When someone asks you what kind of yoga you practice or teach, how do you answer? Did your own yoga teachers and/or mentors come from a specific tradition? And to which source(s) do you attribute your authority?
More importantly, how much does all of this matter?
The modern age of yoga seems to encompass a certain tension between tradition and what's considered to be more commercial.
This is particularly apparent given that many of us are moving away from practising and/or training within a distinct lineage like Iyengar or within a school that has a strong identity like Jivamukti.
More of us are embracing yoga as a unique practice and there are enormous benefits to that but also some disadvantages.
As part of the academic research for her PhD, Theo Wildcroft (yoga academic and Barefoot Body guest tutor) explores how the evolution of yoga is impacting us as individual yoga teachers/practitioners and as communities.
Theo describes the modern era of yoga in which we're living as 'post-lineage yoga'.
What is post-lineage yoga?
Theo's term 'post-lineage yoga' was coined to describe how the authority for deciding what good yoga practice constitutes is shifting away from the absolute power of previous masters to small community groups of teachers.
In post-lineage spaces we find people who are devoted to a guru coming together with those who have none, and those who suffered great harm in lineage situations.
But the point is they come together to share and learn from each other in new and surprising ways.
What does yoga mean to you in this post-lineage era?
When some of us come from specific yoga schools or traditions and some of us don’t, what does that say about our yoga practice, and our ability to form community?
In her PhD thesis, Theo explores a community of yoga teachers that comes together yearly at events across the South West England to consider what yoga means for them.
What’s interesting about these individuals, she says, is that their diversity and approach to the highly individual practice of yoga has woven together a “sustainable, coherent and supportive community”.
Theo explains that while “some are strongly connected to a lineage, others combine allegiances to multiple styles, and still more have rejected lineage systems entirely”.
How can a community be so cohesive when its relations to yoga lineage are so varied?
It took Theo just over a year to formulate an answer to this question.
She found that “regardless of how these yoga teachers felt about their own teachers, they had moved beyond a place where lineage was the sole source of authority. They might be Ashtanga teachers who did a little Yin yoga on the side. They might be ex-Iyengar teachers who read a lot of new scientific research on anatomy”.
This is what Theo means when she talks about ‘post-lineage’: a place that extends beyond both “a single line of authority” and “listening only to an ‘inner’ source of wisdom or setting up new yoga empires”; a place where authority is acquired through the sharing of knowledge in a community.
Perhaps, then, the most coherent communities are born from what makes us unique rather than what makes us similar? Perhaps we’re bound more closely by our differences than we realise. Perhaps the differences we share provide a depth and richness to a community that one single school or tradition couldn’t offer.
The risks and rewards of post-lineage yoga
It’s important to be aware that post-lineage doesn’t mean anti-lineage, non-lineage or anti-tradition. It can be commercial or traditional, radical or neoliberal, but it is rarely strict or branded.
But what are the risks and rewards of combining individual innovation and group culture? As yoga teachers, how do we position ourselves within this increasingly important evolution in the teaching of yoga?
These are the sorts of themes that we'll be exploring with Theo in her upcoming events.
Exploring how post-lineage yoga applies to you
We’re excited to welcome Theo to Cambridge on Friday 8th November 2019 for a talk on Post-Lineage Yoga.
Theo’s talk will cover what 'post-lineage yoga' means, how it came to be, and the opportunities and risks of teaching and practicing yoga in a post-lineage era.
It’ll also explore the context and history of teaching yoga, the journey of pre-modern to modern to post-lineage yoga, plus its diversity, history and evolving research, to illustrate the need for changing teaching and practice relationships.
The talk should equip you to:
understand your teaching, and your practice within the wider development of yoga
speak more confidently to the historical, cultural and scientific basis for the practice of yoga
reflect more assertively on contemporary issues in practicing and teaching yoga
If these themes pique your interest, you may want to join us for a more extended workshop on Saturday 9th November 2019, where we’ll be exploring connection, relationship and service in the post-lineage age. More on these themes here >
References and quotes gratefully repurposed from Theo’s blog on Post-Lineage Yoga