A couple of months back I shared a video in my newsletter of Meghan Currie, performing poetic, asana around the streets of New York City. As a former dancer and performance artist myself, I appreciate her stunning form, I love the idea of dropping yoga into public places and it really is a beautiful video. But I’ve been reflecting on yogis like Meghan Currie and Laura Sykora a cohort of other youtube and insta-famous yoga teachers and while I ‘follow’ their work, these are not the yoga teachers I aspire to be like.
Why? Because what they represent is SOOOOO far from what I see happening here in the studio.
There are currently about 35 of you on this list whom I see on a weekly basis and you all coming in from work, whether you are tired or energized; you all have different stories, things you are working on in your personal life, joys and disappointments; big love, big adventure, big client deals and big struggles. I think about you all, and I think about the youtube/instagram yogis and I think—what place have they got in the real life of yoga? Perhaps, it’s more like watching Cirque du Soleil than yoga. What do you think?
I guess my point is that this kind of yoga can be misleading. It's nice to watch, maybe, BUT for me, it's relevance to the essence of a 5000 year old tradition... FAIL.
Real yoga is YOU, present, breathing.
Don’t ever forget that. It’s your journey, your path and as long as you are listening deeply to yourself and using appropriate measures of kindness and discipline, you are on your way!
Now this solo journey business is all well and good, BUT, we still need inspiration, guidance, and our teachers. Tradition tells us, we NEED a guru who can guide us on our path to enlightenment.
I don’t have a Guru. I have many teachers who I work with and have learned from over the years. I think at one point, soon, I need to settle in with a chosen “ONE” but honestly I’ve struggled to find a single teacher to lock in with, especially after moving countries and losing contact with some great ones! I also LOVE learning from a variety of teachers, including wisdom in books, audio and online video. But those who have made the biggest impact are those who have taught me asana. These are the teachers I aspire to be like and I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to their work…
I’ll start with Pedro Franco from Yoga Tree in San Francisco. Pedro has deep respect for tradition, while also being contemporary and relevant with more than two decades of teaching under his belt. He is wise, soulful and energetically lights up a room. Pedro brought elements of martial arts to his classes along with tantra yoga (which has nothing to do with sexy business, incase you were wondering) and kirtan. This Mohum bija mantra is one of my favourites he used to play in class and we’d all sing along. Pedro was the first to inspire me to become a yoga teacher.
Then there is Marisa Toriggino my prenatal yoga teacher from Yoga Garden, also in San Francisco. Marisa taught me the deep healing and therapeutic power of yoga. I had been practicing power vinyasa 3 times a week, so pregnancy and Marisa completely shifted my yoga paradigm- big time! Like Pedro she radiates experience and wisdom, and she’s also a bit awkward and funny, which I love. Her classes were never too serious, but at the same time, she seriously knew her stuff! She managed to be deeply attentive and perceptive to individuals even in a class of 15-20!
More recently I’ve been following Les Leventhal who is based in Bali but frequently comes to Sydney. He holds space in Satsang like no-one I’ve come across, dharma talk just pours out of him, he’s real, raw and effortlessly funny. As an instructor of asana he has pushed me harder than anyone which has taken my asana to new heights challenging my ego and assumptions along the way. His words have left a big impression. Many of you know I’ve occasionally share Les-isms in class-- “Imagine if this was shavasana?” (while you are in some impossibly challenging to hold posture) is my favourite!
Whether you have a Guru or not, you can find teachers everywhere. It’s definitely not limited to the human being who has the honor of being there to instruct you in asana. The teacher that is this life boundless and supreme ("param Brahma tasmai sri gurave namaha" in sanskrit), the ultimate!
So... what inspires you? Where are your teachers?