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Teaching Yoga:
Walking a Tightrope through Practice and Pragmatics


Sutra II.3
avidya-asmita-raga-dvesha-abhiniveshah panca-kleshah


Nescience, I-am-ness, attachment, aversion and the will-to-live are the five causes of affliction.

Walking through the door to a yoga class is a familiar experience. Entering through that same door as teacher is an initiation. Something changes at the core of oneís central nervous system as an intention shifts from participant to leader. Willingly stepping into the role of catalyst for the changes in dense and subtle bodies unwittingly opens a Pandoraís box of karmic potential.

The term klesha is often defined as affliction. All things being relative, we can more clearly determine its resonance through the context of the sutras. The idea of pain and distress as it relates to the quest for liberation isnít necessarily something that consciously irritates. The source receiving injury is the subtle unconscious experience that yearns for eternal union. The linear duties inherent to structuring classes and operating studios easily clouds the authentic motivation for yogic study. Each foray into the materialization of our dreams creates challenge in the walk between magic and maya.

Our most conscious reasons for choosing yoga as a profession respond to a trickster within. Creating money from yoga involves a dance which moves to innumerable rhythms and loses control in the ecstatic seduction of success. The cause and effect of merging an ideal with matter brings us to a layer of intense self revelation. In creative acts of loving, children embody the largeness of our invitation. Just as it is impossible to know what we are truly inviting with the development of family, we canít understand the complexity of the teacher dynamic until we are in full dependence of the work. Suddenly our ideals are densified with issues of survival, comparison and competition.

There are a few terms which float through our projected and witnessed expectations as teachers. Ego is first on the list as we muddle through its reverberations in Vedic instruction and classic psychology. Humility follows a close second with its paradox of honor and insinuated shame. Anger is a constant recipient of criticism as we interpret extracts of timeless guidance.

The understanding of these terms as they relate to functional human existence is not as simple as finding a dictionary definition. These terms have their meanings and their requirements in our conscious roles through the incarnate experience. The essence of Sanskrit teachings, as presented in the nature of the kleshas, respects a dissolving of material function as we deepen into the merging experience.

Itís easy to equate material success with a feeling of mastery, especially when spirit and economics fuse as business. We become authorities in the visual largeness of our creations, and our students are generous in their homage. Celebrating permission to excel, shine and prosper is a precarious indulgence when ego, humility and anger question the authenticity of our conscious evolution.

The kleshas, the separating energies, are active in linear momentum. They assist structures which fortify independence and self reliance. These energies are most commonly explored on the personal level when we attempt to yield our boundaries to subtle body connections, to merging experiences. When we as teachers fortify our institutions, we are dancing with contracts of separation. Although we share community within our structures, we have reason to seek interaction beyond them.

We need to share with colleagues, and we need to remember the mystery of the practice. Creating a premise for play, vulnerability and surprise occurs when we exchange with the plethora of diverse approaches to the practice of teaching. Regardless of our methods, we are catalysts for our students. Finding arenas where business is put aside and curiosity is enabled keeps our hearts genuine. Relating to our professional differences enhances a witness perspective. In this exchange we receive a glimpse of our work within the fabric of local instruction.

There is great reward in stepping out of our structured obligations and stepping into the abundance of inspired approaches. Knowing each other, understanding common challenges and respecting foreign attitudes are ways to stretch beyond our style attachments.

The buffet is vast. Practicing asana, chanting mantra, studying esoteric guidance and teaching require support... as teachers, may we merge into conscious community.

by Toni Zuper,
President of Philadelphia Area Yoga Teachersí Association

by Toni Zuper
Alternative Healing
Center City, Philadelphia


published in Yoga Living -- January 2004 issue