Changes in Ashtanga Teacher Standards

In the past few days there have been some changes on the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute website, ayri.org. There is a new link under the practice category called in capitals TEACHERS LIST.

In contrast with the familiar list of teachers on ashtanga.com, this list as of today (August 14 2008) primarily lists certified teachers (not authorized teachers), or a fraction of the total.

The new list on the AYRI site comes with a change in the standards for being listed. To be listed, the website states:

[Teachers] should maintain a yoga room or shala to allow for daily, preferably morning, Mysore-style practice and should honor Saturdays and the full/new moon days as rest days.

In addition, it seems that the requirements for keeping the authorization to teach are being significantly tightened. For example, teachers are asked to :

  • return to India every year and half to study for 2 months
  • have a shala for daily classes
  • refrain from teaching on traditional rest days such as Moon days
  • refrain from teaching any series beyond the primary series
  • refrain from teaching workshops

These requirements look like an attempt to raise standards and the quality of teaching. Perhaps it is due to the notable increase in students and teachers in the past 5 years (we wrote about how the number had at least doubled back in 2006). To me, these changes raise questions about the essence of Ashtanga yoga.

What effect will these new requirements have on the quality of teaching of Ashtanga yoga across the world?

In my opinion, in many ways this is a step in the wrong direction for Asthanga yoga.

Asking for a trip to India every 18 months for two whole months puts a heavy burden on new parents and on those with fewer financial means.

No Workshops?
Workshops provide benefits for both teachers and students, and are a key part in building the worldwide Ashtanga community.

Asking teachers to forgo the extra income from workshops may make it impossible for a lot of them to return to India so frequently, since ironically it is often these very workshops which give the teachers the means to return to do so.

Personally, a lot of what I have learned about Ashtanga yoga is directly due to taking workshops with authorized teachers. Had these requirements been in place when I was starting my yoga journey, I would not have had the amazing opportunities to learn from such talented teachers.

Hundreds of dedicated teachers have devoted their lives to teaching ashtanga yoga. They have made enormous sacrifices to become authorized. It seems unfair to change the rules so drastically and abruptly. The standards are changing in a way that may make it impossible for a lot of teachers to continue teaching as authorized teachers.

In addition, raising the standards in such a way that few teachers meet them could have the perverse effect of lowering the quality of teaching because they become meaningless.

These changes do not seem to be in the interest of the Ashtanga yoga community, and in the continued spreading of this wonderful practice.

These are my initial thoughts and I wrote this because I care deeply about the practice. I welcome your opinions on this important matter.

65 Comments »

  1. stroumfaki said,

    August 15, 2008 at 5:34 am

    This is about money not guru parampara.

  2. embe said,

    August 16, 2008 at 5:44 am

    I just read the AYRI website,it said nothing about not teaching workshops…
    Seems a bit strange not allowing that,is that really correct?
    When I was in Mysore two months ago Sharat spoke in conference about “Teacher trainings” and didn´t seem to like them at all,is that what you mean ?

  3. The Masked Ashtangi said,

    August 16, 2008 at 5:46 am

    I agree, purely about money and control.

  4. laksmi vimalananda said,

    August 16, 2008 at 8:20 am

    It’s pretty disappointing how cultish this has all become anyway, but now, it’s so desperately controlling. Agreed that it is about money. I’ve always thought that the fees were astronomical even by western standards. How much money does a person need? And are people really going to buy into it? I was fortunate enough to study under two certified teachers, but I can say that one was much better than the other–the second was a liability and caused many student injuries. So certification/authorization doesn’t really even mean you can teach. It just means you can do certain poses and you can go to India for a couple of months a year. Buyer beware.

  5. Arturo said,

    August 17, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Hi Phillipe
    The no workshops rule needs verification. Previously the rule spelled out was that there were not to be so called “ashtanga teacher trainings”, but the word “ashtanga intensive” was allowed in reference to a workshop.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

  6. rufus said,

    August 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    many people not understanding

  7. stroumfaki said,

    August 17, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    The rule about no teacher trainings (even if they are called something else) is old. They have just decided to more actively police the offending teachers by removing them from the certified/authorized list. So some well respected teachers who have been instrumental in helping the spread of Ashtanga are ordered to stop what they are doing: Richard Freeman, David Swenson, Tim Miller etc. ( Richard’s website is called Yogaworkshop, so I think he should be punished more severely than the others! :) ).

    This is included (among other things) in an email sent out by AYRI or as it seems to be called now KPJAYI. “While Certified teachers may travel and provide some workshops, Authorized teachers should be working in one location only”. Translation: If you are authorized forget those money making Mexico/Thailand/Greece vacations!

    We have also heard this one before and it is included in the same email: “No one, Authorized or Certified, should be advancing students beyond an asana they cannot safely and proficiently complete”. So next time I study with Sharmila who is authorized she will have to stop me at… Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.

  8. ashtanga anarchist said,

    August 17, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    This is ridiculous. Why penalize authorised and certified teachers for doing the right thing and studying with the Guru. Why should non certified/authorised teachers, many of whom barely know the practice, teach how ever they like, offer teacher training and workshops while those people who have been to the source cannot.

    If we are to follow the example of our teachers, as the guru parampara tradition dictates, we would all became avaricious, wealth obsessed and suffer from almost crippling back pain as Sharath regularly does. I have studied with the Jois family for many many years and I resent being ripped off in this way.

    Krishnamacharya did not give his blessing to Jois to teach and then say, “Oh, by the way, you need to come back and study with me each 18 months and yes, you need to pay me a fee for my blessing which was once freely given.” If Jois is so concerned about the tradition he should have stopped Sharath from authorising anyone who asked just so he could get his greedy hands on the money. They created the monster by NOT having proper controls.

    It is time to wake up people and see that these people are now getting to the level of Bikram and his money making schemes.

  9. rufus said,

    August 18, 2008 at 9:47 am

    seems to me many of these comments may be reflections of your own money obsessions. don’t like it? don’t go, don’t pay, don’t practice, nobody cares.

  10. faith said,

    August 18, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    i agree with rufus.

    many people here are not understanding . . . and seemingly very angry.

  11. Amanda said,

    August 19, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Yes, I agree with Rufus as well. It seems to me like many reactions that I am reading here are born out of financial panic.

    Maybe the problem occurs when we expect the fruits of yoga to be financial ones.

  12. heather said,

    August 19, 2008 at 2:24 am

    To be fair, this attempt is to raise the standards to teaching as well as the practice of Ashtanga. So let’s not slam it for only being for money reasons. Certainly that would be part of the picture and the reasoning behind this, but it is only ‘part’ not the whole.

    I believe these ‘rules’ hae been put forth without some serious considerations with respect to practicality and in short, the Western world. I also believe that these ‘rules’ also stem from the obvious cultural differences. Let’s first look at the practical points missing.

    Without a doubt forcing teachers to return to India each and every year is NOT practical. People have families, limited budjets and often other responsibilites that do not allow for this (eg., paying the mortgage and paying the rent). I am quite certain having spent many years in India myself (returning year after year)…that Eastern people do not understand the cost of living is quite a bit higher and that coming to the East to study does involve a loss of income, etc.

    As well, in the East taking off for religious holidays and moon days is very much encouraged and accepted. Perhpas the West is too production oriented, but this is not going to change any time soon. Closing ones’ school on Saturday for a moon day may adhere to the traditional practice but again not to practical means. That is, when students are working people and only attend yoga classes on Saturday’s.

    As for the cultural differences…well, those are interwoven into the practical matters.

    No, I really do not think these ‘rules’ will stand ground for too long. You’ll see they will be revised soon.

  13. mysore said,

    August 19, 2008 at 4:37 am

    You do realize, don’t you, that these rules are nothing new? These were always the rules! Authorized teachers were only ever allowed to teach Primary (not that anyone really followed this rule…). They were always meant to teach regular Mysore classes ie. not just workshops. They have ALWAYS had to return to Mysore every 18 months to renew their authorization (it used to be for 1 month study every 18 months, it seems it’s now 2 ) – ashtanga.com still lists teachers who haven’t renewed their authorization but “officially” some of the listed teachers are not authorized anymore because they haven’t been to Mysore for years. And, Guruji and Sharath requested already a couple of years ago that Certified/Authorized teachers stop doing teacher training. Then everyone started calling it “adjustment workshops” etc…maybe this is why they don’t like workshops.
    These were always the rules and every authorized teacher knew them. Nobody just paid that much attention to whether anyone really followed them.
    By the way, the list on the ayri website is not final; new names have appeared and there are people here in Mysore working on it as we speak.

  14. kate said,

    August 19, 2008 at 4:41 am

    Just because the first things that come to your mind is money and control doesn’t mean that they are the first things on everyone’s mind.

  15. faith said,

    August 19, 2008 at 6:13 am

    these were always the rules.

    and it’s only people who aren’t really into the practice as pattabhi jois teaches it who complain. a shala with a full mysore program is definitely possible, but won’t flourish if you suck as a teacher and are totally uninspiring.

  16. T said,

    August 19, 2008 at 6:51 am

    I think reinforcing this is a great idea, it also helps us to realize how difficult this practice is to get recognized as a true ashtanga teacher. Unlike some of the other western-yoga invented practices which are truly out for to make money. Think about it, how many yoga practices have been “created” in the past ten years. Anyone can take a teacher training, make a dvd, write a book, and slap “teacher” on their name, this my friends is ahankara. Sure, the money and the time demands regards to visiting India are an issue for most westerners – but perhaps the trek to India/teaching is not the path for everyone.

    Like so many of the more recent commenters have agreed – nothing has changed. Rules are just being reinforced because they seem to be getting forgotten.

    Further, this practice should not be taken lightly. Why would you trust just anyone to teach you this path? It’s not that I’m saying we should only take practice from certified teachers, we should just be aware who we are following.

  17. ana said,

    August 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for posting on this important topic, Philippe. My two cents… I am simply glad to receive information straight from the horse’s mouth. As incomplete, inaccurate, and/or outdated it may be, an “official” list of teachers from the powers that be is still useful for new students of ashtanga. I have experienced the difference between a mysore class conducted by a certified teacher and one who was neither authorized nor certified to teach. And all I’ll say is “Thanks, Sharath for taking the time to do this”!!

  18. Jazmin said,

    August 19, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    @Faith these were always the rules. and it’s only people who aren’t really into the practice as pattabhi jois teaches it who complain.

    Could you clarify? People who are not insiders (and thus are just learning about these rules for the first time) are not really “into the practice”? Do you have to be an ashtanga scenester to be a “real” ashtangi?

    Honestly. I’m really genuinely asking if it’s the case that practitioners who are out of the loop really don’t understand what ashtanga is truly about.

    A lot of the sparks here seem to be about who is and who is not a real ashtangi. So again, I really am trying to figure out what are the most important criteria. For example, people who see their practice as integrated into daily life in the US–rather than daily life in Mysore–their practice is less deep?

  19. AshtangaNews » Continuing the Conversation on Ashtanga Teacher Standards Changes - Ashtanga Yoga Matters (as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois) said,

    August 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    [...] Last week I posted about how the Ashtanga Teachers Standards were changed, and reflected on how it would affect Ashtanga Yoga. [...]

  20. ashtanga anarchist said,

    August 19, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Point of information since most of you posting sound like you have not been practicing that long. I have been authorised for many many years and when I was authorised by KP Jois there was no restriction on what you could teach. I was told directly …”teach what you know.”

    Secondly money never came into the equation. Authorisation was given because KP Jois thought you were dedicated enough as a student to pass ont he practice correctly. There was no fee for authorisation and there was no stipulation to return to mysore or to pay every 18 months.

    Thirdly, from my expereince of studying in Mysore over more than 10 years the standard of those authorised dramatically dropped the minute Guruji stopped and Sharath started handing out pieces of paper with the accompanying bill, hence the doubling of the number of authorised teachers inthe past few years.

    Lastly, if this scheme is supposed to increase the level of teching in the ashtanga community why not go after the ever increasing number of people who have never studied in mysore with the family who are now offering teacher training courses? These are the people doing the most damage to the practice, not the dedicated authorised/certified teachers who have shown there commitment to the practice.

  21. bindifry said,

    August 19, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    so…say a person is not authorized, never wanted to be, but has studied faithfully with a certified teacher over 10 years, also has studied in mysore, has taught morning mysore for 6 mornings a week for years, is not doing it to get rich, teaches all over the world for free or very little money (NOT for a vacation but because it is needed when these teachers want to go to india-who do you think watches the students when they are gone for months?)
    has never done a teacher training and shuns workshops (done only when forced to) ? personally i have never wanted that piece of paper. it has created monsters. i have heard of people buying that paper who do not even have a daily practice.

    does this mean this person (me) should not teach this practice?

    if that’s true, i want no part of this ridiculus back stabbing angry system that seems to turn humans into gods (in their own minds). just cause you aren’t authorized does not mean you are not a good teacher who understands how to teach. i offer only asana. if they want the rest of the limbs, i send them to india or a certified teacher. i can not take responsibility for the rest, i do not pretend to know enough.

    why does the ayri bother certifying people if someone like me is not worth anything when studying with them?

    however, i think this was long overdue. i personally have known it was going to happen over a year ago. it happened because too many people are too hungry for that piece of paper. they pay the money, study with piles of teachers (do not have one guru-something guruji speaks of all the time) runs to mysore the amount of times required, and once paper is in hand, starts charging more for their services, even if they suck at teaching.

    i would like to see them get rid of authorization completely and just certify people and allow the rest of us to have them as teachers if we do not want to spend our life in the ayri with a thousand other people, getting zero personal attention year after year. this a good teacher does not make.

    times have changed. there’s too many people in the shala. if you were lucky enough to find astanga before gokalum, you can say that guruji is your teacher. now that is not possible.

  22. faith said,

    August 20, 2008 at 12:26 am

    @jazmin,

    you don’t have to be a scenester at all to be into the practice.

    when i started the practice, what helped me stay was the extremely dedicated practitioners around me. i saw that things that i thought were impossible were not, in fact, impossible. it was all possible, you have to be diligent.

    so, ultimately, what i was trying to say was that people who are uninspired, unbelieving and not diligent, are the ones always looking for the easy way out. just show up on the mat and practice what you’ve been taught and you will have a profound experience no matter where you are.

    and the rules I was referring to are the rules that apply to you if you want to be authorized or certified under KPJAYI.

    with that said, i totally agree with bindifry. the most inspiring teacher i ever had did not have any pieces of paper . . .

  23. Angie said,

    August 20, 2008 at 12:51 am

    I totally agree with Bindifry. The best teachers I have ever had belong to the group you describe in your first paragraph — no pieces of paper, yet as devoted to Guruji and the tradition as any Certified person (perhaps moreso?). It would be a real shame if these people were punished in any way.

  24. yamma said,

    August 20, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Why is the list on KPJAYI different to that on ashtanga .com?
    i mean, the same teachers do not seem to be listed….. I thought the ashtanga.com listing was a list of thos teachers certified/authorisied by Shrath and Guruji

  25. yogini said,

    August 20, 2008 at 5:31 am

    There is a definite difference between an authorised and non authorised teacher and I believe it comes down to faith, faith in the practice, faith in guruji and faith enough to convey to others the method as it is taught in Mysore. This is teaching without flourishes, workshops or skipping postures.

    When one spends enough time in Mysore something transformational can occur. However, it is my experience that if you go to Mysore to get – new postures certification etc – rather than to give respect to the guru of this lineage people end up feeling frustrated.

    AYRI are well within their rights to maintain high standards. Teachers need a teacher and need to be regularly in their presence. Otherwise, in the midst of all of your students putting you on a pedastool the ego can become inflated and people start changing the method according to their own likes and dislikes.

    The reiteration and addition of rules sends a clear message to authorised and certified teachers who then have a choice, return to Mysore or do not profess to be an AYRI teacher. This is in no way a Bikram or Iynegar like trademarking of Ashtanga Yoga, simply a reminder to students of the lineage in which they teach and the required committment to continue to study with their guru.

    Everyone has a choice as to whether they teach with or without approval of AYRI.

    om shanti.

  26. bindifry said,

    August 20, 2008 at 6:00 am

    why does everyone think they are transformed when they go to mysore? can it be that india in itself is quite transformative? can it be that the daily practice is transformative? guruji says, “do your practice and all is coming” not “come visit me in mysore every year and i will transform you.” there is also a LOT of maya in india. be careful, because often it’s spiritual trickery.

    there are thousands of students who are very hungry to learn traditional astanga. and not enough teachers to teach them. we are needed and wanted all over the world. when a teacher goes to mysore for however many months, it is teachers, often non-authorized ones, who take their place. because when you constantly leave your studio to study, you leave your students behind.

    i’m very tired of this holy attitude with people who go to mysore. the ones who really know (many certified ones) have an understanding that authorization does not mean anything as far as passing on the tradition with all their heart. these senior teachers (all who i respect and certified) depend on and use their own students who often are not authorized.

    if one can go to mysore for themselves and choose to teach the method, i think it’s a wonderful idea. even for a serious student.

    but the good ones are there for one reason. to be with guruji because they love him. and they don’t need to shout it to the world nor do they bother spitting on the low lifes like me who has never had any intention of getting the paper.

    some of us are too busy trying to help.

  27. kate said,

    August 20, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Ashtanga Anarchist said “Lastly, if this scheme is supposed to increase the level of teching in the ashtanga community why not go after the ever increasing number of people who have never studied in mysore with the family who are now offering teacher training courses?”

    How exactly would you do that? Get Sharath to ring them up and say “hello, it’s Sharath from Mysore, I know I haven’t even met you but I want you to stop doing teacher training”???

    They can only control/police/go after/supervise (whatever you want to call it) those teachers who are authorized by them and use the AYRI name to promote themselves. And I think they should have the right to keep an eye on the teachers they have authorized. If you don’t like the “rules”, well, it’s not like Sharath is forcing authorization on anyone. Quite the opposite.

  28. D said,

    August 20, 2008 at 10:49 am

    it’s disheartening that there is so much politics around this stuff. i wish ayri would exert this kind of influence when it comes to helping students around the world have a healthy, safe practice.

  29. yogini said,

    August 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    It seems that there is a lot of negativity around these changes by people who are not that into going to Mysore. If you don’t want the paper, are happy helping your teachers out when they go to practice in Mysore, that is great. Going to India can be transformative. But really one would need to be in India undertaking some sort of practice – which is exactly what people are doing in Mysore. Going on a Vipassanna or visiting Ramesh Balsekar can also be transformative, whatever you connect with and open to and spend enough time doing with awareness can be transformative.

    So of course going to Mysore is transformative. Not that daily practice alone is no trasnformative also. However to understand how guruji and sharath teach ashtanga yoga one needs to spend a great deal of time in their presence.

    Really, I don’t understand what the big deal is, either you connect with Mysore and go there and may be fortunate enough to be given guruji’s blessing to teach, or you stay at home still practicing daily and teach.

    Given that there is a set standard for becoming an ‘Ashtanga’ teacher people who teach without the blessing may feel somewhere not 100% comfortable with what they are doing. Otherwise I can’t really understand what the issue is, Jois and Sharath are well within their rights to monitor their teachers.

    Authorised and Certified teachers often get there students to cover classes. Hopefully, however, they are also doing the right thing and encouraging their students to visit mysore.

    Again, if you want to be qualified by AYRI you follow the rules. If not then don’t and don’t go to Mysore, do as you fell is right for you. It is pretty straight forward really.

    om

  30. heather said,

    August 20, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    FACT or FICTION…

    Well there seems to be a good mix of both!

    When I studied with Pattabhi Jois it was 2000….before the birth of Gokalum and crowded classes. This was part of the “old” way where at the time there were only 7-8 students practicing.

    I learned the primary series directly under Pattabis Jois; each day a new pose was added. He stood beside me to introduce the next pose. There was NO stopping at navasana. You either did it or you did not do it. At that time, there were also many people with injuried. The closing sequence was practised upstairs which also doubled as a changing room. I have very fond memories of that time. There is no doubt my practice soared to another level. In particular, I will always remember Pattabhi Jois nearly ripping my legs off in gardha pindasana.

    At that time, i was very new to the system….But I do know for a fact that there was NO written rule about teachers/students coming to Mysore annually. And there was certainly NO written rule about teachers NOT conducting workshop. This may have been the assumed ‘rule’ but it was not written in stone.

    In fact, the ‘workshop’ rule was first written to distinguish between workshops and teacher training courses. Teachers were NOT to call their workshops a form of teaching training in certication.

    The point being that if one desired certification, etc., that one needed to go to the source….that was to be made very clear to Western students. They might learn and be certfied by so and so in another country but if they wanted the ‘real” thing they would have to go to India!

    So, that makes good sense.

    Some people may not even be aware that below the authorication level was a term called ‘blessing.’ Lucy Scott received her ‘blessing’ from Guruji…..This distinction has slowly faded out and is not either authorication or certification.

    There can be no doubt that things have really changed since the 70′s. In fact, many of the students at that time used to wonder why no one was interested in Ashtanga!

    Ashtanga really hit the mainstream when celebrities such as Madonna and Sting began to take up the pratice. Prior to that it Ashtanga yoga was not well known…..

    The fiction is that people know only part of the story with respect to Ashtanga’s evolution and are quick to conclude that this is the way it always was.

    Either way people should take these discussions with a grain of salf and learn to see what you know vs what you think you know…vs what is fact….vs what is fiction.

  31. Chris in Scotland said,

    August 21, 2008 at 3:46 am

    In reference to all this:
    “yogas citta vritti nirodhah”

  32. K of Tokyo said,

    August 22, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Where is, the so called, spirit of the yogi?

    There seems to be a lot of bitterness going around.

    Guruji’s love of bling is evident to anyone who cares to look at all the gold hanging on him. The Jois family don’t need any more money, does it?

    I’m sure we all understand the need for strict quality control in a potentially harmful activity such as yoga but the true spirit of sharing and speading love is being lost. I don’t see how these rules will help propagate Ashtanga. We may even lose some of the very good teachers we have now if they feel that they need to leave the Ashtanga family to continue to reach the practitioners who can tell the difference between a good teacher and just one with a paper to say they are good.

    Common sense will prevail.

    Love and Blessings to all.

  33. Craig said,

    August 24, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I totally agree with bindifry. I know teachers who don thave the paper but are th ebest teachers and stick to teaching Ashtanga traditionally. They are even better than a couple of Certified teachers I know. It’s JUST paper people. Means nothing in my eyes. Doesn’t mean you’re a GREAT teacher just because you have the paper. Complete rubbish!!!

  34. rob said,

    August 25, 2008 at 7:39 am

    It saddens me that many of the posts here show a deep lack of respect for Guruji and Sharath. This is no way to speak about our teachers, the people who have done more than anyone to share this amazing practice with the world. From my experience practicing with Guruji and Sharath, their intention is always to preserve this method and tansmit it lovingly to anyone who is ready and willing to learn. I too was once a ‘tradition skeptic’ but if one thing has transformed my practice over the years it has been faith in the system and my teachers, the ability to put my ego aside and surrender. I am therefore eternally grateful to Guruji and Sharath for giving me the chance to discover and benefit from this.

  35. C said,

    August 27, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    rob, I entirely agree, and I am disenchanted by the navel-gazing focus on how the tightening of the teacher requirements affects the posters personally, as if that is the sole yardstick for measuring things.

    If people are so quick to disparage their teachers it automatically makes one question how devoted they are to the practice. Or to yoga generally. Or indeed, to simply being a decent human being. I am saying this as a traditional practitioner, but by no means a “true believer.” As such, I understand that one may sometimes disagree with one’s teachers, but to slight them in this way is beyond rude and completely graceless.

  36. soreknee said,

    August 27, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I think says something fundamental about a practitioner who would never question or criticize their instructor. On the whole I don’t think this debate is without respect.
    The extremely high fees and restrictions evoke Scientology, which began, for those who don’t know, as an innocuous self-help method. We are adults and wanting to practice yoga, and since they make a point of saying it isn’t a religion, as much respect as we have for the masters, I think we deserve a better explanation.
    For instance, if they are going to create standards that involve routine travel to India and a very high level of practice, doesn’t it beg the question of why there is no measure of how good a teacher someone is? Personal transmission or not, just being able to do it does not mean you can teach someone else to. And that’s something I’m 100% sure of.
    Just because a discussion becomes unpleasant doesn’t mean you should look away or shrug it off.

  37. (0v0) said,

    August 27, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Yeah, the most interesting thing that seems to be coming out here is the different feelings we all have about how much you can question authority.

    I feel like this is natural, and it’s ok. Some people here come from cultures that practice filial piety and ancestor worship and have honestly benefited from surrender to teachers—both because it creates a love relationiship and because it quiets the mind. For others, questioning ultimata is itself a form of teacher relationship—it can be a way of showing respect for a tradition by holding it to high standards and wanting to understand it personally. Questioning is not always disrespectful… throughout this thread it is often a way of expressing frustration in relationship and seeking to make that better. Yoga… resolution of opposition… union… relationship…: it’s ok.

    For me, as an American interested in practical spirituality grounded in my own immediate experience, of course the second disposition is where I started. A tradition that will not tolerate critical thinking would be hard for me to adopt. But over time I’ve found myself bracketing the critical mind in my relationships with yoga teachers—because it’s a joy to let them do the thinking while I quiet my mind. So both a little iconoclasm and a lot of surrender make sense to me.

    That said, I see two different emotions underlying the detractions here. One is love (“why concern yourself with this—where is your gratitude?”). The other is FEAR (“you know Sharath is reading this, right?”)

    When you try to use FEAR to silence meaningful inquiry, that indeed will alienate sincere practitioners. It is sad to see that happening here, just as it is sad to see a certain forgetting of gratitude. When your own mind is full of fear, is it truly quiet? Is fear the same as faith?

    Sharath has an amazing role to play, carrying this tradition among practitioners with different ways of engaging their practice and relating with teachers. It’s not like everyone can jump on an ancestor-worship or authority-glorifying track and have that work for them in a genuine way. Some, yes. Others have different “karma,” and this doesn’t make us hopeless ashtangis. On the contrary! (Ashtanga’s still about “research,” right? Please tell me the research is not gone though the AYRI is no more.)

    Working with eastern and western (and etc) students at the same time must be so hilariously challenging, but I have a feeling Sharath has the insight, love and modern global sophistication to do it.

  38. Ashtanga anarchist said,

    August 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Sharath has the insight, love and modern global sophistication to do it.

    Have you ever met sharath? if you think this is a step in the right direction I think you are sadly mistaken. It is all about control.

    Non authorised teachers have carte blanche to do as they will yet sharath wants to impose his authority on those he can. I know a number of senior teachers are quietly fuming about the tone of Sharath’s letter (if you can call it that because I very much doubt he wrote it). Yoga is about liberation. Does this move liberate or ensnare us?

  39. soreknee said,

    August 30, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Those same senior teachers won’t be so quiet in the not-too-distant future, methinks. Change is inevitable. Change is afoot.

  40. t. said,

    September 1, 2008 at 6:10 am

    I complete agree that more respect is needed in this discussion.

    Guruji and Sharath have dedicated their lives to sharing this method, and that is deserving of respect. If a teacher wishes to be authorised or certified there are guidelines to follow, if they don’t wish to be then of course they may do as they please! Perhaps for some this is the best choice in terms of their teaching. The guidelines are pretty clear now and people can choose to accept them, or not.

    While one may engage in questioning of the system, it’s methods and the standards set by Jois & Sharath for recognition as ‘authorised’ or certified’, or even their approach to teaching, comments such as this demonstrate a clear lack of respect:

    “If we are to follow the example of our teachers, as the guru parampara tradition dictates, we would all became avaricious, wealth obsessed and suffer from almost crippling back pain as Sharath regularly does.”

    Question freely, openly and respectfully. That way hopefully the questioning will lead to answers which help us all to live a life liberated from suffering, rather than creating more negativity in a world which clearly doesn’t need it.

  41. soreknee said,

    September 1, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    t., that does nothing to address any of the very legitimate concerns raised by some of the other posts. Nearly all authorized teachers offer Workshops which are not only helpful to students in many ways, but a way of earning a living.
    The comment you quoted was written by someone who (claims to be) is authorized.
    As a practitioner it actually does concern me that Sharath is suffering from horrible back pain. The high fees charged by KPJAYI are the stuff of legend in India.
    To be a certified Iyengar teacher takes 10 years and there are many levels of approval. To be sure there is rigidity and politics in that system as with any, but they are clearly interested in creating a select community of truly committed and knowledgeable teachers. To quote Richard Freeman, Ashtanga is often taught by neophytes, which he describes as an embarrassment. There really is no system in place to determine who is a great teacher, only measure individual proficiency with asana. And as many here besides myself have attested, that is not nearly the makings of a great teacher.

  42. t. said,

    September 1, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    It is true that being an authorised teacher does not necessarily make one a good teacher, however it does mean that the person has spent a certain amount of time in Mysore, that they teach according to the method taught by guruji (ie; no skipping postures) and that they themselves have a teacher which they return to every 18 months.

    Regarding asana level of attainment, this is only one aspect of authorisation & certification, alongside correct attitude of devotion and respect. The minnimum requirement for authorisation is that one must be able to to the primary series proficiently, which is fair enough.

    In terms of workshops by authorised teachers, certified teachers still can conduct these workshops and given that a number of them travel extensively this is an option for students without a teacher in their area. Also, teaching workshops is not really the method that guruji and sharath encourage. they may teach led class when on tour, but the focus on “how to jump through” “how to improve your backbends or “teaching intensives” are clearly not the essence of ashtanga yoga as taught in Mysore.

    Because it is likely that authorised teachers have less experience with the practice & teaching than certified teachers it makes sense that they should focus on teaching every morning in the mysore style at a home studio. Regular travel is also disruptive to practice.

    Anyhow there are more than enough teachers for people to learn with. But if someone chooses to study under an authorised or certified teacher at least they know there is a base level of practice, a commitment to professional development and continuity in their teaching style and how ashtanga is taught in India.

  43. (0v0) said,

    September 1, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Question. Not being either snarky or obsequious here, just trying to puzzle this out…

    Is Sharath’s experience in his body—whether the pain be related to practice or teaching or both—a personal matter? It it rejected here for another reason—that it is just really disrespectful to discuss? Or is this something to be open about—either because it gives a chance to have compassion for him or because as one of the most advanced in the series his practice is an example of the method?

    It seems odd to me that talking about his back should be dismissed out of hand as disrespectful, even though we often don’t want to discuss injuries and keep them as “personal” matters. I’m glad *he* talks about his back to students; and I have a sense that we can be honest about what he goes through without it being offensive.

    Am I kidding myself, t.? Maybe this really should be out of bounds for all discussion, because it hurts students’ faith or something…. is that the trouble with it?

  44. t. said,

    September 1, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Dear OvO,

    If you read the quote in totality that I refer to I would think the bit that says “avaricious and wealth obsessed” is probably the most inappropriate part of that quote to my mind. The way in which his back pain is referred to is hardly compassionate, of course everyone can discuss his embodied experience as they please, but the use of “avaricous” and “wealth obsessed” is quite unnecessary.

    My faith is not at all “hurt” by Sharath’s back pain. In fact his passion “to heal through yoga” to use his own words is inspirational. I have experienced a great deal of pain through Astanga practice, but have seen the practice through under the guidance of guruji and sharath and have found that, viewed as a life long practice, Ashtanga can be very healing. This, I know is not everyone’s experience, but it is mine.

    Again, I am not asking that people don’t question, diasagree with new teaching standards, but feel that these discussions can be much more constructive than what we have seen here.

    peace

  45. (0v0) said,

    September 1, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks, t. Makes sense.

  46. finally! said,

    September 2, 2008 at 8:15 am

    t., it’s so nice to read your measured, calm, and respectful comments here. Enough of this sky-is-falling stuff. Avaricious, wealth obsessed? Ugh!

    I see nothing wrong with a little quality control among traditional, committed teachers–those who would choose to be authorized. No one’s forcing them.

  47. soreknee said,

    September 3, 2008 at 9:53 am

    The aspirant unfortunately has to be savvy enough to temper faith with reason. Those teachers who are authorized and have learned all of Primary and Intermediate Series from Guruji have, in fact, been forced to reckon with the new rules – which are actually a bit different from the old ones. Under the new rules, the authorized teachers all over the world who have taught second series postures for years as they felt they had ‘authorization’ to do will have to stop.
    And as a student who only seeks to practice optimally – and that includes incurring the minimum amount of injuries – it’s a little disappointing to see what amounts to blind faith among so many teachers and students. It makes one realize that a senior teacher who employs blocks, straps, modified poses or any other modality purely for the benefit of the earnest student is actually being incredibly vigilant and brave.
    Furthermore another fantastic element about traveling workshops is that it fosters a community (sangha!) in a way that practicing locally doesn’t. Beyond that many of Guruji’s disciples have wildly different takes on the practice and it behooves one to go out and experience them. Doing so basically saved my ass!

  48. Javier said,

    September 6, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Hi dear yogis!!, my name its Javier im from Mexico, im starting my life in the practice of Yoga, i have study marketing and administration and im saving money for more than one year to go and practice Yoga in Mysore with Guruji for 4 months if i get more money 5 or 6, nobody says that this was easy, i have change me life to start this, and it will not stop. Im living now in London, working a lot of hours in things that are not my passion, practicing Yoga is something that im loving now and keeps my alive. Its the first time that i enter to this site, i feel weird a little affraid and confused, reading all this stuff uff, but i know that it will pass when i close the window. Im affraid to ask my self the same questions, i have never being ther!! and im going the first day of December. Im confused about all these things about being a teacher and the papers or titles that they talk about *cetificate, master , teacher i dont understand nothing.
    Before thinking in Yoga i always thought in money and how to get it!! its very difficult and its hard work also, now i dont think on it anymore, all is coming. Every person its looking for getting something of something, this is and advantage in the end, we are always looking for something. Im looking for studying Yoga, not for certificates, because i want to feel better in my life, and at the end of the time i get something extra for sure. Every teacher its a teacher because its looking for something and one of them its getting money maybe not the first one but its ther, i dont feel that i could be a teacher i see it to far now, not because of these new rules, because i need to go to india and practice more with the people that now about this, i choose ashtanga because it looks to be one of the most difficult ones to get the teachers degree and i like that.
    When i finish my practice in Mysore i will go back to work hard, save money, practice Yoga, take care of my family and pray a lot to go back to Mysore for my blessing, not the blessing for being a teacher only of the company.
    If someone its going this December i will love to hear news and recommendations.
    jcreuheras-gmail.com

  49. bob said,

    September 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    It´s quite sad that now everybody can teach. To get authorisation you need to practice few years.. and then you can start to take a same amount of money from your teaching like we who have practice allmost 20 years. And now world is TOO FULL of teachers with very minor skills of adjustments, to understand spiritual problems of student. I am thinkin same, that ayri is not doing right thing to just give those “primary serie licence to teach”, without check the skills of students. couse doing asanas, dont mean that you can teach at all !! (Like Sharath, he is doing difficult poses, but hes teaching skills are nothing even “great”, he is NOT good teacher. If there start to be alot of teachers with samek skill level like Sharath.. So there should be tests, just like drivinglisence. It should be very long, you should know all the vinyasa, you should perform alot of adjustmens, ofcourse you should perform your asana practice, tell the history and philosophy of yoga, and there should be like Guruji, Sharath, Saraswati, Sharmila, Manju ect. checking your mental state. There should not be this wierd list of those beginners who can teach only primary.. really.. if you cant teach intermediet, you cant teach any beginners, and you really do not are not respectful teacher, who have nollage of S.K.P.Jois tradition.

    Now a days i dont belive in sertification eather. there should be serious TEST, not just some “practice 4 years” and you can carry our Yoga Communitys name like youre own, and you can take money so much that you got balls. This authoration is very new thing.. it should be first thing to take a way and forget that JOKE of possibility to be first series yoga teacher.

  50. nico108 said,

    September 30, 2008 at 5:19 am

    There seems to be a lot of confusion in regards to these “new” rules. I hope I can add a bit of clarity as t. and a few others have done before me.

    1. These rules are not set in stone. On the AYRI website, the minimum requirements are listed—the rest is on a case by case, or “individual” basis.

    2. It is clearly stated that teaching authorization is to be offered not given, and further that a student should come to Mysore not expecting to be authorized (or in other words, not expecting a career change) but in order to practice.

    3. That in order to become a teacher one must offer respect, or parampara, to the teacher, or guru. I am sad to say that I have rarely seen respect given to Sharath or to Patabhi Jois in any meaningful manner, beyond the briefest of touching of feet. Respect to a teacher sadly goes against our critical culture, and is an anathema in many ways to how we were raised. Thus I think it becomes one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in our practice (even more so than marichasana d!)

    I think it shows a grave disrespect to the Jois family to criticize the amount of money they have or have not taken in. We have modeled them in our own image of what a guru should be and then complained when they have not lived up to it. I would like to believe that perhaps Sharath has learned the power of the practice and wants to retain some of its purity. Perhaps he authorized too many people in the last few years, perhaps he was drawn t the excitement of international stardom. That may all be true (though we cannot know) and perhaps now he realizes the harm that that same dilution has caused to the practice. I think it is great that he exercises more control over the teachers. Sadly in the last few years far too many people have claimed to be teachers of some sort or another.

  51. pd said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Having stayed in Mysore, I have the greatest respect for Guruji, Saraswati, and Sharath, and their entire family. Kinder people have I never met. Totally, the problem lies with the students. Some go there with all their baggage and are in no way “transformed,” but only enhanced in their narcissism. I met and practiced with so many excellent individuals who were there to enance their lives. Yet some were there who had egotistic cultic aspirations, and drew Guruji and Sharath’s kindness into their web. It’s a business, Baby; not a religious movement. I you don’t like it, don’t go there and go screw yourself.

  52. Yuko said,

    October 7, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Back to the Yoga.
    We all have different reasons for practicing yoga and each should be honoured on their path. Respecting each’s journey, let’s work together on this.

    It is the power of the Intelligence of the Ashtanga practice that is to be celebrated. Although it is in part a big Thank You to Guruji and his family and numerous teachers for being a part of introducing this practice to the world, it’s not about one main person who transmits the practice, but rather about each individual who practices Ashtanga and implements their time on their mat, off the mat. By becoming their own guru each soul has a drastic impact on their life bringing about transformation enabling them to respond to life rather than react to the wonders of Life causing the most amazing ripple effect beyond one’s possible imagination.

    The need for tradition will always be around, so setting a few ‘rules’ will ensure the tradition survives in its purest form remembering evolution is also necessary (what would it be like if we still believed the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around earth?).

    To avoid any confusion, perhaps an appropriate solution could be, as in the Kundalini tradition (Kundalini as taught by Yogi Bhajan), ‘traditional’ Ashtanga could be referred to as ‘Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois’. Any classes taught by not ‘authorized/certified’ teachers could be refered to simply as Ashtanga Yoga. Afterall, if Ashtanga refers to Patanjali’s 8 limbs, then truly the practice is open to all.

  53. blisterkist said,

    October 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Related to parampara the Dalai Lama says the following:
    “This (the taking of a teacher) should be done in accordance with your interest and disposition, but you should analyze well. You must investigate before accepting a lama or teacher or guru to see whether that person is really qualified or not. It is said in a scripture that just as fish that are hidden under the water can be seen through the movement of the ripples from above, so also a teacher’s inner qualities can, over time, be seen a little through that person’s behavior.
    We need to look into the person’s scholarship — the ability to explain topics — and whether the person implements those teachings in his or her conduct and experience.”
    The critical attitude that Nico108 derides seems, on the advice of the Dalai Lama, to be an essential factor in seeking out a teacher/lama/guru.
    Is it a form of ‘grave disrespect’ to take issue with Patthabi Jois sitting behind his electronic money counter at the registration desk in the shala or to question the excessive fees for studying in mysore? Or is it rather our duty to consider the contrast between this behavior and the demands made by the sacred texts in the yoga tradition for a life of greedless simplicity. Would the Dalai Lama not have us ask the kind of questions that ashtangis seem so willing to gloss over or ignore, the difficult questions that relate to money and behaviour in a tradition that originally and in all its sacred texts demands a commitment to asceticism.? How many women who have studied directly with SKPJ have been made uncomfortable by being kissed on the lips after touching his feet? How many of us have watched this happened and shrugged it off, made excuses or, for the sake of the practice and the notion of a sacred tradition, just tried to ignore it?
    The Dalai Lama gives us advice for seeking and critically assessing a teacher, a horde of sacred texts provide the requirements for being one. It is not a question of forcing the guru/lama/tacher to conform to our idea of what he or she should be, but asking whether he or she conforms to the demands and strictures of their own sacred tradition.
    The notion of the unbroken lineage that is central to parampara forces us to ask if Patanjali, the river’s head of classical yoga, directly transmitted the lineage in an unbroken line to those who now wear Rolexes.
    The Dalai Lama would encourage anyone seeking a teacher/lama/guru to critically assess that person’s behavior. The fact that western students en masse refer to SKPJ as their Guru with little exposure to the man (besides their one or two adjustments per month and their offer of substantial shala fees) forces one to ask whether a more, not less critical approach is required if the tradition of Classical Yoga is to be preserved and transmitted.
    Parampara implies the direct, continuous and unbroken transmission of a lineage. Do you believe that this has taken place in those that you refer to as your teachers? Does their behavior truly attest to this? Are you forced to ignore or excuse certain actions or behaviors in order to maintain the idea of a truly unbroken, sacred tradition? Is parampara a loose enough garment to enshroud modern paradoxes about money, consumption, and contact with the opposite sex and to excuse your chosen teachers actions in all these areas?
    What is remarkable in contemporary yoga practice is the lack of iconoclastic fury so present in the Zen tradition, where there is a living and continuous engagement and debate about the notion of transmission. I believe that the Dalai Lama would be more attuned to the Soto school’s mockery and subversion of anyone claiming to be a teacher, and to the very idea that there is anything to be taught, than he would be to our common and too often unquestioning acceptance of the behavior, methods and revelations of our teachers.

  54. Konno said,

    October 14, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Anyone know why there are no certified or autorised indian teaachers of ashtanga yoga, outside the jois family?

  55. dessi said,

    October 14, 2008 at 4:36 am

    There used to be a few on the old list.
    There also used to be a lot more great teachers on the list.

  56. Grimmly said,

    October 15, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Just to add some perspective to Blisterkiss’ comment. She/he appears to be mixing traditions. The Dali Lama is Buddhist as is the scriptual tradition Blisterkiss is refering to concerning the questioning of a teacher (teacher rather than Guru in the buddhist tradition) Zen too, is of course Buddism.

    PKJ is coming from the Hindu tradition.

    The Dali Lama’s comment and the scriptures B refers to are probably derived from the fourth of the Four reliances. Teaching that are suposed to have come direct from the Buddha. Interesting to note the other three

    Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality;
    Rely on the meaning, not just on the words;
    Rely on the real meaning, not on the provisional one;
    Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary, judgmental mind.

    It’s interesting to consider the role of Guru from another tradition but important to make clear that it is another traditon (in this case Buddhist) we, traditionally questioning, westerners are applying/employing/deploying.

  57. swaroopa said,

    October 15, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Grimmly
    Inspiring knowledge. Thank you for this comment and it is truly well placed here in this topic and really very interesting.
    Just a question please…
    So do you mean our feelings for a particular Guru/ Teacher are ‘warped’. As I do agree we deploy/project/analise too much. But it is directly out of desire and fear ?
    So the circle continues…we go to a Guru/ Teacher for help in ridding these dis-eases yet we pick more up along the way?
    What are they to do with us?
    Fondly
    swaroopa

  58. (0v0) said,

    October 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks, Grim. This is an interesting and learned comment.

    Could someone say more about what an actual guru relationship would look like in the Hindu tradition? From the popular books (Autobiography of a Yogi and the writings of Ram Dass and his contemporaries), I guess we all have a picture of very unique personal relationships that begin after a period of student searching and pretty rigorous inquiry. The two regularities I can see is that (1) Hindu guru relationships are emphatically not a fee-for-service kind of thing and that (2) any one who demands to be treated as a guru is… definitely not a guru.

    But… these things all get mixed up at some point. Are we in the Hindu system, Zen system, Tibetan or Vajrayana system…? Who cares? For those of us who are not Hindu Shavaite Brahmins, seems the one model that even makes sense at all is that set by the first westerners who went to India and took a teacher. How did that work… and did it work? Indra Devi and Mark Whitwell are the westerners Krishnamacharya took as his students. Westerners who want to do the guru thing… wouldn’t we want to understand those bridge-builders’ experiences as part of choosing/creating a path?

    Whitwell is still teaching all over the world. He a simple articulation of nondual practice and easily inhabits the lineage as it is without getting confused at all. I won’t share what he sees has been lost in the most recent generation of the tradition.

  59. swaroopa said,

    October 15, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Times are changin’….
    Or is it just ‘the lucky ones’…..

  60. KostaN said,

    November 3, 2008 at 6:32 am

    I really can´t see some of the older people, like those who have a 30 years practice behind them, to have some respect for Sharath´s attitude as a teacher. I mean, these guys where in mysore praticing advanced series when Sharath was a kid! Those who started this yoga when Sharath was already teaching and are willing to submit under his control, it is fine. But in my opinion these guys are far better experienced than him in many aspects of yoga. When SKPJ leaves his body the split within many ashtanga seniors and sharath will be inevitable.

    Somebody from the Jois family told me regarding his money and control manners: ” I am very dissapointed at him”.

    I have the deepest respect for this lineage, but the jois family are teachers and not owners of the timeless yoga.

    Just as you don´t have to visit the pope to be a good christian, you do not need their approaval to be a true ashtangi. Just lots of dedication and love for this beatiful practice.

    BW
    K.

  61. robyn said,

    December 2, 2008 at 5:36 am

    If something is not complicated and does not involve something to argue over, it is not worth doing. Isn’t that the way we human beings seem to make everything out to be. It’s yoga. Be happy and breathe.

  62. laura said,

    June 1, 2009 at 2:36 am

    live well and free and let live well and free!
    learn your chosen method well through ALL the good sources you can find, take what’s good, effective and reasonable and leave out all the rest! breath freely, trust your inner guidance and enjoy your journey!

  63. Bhavesh said,

    July 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I don’t know how many of you have had a professional certification and license. If you have you know that there are requirements that require ongoing education. This is necessary to protect the public and maintain a high level of service/practice etc. The amount of continuing education and authorized sources is governed by those issuing the certifications.

    If AYI want’s to be the only place to get that continuing education it may be because they want to have more control over what is being taught to certified teachers. If it were my organization I would create a core of teachers who are authorized to teach these continuing education courses. If you do not maintain a set minimum of CE hours then you lose your cert. That is a normal practice for many types of professional certifications.

    I don’t think it’s all about money although it’s obvious that is part of it. If cert teachers are allowed to teach up to their proficiency level I see no problem with that. If a cert teacher gives workshops I see no problem with that. If the AYI is saying that no teacher can do that it is simply to force more business for themselves.

  64. Bhavesh said,

    July 19, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Ekshtanga Yoga

    Has anyone ever asked why KPJAYI only teaches Asana? They admittedly do not teach anything besides asana.This is supposed to be Ashtanga Yoga after all. As you all know Asht means 8. The 8 limbs are comprised of:

    1. Yama,
    2. Niyama,
    3. Asana,
    4 .Pranayama,
    5. Prathyahar,
    6. Dharan,
    7. Dhyana,
    8 .Samadhi.

    Why do they not teach any of the other limbs? Are they assuming the Westerners can’t comprehend anything but asanas? Sounds like KPJAYI should change the name of the style of yoga they teach to Ekshtanga Yoga.

  65. phetteaccerty said,

    October 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm

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