How lovely to see Julie again in Brighton ! Thanks to Sally Brookes for arranging it.Let’s not forget Julie has played a pivotal role in developing the Ashtanga scene in Brighton over the last ten years – only (names removed on request) have been more influential in shaping the Ashtanga scene here.And how interesting that Julie now professes to enjoy teaching vinyasa flow as much as Ashtanga !I must say that I found the Vinyasa Flow very challenging on saturday. It wasn’t just doing yoga to music, it was the repetition and nature of some of the postures. I was getting more into it by the end but it was hard work. I enjoyed the second day much more – a 2nd series workshop. Julie had some great shoulder, back and hip openers that really helped prepare for Laghuvajrasana and Kapotasana and Yoganidrasana.I must admit though that I enjoyed her talking about Ashtanga as much as the class – what a refreshing change in approach to the dead hand of the hardcore Mysore school. She reminded us that series 1 and 2 were initially always taught together and only separated for practical and pragmatic reasons at Mysore to accommodate the numbers of students passing through. All the subsequent rules and regulations about who is “ready” or worse, “allowed”, to do 2nd series are not only counter to the spirit of yoga generally, but absolutely unnecessary in the context of people practising here in Brighton. Julie emphasised how helpful it is for many students to learn 2nd series to develop their own practice and how damaging it can be for them to be prevented from doing so. I just wish the local Ashtanga police who have effectively excluded myself and others from attending Mysore classes in Brighton had been there to listen!
Noooo. Not the Ashtanga police!
I was hoping that they only had a strong presence here in Mysore, and that Brighton would be a relaxing bed of yoga inclusion. Seems like Ashtanga can attract a certain type of thinker wherever you are!
My experience of the second series has been tough, but enjoyable, and it’s given me loads of stuff to work on, whichever sequence I’m practising.
If I was back at the AYRI, I’d be getting stopped (where I consider to be) half way through my practice, still straining my knees pushing marichasana d etc, and not getting the benefits of the rest of the sequence.
It’s all yoga, right?
I must say I find this a rather difficult post to reply to… Perhaps others feel the same.
But seeing as the post is here and I’m not removing it here are my thoughts.
Firstly it was a pleasure to meet Julie who’s obviously played such an important role in the history of the Ashtanga scene in Brighton. I thoroughly enjoyed her workshops, energy and humour. I only started practicing Ashtanga regularly a few years ago just after Russel and Sally left, so had never met her although had heard loads about her.
I suspect that I therefore fall into the “dead hand of the hardcore Mysore school” because I practice regularly at the unmentioned Brighton Natural Health Centre – which happens to be the only place in town that has someone committed enough to turn up every day and offer a Mysore programme.
Do I belong to a “hardcore Mysore school”? I don’t think so, I’m just devoting myself to my practice with persistence and kindness. Isn’t that enough of a challenge?
I’m grateful to Julie for all the work she has done historically for the Ashtanga community but I’m a lot more grateful to Sarah who I’m proud to say is my teacher who consistently and kindly provides a safe space for many to practice.
My suggestion (if you want to work it out) is to approach the “local Ashtanga police” directly and work it out between yourselves instead of using the website to launch an indirect attack. The website is for the community and anyone can be part of the community. So if you want to contribute then please do, but one post on what is a clearly a personal issue isn’t much of a contribution.
It’s often seems easier to talk about someone one has a problem with to others than to communicate directly with that person to get things resolved.
I hope to see you at early morning practice soon. ; )
Hmmm. Sarah has always welcomed me with open arms to the Mysore Class at the BNHC no matter what the circumstances of our interpersonal dealings. It takes an awful lot to get up every morning and dedicate your life to other peoples practise and for that Sarah and her various assistants have my gratitude and respect. As far as I know, Sarah has never barred anyone from the BNHC. Also, Russell Case, Nick Evans and Eva Oller Ribosa were all instrumental in setting up and nurturing the Mysore class at the BNHC before Sarah taught there and their contribution should be acknowledged. Finally, my own take on comments about what goes on in Mysore is simply this: Don’t take anyone else’s word for it, mine included. Go and see for yourself. But especially take the views relayed by anyone who has never been to Mysore with a BIG grain of salt.
Well, the first thing to say is that it is a good thing that the issue of how Ashtanga teachers relate to other students and teachers is out in the open.
I don’t believe that this is “clearly a personal issue”. It is an ethical issue about how teachers work on the development of their students. It is no secret that amongst ashtanga teachers and experienced students there is a lively debate about how prescriptive teachers should be, particularly in relation to whether and when students progress from the primary to the second series. Some implement strict rules about whether students can progress – inability to do various “gateway” postures (supta kurmasana a few years back, drop backs more recently) usually means that the student does not progress. The majority of Ashtanga teachers around the world including very many of the best known “names” don’t go along with this approach, believing that an indiv idual decision should be made on each student, assessing the integrity of their practice overall.
These apparently theoretical issues can have a very profound effect on people’s yoga development.
Contrary to the assertion in Doug’s post, I have been excluded from the BNHC Mysore classes by Sarah. She emailed me on 13 March 2007 to tell me to stop coming to the classes. I have not been able to attend the Mysore classes since then except when Sara was away. This has had a very negative effect on my practice as there are no other Mysore classes in Brighton. Imagine for a moment how your practice would have been affected if you had been prevented from attending the Mysore classes for over a year. I remain excluded.
Why was I excluded ? Sarah never offered a proper explanation, but it came out of the blue (in an e-mail !) after a long–running disagreement about whether I should be practising 2nd series. I had been doing so for a number of years before Sarah took over the BNHC classes – with (names removed on request) Julie in Brighton, and with the encouragement amongst others from a range of well-known Ashtanga teachers such as David Swenson, Matthew Sweeney and others. Sarah disagreed and was not prepared to let me go beyond the first few postures of 2nd series. Interestingly, both Louise and Joseph who were here last year during Sarah’s absence both strongly encouraged me to do the whole 2nd series.
I respect Sarah’s point of view but don’t agree with it. What I profoundly object to is her action in excluding a student over this disagreement – especially when that effectively prevents them from attending the only Mysore classes where they live. I have been practising Ashtanga now for nearly ten years. I am now teaching it too here in Brighton. I believe that I am experienced enough to make a decision about whether and how far to progress in the 2nd series. The overwhelming majority of Ashtanga teachers I have spoken to about this agree with me.
Julie’s visit and her comments about the evolution of the Ashtanga system were a timely reminder about the fact that Ashtanga has a long history in Brighton going back long before Russell, Nick and Sarah, and that the recent imposition of these strict rules, and the accompanying exclusion of students is a new and unwelcome development. That was the point of my post.
we’ve asked you before…please don’t use this forum to personally attack someone. you are showing your true colors and they’re not pretty.
no one wants to read your teacher bashings. we like our community.
If you have as you say indeed been excluded, then I can understand why you may feel hard done by. Without getting into specifics about your own situation and relationship with the various teachers at the BNHC all I can offer is the following observations.
(1) If the BNHC is truely your only option for regular Mysore practise perhaps it is worthwhile bearing in mind that sometimes we have to go backwards to go forwards. Speaking as someone who has twice been forced (through injury) to rebuild my practise from Sun Salutation ‘A’ onwards I know this is eminently possible.
(2) The following is speculative but worth bearing in mind: Louise Ellis and Joseph Dunham are both highly experienced teachers and it just may be that given their technical expertise they felt confident in supporting your practise where a less experienced teacher might be more reticient.
I welcome and appreciate Doug’s points. There is truth in both of them, I think. Certainly, I have had to reappraise my yoga priorities. As well as increasing my self practice at home, I have put greater efforts into teaching. I am taking a more advanced yoga teacher training course at the moment, and am now teaching a regular Ashtanga class in Brighton, and doing cover for other teachers. I think that shows that I have no interest in “teacher bashing”!
I genuinely think it is laudable that yogis’ initial reactions are to be defensive about and protective of their teacher. I would hope my Ashtanga students would be about me! People feel awkward and upset about divisions within the yoga community being aired. But let’s remember what the source of this division is – not my posting, but the decision of a teacher to exclude me from part of the local community. It feels unbalanced to castigate the person who protests about an injustice done to them because it causes division within “the community”.
It is easy to assume that BNHC represents the Ashtanga community in Brighton. It doesn’t. There are around ten yoga/holistic centres and as many heath clubs in the Brighton and Hove area offering Ashtanga classes. Those of us who have practised at BNHC represent probably ten per cent of the larger community of people practising Ashtanga in Brighton, and perhaps only one or two per cent of the wider yoga community in the area. And at last count, there were more more than 20 Ashtanga teachers locally. Only one of those to my knowledge has the approach of strictly enforcing rules about whether and when experienced students can progress to more advanced postures, let alone of excluding them if they object. It is very much a minority viewpoint not only in the Ashtanga community in Brighton, but also within the UK and internationally.
The issues we have to consider within the Ashtanga community are:
1) What is the role of the Ashtanga teacher and the relationship with their students ? When is it appropriate for the teacher to insist that the student follows the teacher’s point of view ? There would probably be consensus that with new students, this is essential. But what about with more experienced students, or other teachers ? What about when their view is at odds with other teachers the student has ?
2) When is it appropriate for a teacher to exclude a student from a class ? Again, there would probably be agreement that it would be fair to exclude a student who was violent, or grossly abusive or whose behaviour was offensive or inappropriate. But is it fair to exclude them when they merely disagree with your advice ?
These are real issues that teachers and some students face regularly. And which are under discussion already amongst some practising Ashtangis. It seems reasonable to me that the blog should discuss them. The minutiae of what happened to me may be personal, but it brings to a head these big issues that the Ashtanga community has both a right and responsibility to discuss.
I suspect what passes muster within the Ashtanga community is largely dependent on how one defines the “Ashtanga community”. I should imagine our definitions in this respect are very different indeed. For my part, I don’t think I can contribute much more to this discussion.
However should you wish to pursue the issue (and perhaps put your statements about the wider more international community of Ashtangi’s points of view to the test), I draw your attention to the the Ashtanga Board on YUKU ( http://yoga84291.yuku.com/ ).
A caveat though : Many many Ashtangis read this board. The vast majority are lurkers and I would suggest being caution before naming names – as the person may be reading. Finally, the regular posters on the forums are Ashtangis by any measure one cares to apply. Many hold down demanding full time jobs and/or manage households and sacrifice personal down time so they can practise daily. They will have little sympathy for the “My life is too demanding to attend a shala” pleas. In short, you may find the “dead hand of the hardcore Mysore school” bashing replies back to anything you post. In other words: “Here Be Ashtangis”.
Thanks to Davy, Doug and happyyogi for participating in this topic and taking the risk to share their thoughts and feelings. It certainly has made for emotive reading.
I’m looking forward to checking the site stats in a couple of days to see what the traffic has been like.
This has been the most contentious and personal topic on the blog so far and it’s raised a lot of questions in my mind about managing and being part of a community.