Freedom is another word for lost.
There was once a documentary about a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years. When he was released, he said he couldn’t believe how the sun felt on his face as a free man.
For those of us who have experienced a shift in our lives this year, it is much like feeling the sun on our face for the first time. It is strange and exhilarating. Yet it also makes us feel slightly off-balance.
As an Anusara teacher I have taught my classes within some of the most restrictive and tightly regulated yoga methodologies in the world and the systematic approach yielded extremely good teachers and awesome yoga. But for many of us who resigned, we are now stumbling around to figure out what it means. The sun is in our eyes.
First of all, Anusara teachers are notoriously bad at teaching the breath, which is Yoga 101. Why? Because our style of yoga involved teaching so many complex instructions that we forgot how to breathe. For example, we had a centering, we sang the invocation, we taught a heart theme and the Universal Principals of Alignment™ in a percentage of the poses, which was either 45% or 50% or 75% depending on who you talked to or if the moon was full.
In order for me to pass my Anusara Inspired exam, my reviewer said I needed to teach all five alignment principles in every single pose for 100% of the class linked to a theme. So, needless to say, class went very, very slow. Really, I’m lucky none of my students killed themselves.
Just one month ago, like many of my Anusara co-workers, I walked out of the school I loved so much and felt the sun on my face. So now what? For those of us who resigned, freedom is another word for lost. All that glare in our eyes is causing us to stumble around.
While this is scaring the heck out of a lot of my friends, honestly, I kind of love it. That’s because even though our classes may be temporarily messy, overall I believe freedom will create stronger teachers who know what they want to teach, and how. We can let go of the dogma and rules and regulations that didn’t always serve our students. And we might even remember to teach the breath.
In my case, I am letting go of the rule of teaching all five UPA’s ™ some percentage of the time. Instead, I am going to teach what my students seem to need at that moment. Right? What a freaking rebel I am.
Here are some other things: I’m going to stop insulting my long-time students with the whole hands and feet shtick: either place them with intention, or not. I’m moving on to other body parts. And I’m tossing the trademarked terms into the trash and teaching skills and actions instead. Lastly, I’m cuing from the front body if I need to – which was specifically verboten. And if I don’t feel like teaching a theme, then I won’t. But my students know I’d probably rather teach a theme than yoga on most days.
Isn’t it great? Those of us new to this freedom are considering how best to serve our students, not our school. And it is our students who will be the biggest winners.
But honestly, personal responsibility is really a pain in the ass and you can quote me on that. It was much, much easier when headquarters told me what to do. On the other hand, I know that when I find my way it will truly be my own and not another’s path that I’m following. That’s a journey I am happy to take, even if I’m not sure where I’m going just yet.
I think I’ll start by taking a breath. And then I might just open to Grace.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, a former corporate executive and a survivor of 50+ years of life. She’s the author of “Finding More on the Mat,” a yoga memoir, and a Columnist for Elephant Journal. She teaches Aligned Vinyasa yoga in Denver, Co. She is NOT an Ambassador for Lululemon, and has been promised she will never be one.