Friday, February 10, 2012

Oh Misery! Shame and Scandal in the Family

 It's Madness!  From The Dangerman Sessions

Readers of Yoga Dork are witnessing the steady crumbling of the Anusara brand.  For those unfamiliar, there have been numerous allegations of personal, um, misconduct and illegal business practices levied against Anusara founder John Friend.  YD has presented both the allegations and JF’s responses. Read the saga on YD if you would like, the specifics are not really my focus today.

My own personal opinions of this method and its founder (pure hokum, both) aside, there is no denying that a great many people found benefit by practicing this method.  There are also a number of people who have invested a significant amount of money to become certified to teach this method, and, if they are actively teaching, have been making some income from this method.

True or not (JF admits in general terms to some wrong doing) these allegations have hurt the brand. Meaning the teachers and students who follow the method have taken a greater hit than JF himself.

For those of us who teach yoga, we need to be aware that we are representing a brand, more accurately several brands:  Ourselves as teachers, the method/style/school we teach, the locations where we teach, and yoga as a business.  When any one of these brands suffer, we all feel the effects.

I am not saying that we teachers need to be saints.  We need to be sincere students.  We need to demonstrate the positive results of this practice because, let’s face it, our students have a choice.  There is a lot of competition.  There is always another teacher, another studio.  They can decide to just go for a jog instead of to a yoga class.  This is the struggle they don’t tell you about in teacher training.

At the very core of our teaching needs to be our personal practice.  I am pained every time I hear a teacher complain they don’t have time to practice or state that they need to practice more.  It is very easy for a student to see when a teacher does not practice what they teach.  What message does that send about the teacher and the practice?  Discipline (tapas) is the first step on this path—find the time.  Our students have found the time to show up; we have the responsibility to show up to our practice as well.  

We also need to align ourselves with the correct people. I am very blessed to teach at a studio where the owner is very supportive of the teachers.  She is actively in the community making a positive presence for the studio.  She is transparent and gracious with the teachers. She minds the brand.  This inspires me to promote the studio. In turn, the studio draws good teachers and the student base is continually growing.  The students get quality classes, the teachers make money, and the studio stays open.  Positive business practices perpetuates positive results.

I have been in the opposite situation as well, where shoddy business practices (late payments, owner not actively promoting the business, teachers constantly subbing out their classes) make it difficult to want to continue—the saving grace is the students.

As teachers, we need to mind our collective brand.  We need to keep our own practices consistent, and we need to encourage our fellow teachers to do the same.  The main reason why the situation with JF got to the point of an explosion on the blog-o-verse is because people allowed JF to get away with it—no one called him out on it until last week.  He wasn’t minding the brand (although he kept making a lot of money from it), but neither were the teachers and students who allowed the bad (and illegal) behavior to go on. That is called ‘vicarious liability.’

We don’t have to be saints; we need to be sincere students.  Sincere students and sincere teachers keep each other in check.  We all benefit when we all mind the brand.

Speaking of getting to practice: Flight School—Arm Balance workshop Saturday Feb. 12, 2-4 at Hudson River Yoga.  

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