Saturday, June 29, 2019

Yoga and Mastery

The topic of mastery is of interest to me.  I am a practitioner, student, teacher and teacher trainer of yoga who learned through a traditional guru-student tradition, which benefited me immensely.  I have not personally experience abuse of power in yoga.  Since I'm writing about mastery, power paradigms, and abuse of power, it is important to me to say that clearly, and to express my gratitude for the generosity and wisdom of my teachers, who made major impacts on my life.  I literally cannot imagine being here today without these transformative experiences.  *

I am aware of instances where power has been abused in teacher student relationships -- these things have been in the news and are being revealed.  I think moving into greater transparency, responsibility, and accountability, as well as a greater understanding of power dynamics, is good and much needed. 

The traditional way to learn yoga was (to be a man) and study with a guru - a master teacher.  Today, people are still drawn to learn from teachers and spiritual leaders they perceive as masters.

From Merriam-Webster, here are two definitions of mastery:
1. The first definition is: "a. the authority of a master : dominion" and "b: the upper hand in a contest or competition : superiority, ascendancy"
2. Merriam-Webster's second definition is: "a: possession or display of great skill or technique" and "b: skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject : command"

When we admire someone who is highly skilled at what they do, we can consciously or unconsciously perceive them as more evolved in general.  For instance we might assume that a spinal surgeon knows all about rehabilitating a back injury without surgery.  We might trust that a political activist for social justice would be fair in their personal relationships.  We might believe that a yoga teacher who can do extreme yoga poses -- related to flexibility, strength, or balance -- behaves compassionately and respects personal boundaries.  We might assume that having mastery or a gift in one area will naturally include other areas. 

We might put a person on a pedestal even if the person we are admiring doesn't want to be perceived that way.  And, there are people who exploit others, who see themselves as better than, higher than, or more evolved than others and will intentionally take advantage.  There is a long line of people who have perpetuated this sort of abusive power-over in most every area of life:  entertainment, politics, business, religion, spirituality and yoga. 

There is another way we can perceive mastery, cultivating our ability to relate in an empowered way even as we acknowledge a person's mastery and gifts related to a particular topic or area of life.  In a competence hierarchy, people who have knowledge and wisdom and expertise can share that with others who want and choose to learn and/or receive their expertise, without giving away their own power and authority.  This paradigm of mastery is built on self-empowerment and responsibility, collaboration, and empowerment of others, and a valuing of all humans, all life, and nature. As we integrate this paradigm, we can expand our capacity to align our actions to value life and move toward restoration where there have been abuses of power.


I’m launching two Embodied Leadership & Yoga Teacher Trainings this fall to share what I’ve accumulated in the 20 years I’ve delved into yoga, meditation, leadership, embodiment, and teaching.  I’m happy to share these with you!

* A foundational 200 hour training for people who want to deepen their knowledge and integration of yoga, and learn to teach, whether or not they plan to teach yoga.

* An advanced 300 hour training for people who have already completed their initial 200 hours, whether or not they are teaching or plan to.

All the information is on my website:

* My c.v. is here, which includes my studies and major teachers!