Saturday, July 23, 2005

Blog on the Beach

So, I was writing this comment to Kathy (KJS), but then it got so longwinded, I decided to just post it on the front of the Blog. So, anyone who is reading this, for context, take a look at the comments on the July 22 Blog entry.....

Reading these comments, I couldn't help but think of the "Four Sons" that are described in the Jewish Passover seder.

Quick backstory: Every year, Jews are required by Jewish law to tell the story of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Within the story is a consistent thread of "HOW do you tell the story to ensure that it will be understood and its importance absorbed? HOW do you keep repeating the story over and over, year after year, such that everyone stays interested in listening and repeating the story year after year....?

Is this starting to remind you of anything? LOL...

Anyway, the Passover Story that is told each year includes a discussion about the Four Sons - archetypes of the "children" who will be listening to the story.

The first son is the Wise Son. He puts himself right into the thick of things and wants to know "How did we Jews escape slavery?" He is an easy student to teach, and we teach the story to him in the traditional way.

The second son is the the Simple Son - we try to have patience with him; his motives are good even if he does not "get it" yet.

The third son is the Wicked Son. Uh oh. The wicked son likes to say, "What does any of this have to do with me?" To that son, we basically say, "Well, son, nothing, actually, but the exodus of the Jews from Egypt DOES mean a lot to the rest of us." We hope on some level that the Wicked Son will come around and start to care, but we understand that maybe he never will.

The fourth son is the Son Who Has No Capacity to Ask the Question at All. That son is a blank slate, and we can begin telling the story, brick by brick and watch as the the son begins to understand.

As a teacher of yoga, I have each of these types of students in my classes at various times. As a student of yoga, I am sure that I have BEEN each of those types of students at some point or another. As a teacher, I can tell you that I have no interest in trying to convince someone of something they are simply not willing or ready to hear. As a student, I can tell you that I have no ability to BE convinced of something I am not ready or willing to hear. THAT being said, I have to emphasize that the Four Sons are simply archetypes, and hopefully NO ONE is any one "son" all the time.

As a student, I am grateful that my teachers have been patient with me when I have been simple, wicked or simple completely clueless. I know that when I took my first led primary class three years ago with Govinda, I was the Clueless "son", and he patiently gave me what I needed at the time. That being said, I didn't go to another Ashtanga class for a year! But when I went, I was ready, and Govinda was never far from my mind.

Mary-Beth was my next teacher - and she met me when I had a shoulder injury (pole planting accident whilst skiing in Utah in February) but an open attitude about whatever it was that she had to teach me. Nevertheless, she witnessed me being (1) attached to the heat of the room, (2) frustrated at my difficulties binding and (c) chomping at the bit to get to Garba Pindasana and beyond. She never lost faith in my ability to learn, even as I moved onto Mysore classes at two different shalas, led classes on an only occasional basis.

I really don't believe that Mary-Beth ever wrote me off for that or felt that my commitment to Ashtanga was lacking in any way. I can't speak for her, of course, but I do know that I have a very nice relationship with her, teacher to student.

Wow, this has gotten very long and rambling for a "comment", and I am not sure if I have even addressed what you wrote about, at least not specifically.

I guess what I am trying to say, in a nutshell, is that I believe that my teachers are willing to invest their time in me, even if they see me as something other than the "Wise Son," at least on some topics, at least some of the time. And I know that sometimes I can BE the Wise Son, and maybe going forward, I will be that Wise Son more and more. Maybe. If I am very very lucky and work very very hard.

Stepping away from the theoretical, I do want to answer some of the specifics that you brought up:

First - I don't hope to get anything form one teacher that I can't get from another. I just really want to practice every day, and that means I have to move around a bit right now. It would be nice if that changes, and I can settle down with one.

Second - regarding the SKPJ analogy of teachers to spouses and your analogy of widowers vs. serial monogomists or polygamists: If we are to follow through with the analogy, then the question becomes: should it be appropriate for a student "date" around a bit before "settling" down in a committed relationship (not that that is what I am doing exactly - as I have said, it's really about getting to practice with a teacher each day)?

Third: I totally agree with you on the not teaching for financial reasons. I am so so so so so so so lucky that I am able to teach yoga and not have to worry about making money. I make no compensation for teaching my breast cancer survivors, and I will be getting expenses only for teaching a group of octegenarians in the fall. I never even asked New York Yoga what they paid before I started teaching there - it just didn't matter to me at all. I really just want to teach. But I do know that other people really NEED to make money from teaching yoga. And I know it is hard for them. It is a very very physically and emotionally demanding job. And owning a studio? Lordy. I can't even imagine how difficult that is.

Finally: I completely agree with you on the "once you discover Ashtanga, how do you do anything else - practice or teach?" It is very very hard for me to feel the "vinyasa class" thing in my heart when all I practice now is Ashtanga. But right now, that is the only teaching I am doing on a regular basis (vinyasa), and CAN be incredibly rewarding, especially my Intro to Yoga workshops, and my Breast Cancer Survivors workshop, and basically, any time that my students really begin to "feel" the yoga.

I gotta run now - thanks to ALL of you for all of your thought-provoking comments!

Namaste,

YC

8 comments:

Kathy said...

Lauren,

My apologies for constantly putting you on the defensive. I really just found some of the questions/issues you posed kind of interesting to debate on more of a theoretical level than practical. Anyway, thanks for the dialogue. My apologies if it got too personal at times. You're a trooper I must say.

Cheers. And be well.

K

Anonymous said...

i agree with kathy, you are an amazing human being and your students might consider themselves so very lucky with a teacher who is so devoted as you are, (and your children and husband are also very fortunate!!!)
ivdp

Anonymous said...

Lauren,

I've been really enjoying our Beginners workshop. You have been extremely positive and I can't wait to practice again, I've even been working on try to get some things at home!

Beth

Anonymous said...

Seems that verbal oneupmanship is more pervasive on the internet than in "real life".

Still, I have found this blog, and the related ezboard discussion, somewhat irritating. Your practice is your practice, I wouldn't have anything to say about it except I hope it goes well. But what is up with the "Yoga Chickie" moniker? And why do I have this feeling that this blog, and the ezboard stuff, are part of some kind of weird publicity campaign? Doesn't warm my heart, and neither do the loquacious comments about needing to market your place to more people, not to mention your semmingly negative comments about the wonderful Christopher.

The stuff about going to two shalas is very interesting - I never heard of anybody doing that. There is a place in one of the books about Pattabhi Jois where he emphasizes the importance of one guru. If you don't feel that I don't see how it is likely to help for anybody to tell you you are wrong. I would have thought that the conventional wisdom would be that all things that help to have a steady practice, are good; that would include doing the same poses each day (not stopping different places all the time), going to the same place, and at the same time too, not to mention, having the same teacher.

yoga chickie said...

Yes, I agree that verbal one-upmanship is more pervasive on the internet than in "real life" - people do not feel "accountable" on the net and as a result, often take leave of their manners. This is particularly true when people post anonymously. That is why I am completely identifiable by my moniker, which is directly linked to my name. I want to be accountable.

As to my blog causing you to feel irritated, I highly recommend that you avoiding reading it going forward. Why should you put yourself in a situation where you know you are going to feel irritated? In yoga, we hope to learn to live a life free of attachment and avoidance, but I don't think it counts as "avoidance" to not read a blog that gives you negative feelings.

As for my name, "Yoga Chickie", well, I just kinda like it. It feels like ME. I don't know what else to say other than that. Is there some question you have about my name?

As to this blog being some sort of publicity tool, (a) it is not, and (b) what if it were? The discussion I was having with Kathy about keeping yoga studios afloat had to do with shalas balancing the need for serious students with the need to make money. I have no financial stake in New York Yoga, and my classes are for the most part crowded, sometimes too crowded. YogaChickie is not looking for more students - YogaChickie is just obsessed with yoga.

Christopher? There are no negative comments here about Christopher. All I wrote about Christopher is a factual anecdote. I reported what I heard him say to a student, and I reported that his student is FINE with it. Christopher has been nothing but supportive of my Breast Cancer Survivors yoga class, and I have nothing but nice things to say about him, opinionwise. If you read my blog more carefully, you would see that I was tempted to take some of his classes (because of the temptation to move ahead faster).

Re: SKPJ, when he emphasizes the importance of one guru, is he emphasizing the importance of not having two ashtanga teachers? Or not practicing Ashtanga plus, say, Iyengar? You have to read what he wrote in the context in which he wrote it. Much like the U.S. Constitution, what SKPJ says about Ashtanga is going to have to be interpreted going forward in light of the realities of the world in which Ashtanga is being taught. Perhaps when the Ashtanga system was created, it was possible for there to be ONE teacher, and for that ONE teacher to know EVERY pose and be able to "DO" EVERY pose. But clearly, Ashtanga has grown way beyond that. SKPJ no longer practices at all. Sharath is a different teacher entirely, as is his mother. And every teacher that learned directly from them brings into it their own subtlties. Just as what the Founding Fathers wrote in the late 1700s has to be interpreted in 2005 based on life as we lead it toay, what SKPJ said about the Ashtanga System in 1947 has to be interpreted in 2005 to work within the realities of 2005.

As for stopping at the same point each day...I have no intention of stopping at the same point each day forever. Some days I might do Five Surya A and Five Surya B and go to Savasana, if my body needs that.

This rigidity and what seems to be at times blind adherence to laws that may or may not be being read as they were intended, given changes in context and situation, it just blows me away. I have no interest in participating in anything that resembles a fascist regime or a cult. What I have an interest in is participating in what I perceive to be an INTELLIGENT, TRADITIONAL BUT EVOLVING system.

If you can't see it that way, then we don't see eye to eye.

yoga chickie said...

Yes, I agree that verbal one-upmanship is more pervasive on the internet than in "real life" - people do not feel "accountable" on the net and as a result, often take leave of their manners. This is particularly true when people post anonymously. That is why I am completely identifiable by my moniker, which is directly linked to my name. I want to be accountable.

As to my blog causing you to feel irritated, I highly recommend that you avoiding reading it going forward. Why should you put yourself in a situation where you know you are going to feel irritated? In yoga, we hope to learn to live a life free of attachment and avoidance, but I don't think it counts as "avoidance" to not read a blog that gives you negative feelings.

As for my name, "Yoga Chickie", well, I just kinda like it. It feels like ME. I don't know what else to say other than that. Is there some question you have about my name?

As to this blog being some sort of publicity tool, (a) it is not, and (b) what if it were? The discussion I was having with Kathy about keeping yoga studios afloat had to do with shalas balancing the need for serious students with the need to make money. I have no financial stake in New York Yoga, and my classes are for the most part crowded, sometimes too crowded. YogaChickie is not looking for more students - YogaChickie is just obsessed with yoga.

Christopher? There are no negative comments here about Christopher. All I wrote about Christopher is a factual anecdote. I reported what I heard him say to a student, and I reported that his student is FINE with it. Christopher has been nothing but supportive of my Breast Cancer Survivors yoga class, and I have nothing but nice things to say about him, opinionwise. If you read my blog more carefully, you would see that I was tempted to take some of his classes (because of the temptation to move ahead faster).

Re: SKPJ, when he emphasizes the importance of one guru, is he emphasizing the importance of not having two ashtanga teachers? Or not practicing Ashtanga plus, say, Iyengar? You have to read what he wrote in the context in which he wrote it. Much like the U.S. Constitution, what SKPJ says about Ashtanga is going to have to be interpreted going forward in light of the realities of the world in which Ashtanga is being taught. Perhaps when the Ashtanga system was created, it was possible for there to be ONE teacher, and for that ONE teacher to know EVERY pose and be able to "DO" EVERY pose. But clearly, Ashtanga has grown way beyond that. SKPJ no longer practices at all. Sharath is a different teacher entirely, as is his mother. And every teacher that learned directly from them brings into it their own subtlties. Just as what the Founding Fathers wrote in the late 1700s has to be interpreted in 2005 based on life as we lead it toay, what SKPJ said about the Ashtanga System in 1947 has to be interpreted in 2005 to work within the realities of 2005.

As for stopping at the same point each day...I have no intention of stopping at the same point each day forever. Some days I might do Five Surya A and Five Surya B and go to Savasana, if my body needs that.

This rigidity and what seems to be at times blind adherence to laws that may or may not be being read as they were intended, given changes in context and situation, it just blows me away. I have no interest in participating in anything that resembles a fascist regime or a cult. What I have an interest in is participating in what I perceive to be an INTELLIGENT, TRADITIONAL BUT EVOLVING system.

If you can't see it that way, then we don't see eye to eye.

Ward Landess said...

Interested. Keep Blogging!

Zane Campion said...

Well, that could be true.

Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

My photo
Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.

Bygones

Ashtanga Blogs


Thanks for reading Yoga Chickie!