in the sense that they always have the opportunity to contact new people, new clientele. You can make big business actually out of this market.
Then it seems there are teachers concerned with some percent of the population already doing yoga. These are the choir leaders. These are teachers like myself, who want to help along the path once the person is already converted and committed. The difficulty with this kind of teaching is that our pool is inherently smaller by sheer number. But at the end of the day, an active five members is more powerful than an inactive fifteen members.
Once you get into the pool of people already doing yoga we come into the sea of competition. I will tell you, competing is a waste of time, money and energy. We all have stories around this word ‘competition.
“Little Suzy wouldn’t play with me.”
“I was the best at soccer.”
“She stole my idea.”
And it goes on and on.
The sea can start to feel pretty crowded rather quickly. So if you are a preaching to the choir kind of teacher, how then do you find your specific choir?
For me I always consider the natural development and progression of a yogic path. We need guides for each developmental stage of our practice. We also need those special ones who can help us cross thresholds. The teachers that are best within a particular stage itself are not always the best thresholds ones. But they can be.
Once we are committed—once we are born onto the path—we need a nurturing teacher to carry us through yoga infancy. We need a teacher who will show us the magical nature of this practice as young children on the path. In our adolescence we need a teacher who can challenge us and tolerate us challenging them. We learn how far away can we go and still feel connected. As we move into young adulthood on this path we need equality, companionship, mentorship. We need time for self-discovery and asking questions. Teachers becomes like touchstones rather than those whose hand we hold. We then move into a place of older adulthood where we stand in the truths of our experience. We stand next to our colleagues with pride. We are humble and magnanimous as we begin to give back to others what we have gleaned, digested and made unique. In our old age on the path we are wise from being sculpted by the teachings and from the experience of actively teaching. We are full and empty. We hold all but hold onto nothing.
In this spiral I lay out above, please remember that psycho-spiritual development in regards to yoga specifically does not always match up with our physical development. Many people start yoga when they are already adults. So in some ways we are going back to go forward.
No one place or juncture on this map is better or worse than the other. In fact, each part is necessary for the next.
Think about the baby that doesn’t crawl and just starts walking. That might be amazing at first, but it can create sensorimotor hiccups down the road. Just like yoga poses, sometimes we have to go back to go forward. If you don’t learn the basics well and have the imprint strong, eventually it will bite you in the ass.
The yogic path is a path of spiritual development that involves the development of motor skills in conjunction. It is one of the reasons asana is so powerful. Its also why we say all asana does is prepare us to sit. Asana is preparing us to give and receive wisdom when we can no longer do asana. But we can sit, in stillness, shining radiantly.
The pool is crowded. Yes I know. Many people do yoga now and many people teach yoga. But we are not a dime a dozen actually. How does a fish find its way through? It looks for the openings where another fish is not swimming. And it also is willing to swim in a school. It is willing to swim next to and in conjunction with its mates. One fish leads and the other follows and they switch. Its actually really simple. You cannot go where someone else is already standing. Go where they are not standing. And you have to be willing to follow sometimes. And you have to be willing to lead sometimes. There is more than enough room. I learned this metaphor and teaching from my teacher and I truly do believe it is pure truth.
Personally, I am really awesome at teaching the adolescent yoga practitioner and transitioning them to adulthood. It’s just my natural inclination. I can teach people newer to yoga, and I am okay at it. But I am not as good at as I am with helping people through the push and shove of growing up. Also, I am not the wise quiet one in the corner with the mysterious twinkle in their eye. Well, not yet at least. I’m not good at working with people in that stage. I may remind them of their youth, but I bow humbly at their feet. I don’t pretend to be at a stage in my development I know I am not.
Anyways, the point is this; if you think the sea of teachers is crowded and the pool is too small, shut up. You are not helping the problem. You are creating the problem. The truth is that the yoga evangelicals are not going to stop converting people into yogis. Which is awesome because we need the converts! It’s a great thing! They are helping us. It means our pool is always renewing itself. So don’t dismiss those teachers pounding the pavement to get people into the pool. They are working hard for all of us.
Furthermore, us choir leaders are invaluable to the evangelicals. Converts need a place to go once they are committed. People will always seek out their like-minded friends. They will want to find where they belong and fit so they can best harmonize. So the way in which we are teasing out and finding openings is actually crucial to the sustenance of the whole yoga ecosystem if you will. If we have a huge sea of people wanting to do yoga and there is no place for them to call home then turning them onto yoga is a disservice.
We need the choir leaders.
I guess from a ‘business’ perspective it would be good to have part of ones yoga business be in the converting and another part be in the support and development of current practitioners and teachers. I honestly believe though that its fine to choose as well. If we do the things that seem like they will make us money, we often miss the very thing that naturally produces income because it is our birthright to be sustained by it.
Lastly, I don’t have a neat and tidy way to wrap this post up because development is rarely a neat and tidy process.
Neither is yoga.