Well I’ve made it to Mysore, along with 250 or so others. The hamlet of Gokulum has become quite the hot spot for yoga studies. I don’t assume anymore when I meet another westerner that she is here to study at the Sri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. They could be here for Bharath at Yoga India, Venkatesh, Mystic Yoga, Bhima Shakti Yoga, or the others which I haven’t heard of yet. Mystic Yoga is an Indian man in his 20s who studied with BNS Iyengar in Lakshmipuram. To be teaching in one’s 20s around here would seem to be a new phenomenon.
Another recent phenomenon which my teacher Robert Moses pointed out years ago, is the possibility of achieving riches or fame through teaching yoga. At conference yesterday, Sharath answered a question about the difficulty of making a living with a yoga studio, and is the teaching meant to be a business or a selfless service. Sharath answered that we should all keep to our professions and keep yoga as a spiritual practice. Yet I notice as he addresses the group of us, he is often speaking as to a group of aspiring teachers.
Many do come here for the “authorization” a new fangled version of having Guruji’s blessing to go teach. The tradition of yoga is changing so much. Krishnamacharya was a poor man. His teacher told him to go teach (which is how it was for many of the old schoolers who guruji told to go teach) and for a man of multiple academic honors to be sent into a life of yoga teaching meant very simple living. For many years, Guruji’s wife owned 2 sarees. Sharath told the group yesterday that one must expect little from one’s service. And no, yoga is not a business venture, but we knew that.
I love the way he looks confused by these questions, “I don’t know why you would ask that,” he says. I feel that the money pouring into this family is viewed as karma. Money is a measure of action/energy. In the west, we have attached many meanings, one being personal validation, to the receipt of funds. (FYI, nobody smashes the Ego like Guruji and Sharath) In a true yogic sense, an influx of some entity which is associated with validation of the Ego would be a dangerous thing, or a timely challenge, depending on the focus of the student. I have watched others in the yoga ocmmuity jockey with this idea called “fame” and the play between serving greater numbers and the dangers of reknown. When I chose to stay committed to Ashtanga Yoga as a practitioner and as a teacher, I knew I wouldn’t be getting famous or rich. Indeed, I have lived very much on the charity of others who want to support “the yoga” by supporting my studies. When I come here to study, I feel I commit to this conscious evolution for the good of all, especially my community in Boston. I can feel that the students there get this, and this is part of what makes the growing relationship between us special.
I started teaching after five years of doing nothing but yoga practices with my teachers and on my own. I was as they say , keen. At some point I was so thirsting for service and I couldn’t imagine doing anything besides sharing yoga. I hunted it; I tried too hard; I started too early; I hurt my body. But I was so tired of waiting tables and cleaning toilets. Seemed like th only choice at the time. I think this is something of the 20s, thinking there is scarcity of choice. Dad always said: your twenties are about learning what you don’t want.
Yesterday when Sharath said to go about your profession, I wondered what mine is? Im certainly not a dentist or a mechanic. I feel my profession is to continue the path of conscious evolution (just another word for yoga) for the betterment of all. One could hardly expect money from this venture. The teaching of yoga then becomes something of a duty. Because the singular focus on personal work must give way to an outward focus and the process of balancing the two. Sharath spoke yesterday of wanting to go live in the forest and do only yoga when his kids are grown. I have been aware for some time now of what a sacrifice he must make to continue this yoga school and I trust him completely, truly. He lights up when he speaks of yoga practice (can’t you feel it? He asks us yesterday) but not when he speaks of teaching. I am so grateful that an authentic “yoga family business” is open for me to come study.
It does feel like a family business. Hundreds of us sweating in the ground floor of their home. Saraswati comes down in her housedress to teach primary. The nanny peeks in with the baby on her hip. The spray bottle for Garbapindasana has kid’s stickers all over it. This ain’t no Italian restaurant, but it’s a family trade all the same.