I received my initial yoga training from a teacher who studied in what I think was a traditional but strict ashram setting where the teacher’s word was never questioned. I admired her for her intuitive grasp of yoga and more than that, for the brightness of spirit that she brought to her classes and the feeling of calm that she was able to impart to her students. The problem for me was that she seemed compelled to find fault with my desires to communicate more and grow in my practice. She denied my occasional requests for more of a one-on-one student-teacher relationship and for more advanced training, which she appeared to offer freely to others.
I tried to convince myself that this was in my best interest and by being denied my desires, I would gain some valuable insight into mastering the ego. This, I thought was the nature of a traditional Ashram education; one that I would have to surrender to, if I were to grow spiritually. But in the end, I was not willing to surrender because it felt like what I was surrendering to was being undeserving and not being good enough in the eyes of my teacher. This self-doubt may have been the crux of my inability to work with this teacher.
On the other hand, I think that there was a very basic understanding missing in that relationship. Specifically, the meaning inherent in the first of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “And now begins the study of yoga.” I believe that several ideas are implied by this sutra, including: 1) certain things in yoga need to be learned under the guidance of a teacher; 2) there is a sacred commitment between the yoga student and teacher when they agree to work together; and 3) the student has to trust that the teacher has his or her best interests in mind and will do his or her best to learn what is being offered. I never really got this.
Although I was unable to continue working with that teacher, I am grateful for the time I spent with someone who taught me what I was ready to learn from her despite how uncomfortable it was at times. I would like to think that someday, I will find my own inner wisdom and trust that to guide me. But for now I am beginning a new relationship; studying one-on-one with a different yoga teacher. Time will tell how this new student-teacher relationship will serve me. At least this time I feel that I have entered into it with a clear understanding of commitment to the process and trust in the teacher’s intentions. I’ve got a good feeling about it.