Lineage of a sort

back to schoolRecently I’ve been talking a lot on the phone with my original guru — my high school classics teacher who was a fundamental influence on my intellectual development. He stopped me being a lazy and arrogant teenage sh*t, he set me on the straight and narrow and kept me there through some pretty tough discipline, and then he pushed me away to fly off to university. We’re still really close and it’s been tearing me apart to hear him now so frail-sounding with serious illness. He wants me just to talk to him, to distract him and entertain him. So I talk about my family’s news, my current projects at work, I tell him about my Sanskrit teacher, and about my yoga practice.

We joke about what a model student I’ve become with my Sanskrit studies, making time each day to review my grammar, carrying round a small notebook of essential vocab-learning that I can look at in those odd moments. All those years ago he tried to teach me to do this, I just didn’t want to conform then. As much as I wanted to excel intellectually, I wanted to do it in my own sweet way (such is youth!) and I brought a lot of unnecessary pain on myself along the way because of this arrogance.

When we start class the board is often still full of Latin or Greek grammar.

In some ways now I feel as though Sanskrit is a fresh opportunity and I’m kind of proud to share this new chapter with him and to show him what I gained from his teaching — eventually!

It’s also funny that my Sanskrit teacher is a classicist by training and if we get struck in translation, he offers us the Greek or Latin equivalent before he resorts to English! It kind of works… It certainly keeps me humble!

I’m reflecting a little on lineages at the moment in the days before I start yoga teacher training. I guess in this too I want to feel worthy of … well, not quite the ‘tradition’ of yoga, partly because that’s too massive a concept, but also partly because I’ve no idea what it means (Mark Singleton & co got to me with their ‘modern postural yoga’ arguments!). I guess I’m wondering what hideous mangling of my teacher’s teachings I will do as I try to honour what he teaches yet integrate it with my own experiences. There’s a happy marriage somewhere. It’s going to be interesting seeing what develops. I’d like him to be proud of my efforts at least, but I don’t think that’s how yoga teachers work…

I was brought up slightly short in a workshop today when, on some side point, my teacher said if we were in class with other teachers and we needed for good reason to take an alternative pose to what was instructed we should ask the teacher first. Oh! This had never occurred to me as a point of respect to the teacher. What other yoga rules do I flout I wonder?

Maybe I’m not so much better than I was at school. I think I still have serious authority issues and a tendency to question everything. Where’s the surrender and humility? Oh yes, they’re hiding behind my ego!



2 thoughts on “Lineage of a sort

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  1. I must say that in my own teaching, I disagree with the idea that a student should ask me first if it’s okay to change a pose. I always emphasize that I might suggest approaches to a particular pose, but ultimately the student is his/her own best teacher. It is so important to get in touch with the inner guru. That is much harder than just doing what is is proposed when it doesn’t feel right. I encourage my students to experiment with props and alternate approaches to asana in order to respect their own bodies and process. I want the practice to be empowering; I don’t want to create a dependence. I don’t believe that this undermines our mutual respect.


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