from Sarah Kucera, CSOY Teacher Trainer and Director of Sage Center for Yoga & Healing Arts
Two short but emotionally charged weeks out now from Matthew Remski's illuminating workshops at the Colorado School of Yoga, I can honestly say I had no idea I'd come out of the workshop with new found knowledge AND a hefty side of mixed emotions--honestly, I was left questioning if I was even equipped to be teaching yoga.
Over the course of the weekend, Remski shared his well-backed and documented research that reveals that the very teachers we glorify and are deferential to as our lineage holders inflicted abuse and corporal punishment on their yoga students. And not once or twice, but as a regular teaching tool. And that this may have set the stage for excessive and/or injurious hands-on assists, sexual manipulation and abuse and guru-worship in the modern era. Many times Matthew referenced the term gaslighting. The term is used in psychology when someone manipulates another into self-doubt or to question their own sanity (a term I was only recently made familiar with as it was used in media associated with Donald Trump during the debates). Victims of this kind of abuse often rationalize the way they are being treated--a teacher causes injury and the student rationalizes it as "for my own good" or as an accelerator on the path towards transcendence - no pain, no gain after all. We talked as a group about countertransference and how today's teachers may be inflicting our own feelings or experiences onto our students. There was lengthy inquiry into yoga's vertical and horizontal relationships between transcendence and therapy. We were strongly encouraged to evaluate our own approach as yoga teachers. The topic was heavy and I began to wonder how I could teach yoga and be certain that my attempts to help guide people through movement and breathing would be effective now that my previous paradigm had been shattered?!
...but there was light. I kept thinking about how fortunate I am to be a part of a community that is open to both hearing and discussing challenging things. I felt thankful for my natural draw to education and my desire to question things rather than to simply do something because someone else said so. I recalled the powerful experiences that yoga brought me that didn't always involve a teacher. And just as I was calling into question if this path is right for me, our presidential election happened and our studio became a safe haven for people to grieve and discuss.
This work is necessary and so long as I am willing to continue self-study, I can be confident in my approach and my teaching. I'm committed to being the best teacher I can be, to self-evolution and to always knowing why I'm doing what I'm doing. As I'm willing to question, I'm willing to be wrong. My ears, eyes and heart are open.
from Tracey Garcia, CSOY Director of Teacher Trainings
Having been raised Catholic, I have a strong affinity for deeply rooted tradition. There is undoubtedly a comfort that can be found in doing things the way they’ve always been done. However, sometimes a little itch begins to develop in the back of your brain asking “ but why?” That itch was personified for me during a training in the form of Matthew Remski.
Remski is a yogic scholar and a seeker. He came to the Colorado School of Yoga to present his research through a workshop called “What are We Actually Doing in Asana?” (the cool kids shorthand this to WAWADIA.) During his presentation, he offered anecdotes he had collected regarding yoga injuries incurred through harmful adjustments and a lack of teacher ownership in the student-teacher dynamic, and students’ blind trust placed in the hands of their teachers. His research culminated with the realization that modern postural yoga has its roots securely wrapped around the desires, whims and sufferings of a handful of human men.
As the weekend came to a close, I felt like Neo upon learning the true nature of the Matrix. What now? What is real? Then, I set aside my questions, made my uneasy way to the studio and taught my expectant students. I saw what is real.
- A safe opportunity to scan your inner landscape
- A space to let the façade fall away and be vulnerable
- Our open-minded, open hearted community of humans
- A palpable shift in the charge of energy in the room
- An extended moment to approach and experiment with a deeper state of consciousness
I know what is real. In pulling the curtain back and revealing some of the less than savory aspects of yoga, Matthew Remski did not destroy my believe in the power of yoga. Instead, he allowed me to realize that I have the ability (and responsibility) to steer my teaching and my students in a healthy direction. No longer will I settle into the pacifying comfort of “doing things the way they’ve always been done.” If a handful of men can form the history of yoga, this woman can, and will, join in shaping the future.
Care to join me?