As a yoga teacher, do you feel part of a community or do you feel like you’re out on your own? What happens if you're having difficulties with your personal practice? Who do you turn to? What do you do if you come up against some issue with a studio you’re teaching for?
The current age of modern yoga (what Theo Wildcroft describe as ‘post-lineage yoga’) means that many of us practice and teach outside of a specific tradition or lineage.
We might practice Ashtanga yoga but also dedicate time to a Yin practice. Or perhaps we weave elements from various traditions into our teaching - the alignment of Iyengar combined with the balance of Hatha yoga, underpinned by the spiritual teaching of Jivamukti.
Yoga has become as diverse as it is deep, and whether you believe that to be a positive or a negative evolution of the practice, the fact remains that most of us yoga teachers are solo entities.
The value of community
Can we come together as individual yoga teachers to form a cohesive, supportive community?
Many of us yoga teachers are independent workers, we travel around from studio to studio, community hall to community hall.
We tend to operate on our own and attempts to create community are often thwarted, not by a lack of desire to connect with other yoga teachers but because our schedule’s are fragmented with timetables that don’t necessarily converge.
Through her academic work, Theo Wildcroft is uncovering how much strength there is to be found in community, and how beneficial it would be if we dedicated more time to creating connections with one another.
This idea of community, relationship and service means that we’re not so isolated when we face professional or personal challenges within our yoga teaching.
Challenging power structures as a community
As individual yoga teachers, where do we fit in the commercial world of yoga, within the power structures of commerce, culture and professional standardisation?
Yoga has become a billion-dollar industry but those of us that are teaching the practice (particularly in studios) are struggling to earn even a modest income.
While yoga studios offer teachers valuable access to a ready-made network of students these more commercial environments of delivering yoga come with risks are well as rewards.
There are matters around feeling valued as individuals in the studio complex, as well as issues around solidarity, pay and working conditions.
These are the sorts of power structures we come up against as a community, and we need to ask ourselves how best to work within them.
Challenging these power structures as a united community seems to be the more effective way forward.
Norman Blair, a UK yoga teacher, has been particularly vocal about the poor payment models that are prevalent in London and across the UK, and in New York yoga teachers are considering unionising due to the inadequate pay and conditions they're experiencing working in studios.
Community offers a sort of unfading hope and support that we need as yoga teachers to protect ourselves and speak up against power structures in a way that we might struggle to muster on as individuals.
Where do we begin?
Community as a foundation for support: Practical tools
Theo Wildcroft will be joining us in Cambridge on Saturday 9th November 2019 to host a workshop that will explore these themes including how we can be seen as individuals but that we can also recognise our vulnerability as individuals outside of a lineage and the challenges that presents.
If you’re feeling anxious about the future of teaching yoga and your place in it, this workshop should explore some of the very real source of hope, innovation and mutual support that are arising in our sanghas and communities.
During the workshop, Theo will facilitate us in exploring the following:
How sanghas, communities and in-person relationships sustain our yoga practice and teaching
How ‘seva’ or service can be used to support or challenge structure of authority
How practising yoga has always been a political act in terms of power, opportunity and radical inclusivity and how this awareness can lead to a more effective and compassionate engagement between the practice of yoga and the world around us
The thorny definitions of ‘traditional’ and ‘commercial’ yoga, for a “billion-dollar industry” in which most teachers struggle to earn even a modest income
Practical issues including standardisation, enforcement, the halo effect, transference and counter-transference
How and when we create safer spaces, content warnings and other protocols
How we build resilience and self-regulation into our yoga practice
How we might enter into practice exchanges with marginalised populations and how to recognise the wisdom and dignity of all participants
This is a great contextual introduction to the themes we'll be exploring in Saturday's workshop so do consider joining us.