Whether you like it or not, you are an agent of change. You affect whatever you come into contact with.
As a practitioner, you already know this. Practice tunes you in to more and more subtle aspects of awareness, so you start to see how your thoughts, words and deeds affect the world around you. Thought becomes speech becomes form and we affect each other. You don’t really have a choice about this.
What you can choose is what kind of affect you have on those around you. In other words:
You choose whether you are creating change consciously or unconsciously.
One way I’ve tried to be a positive agent of change has been through teaching yoga over the past 20 + years. Teaching people to take various postures was just the ruse for developing relationships to people–to help them learn to relax, gain confidence and to develop a sane relationship with their mind.
When I first started on this path of yoga, I was a grad student training to be a psychotherapist. Eventually, people started asking me to teach, and as I graduated and became a psychotherapist, I discovered that my clients also benefited from yoga. With certain populations, I often found that it was the only way in. Mind can be so tricky, especially with people who have suffered abuse or trauma. The body is such an easy way to start working with people who have difficult emotional lives—you don’t have to think, you only have to do. Eventually this doing starts to change the mind, and then you can eventually start to talk about it.
So I added yoga and meditation to my therapeutic techniques, my bag of tools. As the years went on, I tried to expand and develop each of these tools, going on retreats and attending Buddhist teachings to develop meditation. I spent time in India, studying with my teachers.
But now, after 2 decades of teaching yoga, I sometimes don’t recognize the terrain anymore. Yoga has become so fashionable that it is hard to know where to find one’s place in the conversation. Whenever something trends on a worldwide scale like yoga has in recent years, it creates evolution.
I’ve evolved, too. At 50, my body no longer does what it did when I first started practicing yoga-–it doesn’t want to. When I was recently categorized under “fitness professionals’ at a place I worked, (though they invited me to teach at their meditation retreat center) I realized I needed to re-vision my approach to teaching and practicing yoga. It’s discouraging to keep teaching in a yoga world that is increasingly defined by fame and physical prowess.
Watering Down The Practice
It often seems that the power of the yoga practice is being drained with each new teacher training, as more and more inexperienced teachers go out and share this sacred practice as if it were a new-age self-help exercise regimen. I don’t blame the new teachers. Once I was a young and inexperienced teacher as well, and I made my own mistakes. But fortunately, I have been blessed with amazing teachers, and so I could never get away with doing too much damage.
I do blame (or strongly chastise) the inexperienced teachers who are offering the teacher training programs. Regardless of how many RYT hours you have under your belt, if you don’t have an actual EXPERIENCE of what you are teaching, then you can’t actually teach it with any credibility. And I see this far too often. If you haven’t yet read my article in MindBodyGreen about what it takes to be a great yoga teacher, go read it now! While intentions may be good, it does a disservice to the tradition to teach in a haphazard way or to teach watered down teachings of which you have no understanding.
We don’t have time for that. We all need to become an agent of change.
We’ve got some big issues on this planet to work out. I’m encouraged to see so many people learning yoga, and becoming teachers, collaborating with others to help the planet on a more grassroots level. At the point we now find ourselves, with politics and economy and ecology going down the toilet, I see this collaborative effort as the only solution left to us mortal humans. I’d like to be part of this solution, rather than part of the problem. Wouldn’t you?
So here’s what I’ve done. I created a course (online, because that’s where people are these days) for new and aspiring yoga teachers to develop an authentic relationship to their practice, and to their teachers, so that they can be positive agents of change. People over the years have asked me how I managed to teach in Asia for over 15 years and so I share those insights. On the surface it may appear I have drunk the Kool-Aid. But what people want in the Kali Yuga is material success—this is what people pay attention to. Once we have their attention, we can offer them to real nourishment: guidance for how to develop an authentic practice that they can then share with others.
Over the past several years, I’ve watched the global yoga community turn into a circus. There. I said it. I see more and more yoga teachers who I truly respect giving up teaching these days because they don’t want to be part of that circus. I often want to join them. But my my feeling is that if I am not part of the solution, then I am part of the problem.
So I originally conceived of a comprehensive program to help yoga teachers thrive in and out of the classroom. I asked Michelle Taffe to join me and we created Your Fab Yoga Life.
Our goals in doing this are simple. We want to:
- Empower teachers to share yoga and be an agent of change in the world
- Help yoga teachers clarify their understanding of yoga and how to convey that message through teaching
- Share insights I’ve learned on my journey as I’ve created an overseas teaching career
- Encourage anyone who engages in a yoga or meditation practice to share their gifts, by letting practice guide the process.
I believe that by helping people to elevate their awareness, we can shift the consciousness of our planet.
Yoga is a set of tools that can help anyone cultivate awareness and refine connection to a source of wisdom. If more people develop an authentic yoga practice, more people’s lives will be transformed. When more people’s lives are transformed, our planet will be transformed. Then we will all be conscious agents of change.