My update, now up on Yoga Dork! My update on the hot issue of whether New York State will continue to target yoga teacher training programs to make them license-able under the State Education Department.Find out what's been happening---the good news (YANY is born!), the interesting news (Leslie Kaminoff writes a Declaration of Independence for Yoga), and the weird news (NYState returns pounds of paperwork to a studio---unopened!).Go to Yoga Dork, a blog I follow and admire, to see my guest post on this issue.Previous posts:New York Times Reports on Licensing Issue June update on Yoga DorkNamaste, y'all!
Yoga Association of New York (YANY) was officially ratified on Wednesday, at OM Yoga, at its second official meeting. For more news on what's been happening since I last wrote, see my upcoming post on YogaDork. (I'll remind you!) Alison West, president of the newly ratified YANY, teaching at her studio, Yoga Union. Photo for NYTimes by Ruby Washington.For now, Sulzberger, who attended YANY's first meeting, traces the origin of the conflict to the very creation of the Yoga Alliance in 1999. This attempt at self-regulation, according to Leslie Kaminoff of the Breathing Project, made yoga studios a sitting duck for cash-flow challenged government looking for new sources of income. (A government that thinks yoga's popularity means that studios are raking in the big bucks.)
“We made it very, very easy for them to do what they’re doing right now,” said Leslie Kaminoff, founder of the Breathing Project, a nonprofit yoga center in New York City, who had opposed the formation of the Yoga Alliance. “The industry of yoga is a big, juicy target.”
Sulzberger continues, "In New York State, though, teachers fought back, complaining that the new rules could erode thin bottom lines, contradict religious underpinnings and, most important, shut down every school in the state during an eight-month licensing period."
“It basically destroys the essence of yoga, to control and manipulate the whole situation,” said Jhon Tamayo of Atmananda Yoga Sequence in Manhattan, shortly after receiving one of the warning letters from the state. “No one can regulate yoga.”
The dispute is far from over. But there's a sense that YANY, at least, is in it for the long haul. And, in the immediate, there is some light at the end of the tunnel---stay tuned for my report via YogaDork! (With pics and docs)
(On another note, A.G. Sulzberger's piece marks a nice departure from the usual isn't-that-weird tone that a lot of articles on yoga take. Thanks again, A.G., for taking the cause seriously.)
Sunday, June 14, ashtangis and the greater yoga community of New York City gathered in Donna Karan's gorgeous Urban Zen space in Manhattan's West Village for an evening of remembrances celebrating the life and legacy of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. The white space was hung with long yellow scrims that caught the late afternoon light and brightened the windowless space. The black cushions on the floor were strewn with the petals of red roses, and garlands large and small framed sepia-toned pictures of Guruji at the front of the space. Food was served the back--delicious spicy popped rice with chutney, and samosas and chai. Four hundred people had RSVPd. Those who came were a good-looking bunch, with a lean, clean, healthy glow. Many had young children with them. It was a grown-up yoga community, one that has weathered their initial zeal for yoga and matured into seasoned practitioners. Representing the yoga world were Alison West (Yoga Union), Leslie Kaminoff (Breathing Project), Michelle Demus (Pure Yoga), Hari Kaur (Golden Bridge), Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman (Urban Zen), James Murphy (Iyengar Yoga NY), Carlos Menjiva (Jivamukti), and someone from Bikram yoga. On the walls around the space, photos of Guruji, his family, his students, and his travels over the years played in a continuous loop. After Eddie Stern, Jois' long-time student, director of Ashtanga Yoga New York, introduced the evening, three Hindu priests changed a part of the Upanishads, 18 minutes of piercing, passionate sound meant to disperse the elements back into the world, to help Guruji on his journey. In the background of this austere music, was the sound of children chirping and playing.
"When a great person is born into the world, he affects everyone," said Stern. "Regardless of whether they follow his teachings or not."
Other speakers mentioned Pattabhi Jois' generosity as a teacher, the inclusiveness of his sangha, and his "sympathetic joy"---his availability to all who had even just a flicker of interest in trying yoga.
"He took complete delight that someone was growing through their yoga practice," said John Campbell, long-time student.Ruth Lauer-Manenti, a senior Jivamukti teacher, relayed the story of how she first went to Mysore to practice with Pattabhi Jois. "Sharon Gannon [director and co-founder of Jivamukti] had just come back from Mysore. She was thin, thin, thin. She looked kind of green and she had a dislocated shoulder. She said, Ruth, you gotta go. So I went the next day."
" 'Yes you can' was his message---it's what so many of us took from him," said Lauer-Manenti whose practice helped her to heal from a near-fatal car accident." He always wanted you to do your best, including making it to his birthday every year."
Jois believed---in fact, he lived the idea---that yoga is the science of transformation: 1% theory, 99% practice. Yoga is mind control: controlling your helter-skelter thoughts and practicing love (plus a 2hr, 6-days-a-week, demanding asana practice) instead. As he famously said, "Do your practice and all is coming."
Leslie Kaminoff, New York-based yoga teacher, e-Sutra blog author, and director of The Breathing Project in Manhattan, explains why he has decided to stop calling himself a yoga therapist. His article in October's International Journal of Yoga Therapy meditates on the same topic. Instead, he will call himself a "yoga educator."
"This does not in any way mean that I intend to stop doing my job," says Kaminoff.
"In retrospect, I realize that from the moment I taught my first group âsana class until the present day, I’ve always had the same job. I’ve just been doing it more effectively by learning how to better tailor the teachings to individual needs. I used to unquestioningly assume that my education in anatomy, biomechanics, bodywork, physical rehabilitation, and philosophy granted me the right to call myself a therapist. But, in fact, it just turned me into a highly-educated Yoga teacher."
Read more here.