I was looking through my past blog pots on here and I realized something. I haven’t written about yoga in a very long time. The truth is, yoga and I…well…we haven’t been getting along recently.
This is going to be a “ranticle” and not so much an article, so hold on to your ass people. I feel like I should apologize, but I’m not going to do that. Because this is how I feel.
Berkeley, California. I sip tea as I talk with my friend in a cafe. I look out the window and the rain is relentless, like it has been every day for the past week. I remember back to August when I first moved back here, and how I had the idea that my personal yoga practice was going to grow, infinitely, because I was living in a place with so many famous teachers and hundreds of studios.
It’s the Bay Area, where everyone is a yogi, where even the dogs do yoga, where you can do sun salutations and meditate in the middle of a park without getting weird stares.
This sounded amazing, coming from Savannah, Georgia, where yes, there’s yoga, but not anywhere near the volume that the Bay Area offers.
My friend and I keep chatting, and the conversation steers towards yoga, and I have this urge to say something that I never thought I would say or feel. I look back outside, think for a moment if what I’m about to say is true, or half true, or if I’m just in a bad mood, but I want to hear it out loud, because I want to know how it feels to say it and have it represent me. So I say it.
I hate the yoga in the Bay Area.
And usually when I say things like that, in such absolutes, and especially if the word hate is in there somewhere, it doesn’t feel true. But this time, it did. It felt unfortunately authentic.
I have searched, for months now, at different studios with different teachers for someone that I can practice with, at a time that works for me, at a cost that won’t hurt too much. And the most surprising part of the process of NOT finding this, was that in Savannah, I could walk into any class with any teacher and be satisfied. Even if I didn’t agree with a word they were saying, I could respect their class and be grateful that I was receiving a challenge and a new perspective. But in the Bay Area? I haven’t been able to do that as much.
I’m not a picky yogi. I love, really love, just about every style of yoga out there, and I’m down for whatever when it comes to asana, talking about philosophy, or doing weird pranayama or meditations. I love it all.
So why can’t I practice? I realize that this is probably a lot of me, or all me, being ego-y and maybe it’s just one of those natural lulls that practicing anything takes every once in a while, but I think it deserves to be examined.
In Savannah, I saw teachers who really wanted to be up there teaching, who loved holding space and helping others, teachers who were filled to the brim with gratitude simply because they had a class to teach at 5:30. The teachers in Savannah love teaching. That’s why they do it.
Here, I see teachers feeling entitled to teach a class, teachers that aren’t that grateful for the opportunity to hold space, teachers who don’t really want to teach but they think they should be, so they do.
That’s the Bay Area, a bunch of people who do things and have these progressive attitudes not because they truly feel that way, but because they think they should feel that way. And yes, this is how a lot of communities are, but in a place where being a certain way and believing in certain things is so big and so important to be accepted as a member of our culture, it gets hard to say or act on how you really feel. Or even know how you really feel.
Judgement. All judgement, I know.
I think that’s happening with the yoga here. Classes that are being taught by teachers who haven’t fully examined what they’re teaching, or what they believe in, or what they think all this yoga nonsense is really about. And so even these amazing classes rub me the wrong way because I pick up on these weird, disconnected kind of vibes.
And maybe this is all just a projection of my insecurities about the yoga I’m teaching. Who knows. But I do feel like I teach what I know and I believe in what I teach. I learned that from my first teacher, Steve Black.
The other day I was talking with fellow yoga instructors, and they were chatting about their teachers, who they studied with. Sharon Gannon and Judith Lasater were among their teachers, two women who I admire the hell out of.
Georgie, who was your first teacher? We have all been trying to figure it out, because you seem like you could be a mix of a bunch of teachers, so tell us. Who did you study with?
I smile. I tell them that they wouldn’t know my first teacher, that I studied with him in middle of nowhere Statesboro, Georgia, that he’s less of a “yoga god” and more of a cowboy who drives an old pick up truck and sings in a band called Steve Black and the Brand New Heartache. He doesn’t have a Facebook fan page or a website, and he is just as likely to have a guitar hanging on his shoulder as he would a yoga mat. His southern accent is thick, but it’s more of a Tennessee accent and not go much Georgian, and I can talk to him about anything. And I would talk to him. I still do on occasion. I learned more about yoga from him than anyone else, and in every class I would get weeks worth of spiritual work done. He didn’t drink coconut water, but he did drink PBR and whiskey.
He used to write songs for me.
I admire him because he is real. No bullshit about this dude, not one ounce. Because he was my first teacher, he set the bar high, and my tolerance for teachers who aren’t real is low. I’m glad for that. My bullshit radar is ultra sensitive, and while I’m not asking for a bad ass southern rocker yoga teacher (but if you’re out there, contact me directly), I want someone who knows their shit and isn’t afraid to question yoga tradition, and who will challenge me to do the same. I want someone who is fearless, someone who doesn’t just give students what they want and make it easy, but really teach what they know to be true, even if that doesn’t please everyone.
And the teacher that I did my official training with, Kelley Boyd, is just like Steve. She never once suggested that she was perfect, that she had anything figured out, that yoga had to be a certain way. She challenged me in ways that were different, like if I said something that conflicted with the inherent goodness that she saw in me, she would just look at me with this face like…hmmm….think again, little one.
She too, drives a pick up truck. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for.
I still have my home practice, that I do alone in my backyard, that I cherish so much. Every day, I look forward to it. But I need a teacher. We all do, no matter what our practice may be. We need someone to kick our ass a little and challenge the words we say.
I need someone who will say George, what the hell was that last blog post about, you don’t hate the yoga in the Bay Area, you’re just being bratty. Get your ass on the mat and let’s practice.