I think the saying goes something like “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It makes sense that if something is passed on then it must have been appreciated or resonated by the person passing it on. I suppose this holds true with everything I teach. I recently had a few students rush to tell me with great disdain that they had come across other Yoga teachers copying my exact ‘preambles’ and sequences. Whilst I discussed it with a few students casually and brushed it aside as “flattery”, I had one or two students adamantly express that this shouldn’t happen or be allowed!
This made me reflect a bit on my experience as a teacher, where my knowledge came from and specifically of using someone else’s information recently to teach a workshop I wanted to do. This particular person was one of my teachers; Doug Keller, who is super generous with his teachings, tools and materials. I contacted him to overtly ask for permission as I didn’t want to cross a line, reassuring him I would reference and direct students to him as I wanted to use one of his manuals and detailed slides to teach this workshop. He graciously consented as any great teacher would, and also told me a story that his teacher told him;
There was a Guru who had a stick. Everything that stick touched turned to gold. This attracted many disciples to practice, learn and support him. Word got round that there was a Guru who’s stick turned everything it touched to gold. One morning all at this new ashram woke to find the stick missing. The disciples were frantic and worried rushing to the Guru to inform him the stick was gone. He reassured them, calming his followers by asking,
“Do you really think it was the stick that turned things to gold?”
Doug kindly pointed out that even if others had the manual, access to the website and the slides, that certainly doesn’t mean that it will guarantee the use of them and the classes people teach will be a success. I have been studying with Doug for many many years, engaging, questioning and practicing with him. He sees the hard work and discipline I put into absorbing his teachings. I feel like that story illustrates his understanding that when I teach, I share from deep experience and resonance of what I have learned from him. These teachings I share are not mine. I learn them from other teachers, books and resources that inspire me. Yes, I work hard to learn, digest and process what this means to be put into practice. I study anatomy, biomechanics and sequencing to make sure I weave the Yoga Philosophy, Mudra, Kriya, Pranayama, Mantra and other techniques in to make it accessible and sustainable for my students to practice. There is a lot of work that goes into my work. So it is hard when I teach something and the next day a student/teacher takes the same information and sequence and passes it off as their own. However, is it gold?
What makes something come alive? What gives life to a teaching and sequence? What transmission is communicated? What is shared if the student hasn’t really soaked, absorbed and felt the benefit from the effects of practice? Also, not everyone is suited to be a teacher. There is a certain charisma and presence to deliver information so it inspires an awakening for a student. We as teachers are guides that hold the light, as we benefited from our teacher’s light as students. But it is not a path for all of us. My intention has always been to be an amazing student so I can be a great teacher in my community. I am flattered that there are teachers inspired by what I write, share and practice. I would, however, recommend the that students/teachers practice the sequence many many times, research the subject for themselves and draw on their personal experience to add that magic, rather than just copying a preamble or sequence. My sincere hope is they fully understand what stick they are holding as it won’t necessarily turn what they teach into gold.