Teacherless in Tulsa
On social media, I watch my peers across the world post photos of themselves in their daily Mysore practices and weekly led classes. I read about their experiences working with amazing teachers day in and day out. While the online ashtanga community has been invaluable to me, witnessing this often leaves me feeling envious and isolated.
There is no such place where I live. In my town, there are no more than a handful of ashtanga practitioners, most of whom are more dabblers than they are committed students. There is no dedicated Ashtanga studio. No shala to call our own. No community to lean on. Neither my partner nor my closest friends are committed practitioners.
But I think what gets me down the most is that I don't really have a teacher to call my own. It can’t be overstated how important the student-teacher relationship is in the ashtanga yoga method. It can be off-putting to some, but it’s a vital part of the practice. Many students, myself included, don’t live near such a teacher, so it’s not uncommon in our community for students to travel all over the world to find one. That’s exactly what I did when I traveled to Miami last year to work with Kino and Tim and the MLC family. It was incredible to have such seasoned practitioners and qualified teachers at my fingertips. I really felt like I had found my home and my teachers. When I left, I went through a mourning period. It was hard to be back on my own after a month practicing with them.
Tim and crew have been wonderful long distance teachers. They have been happy to answer my questions via email or Facebook, and I am so grateful that they are willing to help me. I’ve traveled to practice with them a few times over the last year, and it fills my cup and gives me a sense of direction, even if only momentarily. But it’s not the same as having them in the Mysore room with me on a regular basis. I’m (almost) completely over my asana-chasing phase, but it would be nice to have a watchful eye on my practice telling me when it’s time to move on. As it is now, I can perform all of my asanas with proficiency, but because I don’t have a teacher to evaluate me, I’m not comfortable adding more poses on my own. I’m under no delusion that I’m experienced enough to be my own guide on this.
This practice asks so much of you. It’s not the same as dropping in to a vinyasa class a few times a week. That’s awesome, too, but it is different. This practice asks you to devote yourself whole heartedly. It asks you to practice everyday - like really practice - even those postures that challenge you the most. It asks you to practice for the sake of practicing, not for physical gain or endorphin rushes. It requires everything you don't want to give - everything you hold onto to protect your ego. Maybe it’s just me, but I find doing all that exponentially more difficult without a daily guide in the form of a teacher and inspiring community.
I know I may sound a little bratty. Poor little me, no teacher or studio. Perhaps I’m expecting the practice to be something different than it is. Perhaps I’m simply acting from my same old patterns, feeling like the grass is greener somewhere else. Maybe I’m insecure about my ability to keep going without external motivations like a friend in class or a teacher expecting me to show up. Maybe I’m feeling scared that the practice isn't going to offer me the easy, clear cut answers I seek. Maybe I’m just realizing how freaking hard this really is.
But still. I want a teacher, and I want a shala. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking, “She ought to go to Mysore. That’s what it’s for.” I don’t disagree, and I’ll actually be meeting Sharath for the first time in a few days when I fly to Miami to practice with him for a week. Perhaps I’ll feel more settled about this after taking class with The Boss.