Hello, and welcome to the new blog for the Savannah Yoga Center! I'm Joseph Basler, 1st year teacher here at the SYC. I graduated from Yoga Teacher Training last May and began teaching at my alma mater shortly thereafter.
I've been a pretty serious yoga student for about 4 years now, and while I've taken yoga classes everywhere I could find them, it is an honor difficult for me to express, to be cutting teeth at the front of the very room where I first picked up my yoke and started down this yogi path.
Many, many people have taken time out of their busy days to question me something like this, “So .... you're a 38 year old male yoga teacher?!?” The questions exist on a continuum: often asked with a delight and wonder reserved for harmless eccentrics and irascible artist types, though occasionally with the measured disdain television interviewers once used to approach Charles Manson.
Over the past year I've answered the question dozens of times, though never entirely truthfully ... Imagine an old school cartoon scamp: tattered business suit, broke shoes with oversize big toe sticking out, disheveled hair, pockets turned out between thumb and index finger, with a little moth flying free that's me taken to task on the topic! I have an answer, but it doesn't make sense, so instead I retreat. The truth is hard work, often unpalatable, and if expressed poorly will quickly abandon you at the lunatic fringe. High stakes! But is “Duh, I don't know. It's fun!” a better answer?
Dear reader, I'm here to report it isn't! While slightly ditzy and benign is a safe cover, it does not nourish. But I'm getting ahead of myself ... Let me take you back first. After graduation I was all doeeyed with excitement, and alternately terrified beyond rational thought, at the prospect of leading my first yoga class. But I had studied and trained with verve. The ticket purchased, it was time to take the ride. And Lo! What did I find while scanning the ever growing online yogaverse? A blog titled, “Why the world DOESN'T need more Yoga teachers.” One week before my first class, I read this, and worse, it was a well written and powerfully compelling article. The author, a well-respected teacher with all the experience and grounding in traditional practice anyone has any right to ask for, just devastated me!
Full disclosure: many of the aforementioned writer's concerns were at the back of my mind, quietly fueling my insecurities: Modern Yoga is too commercial, fashion obsessed has forsaken traditional practice and reduces the eight limb path to a shadow of just one, which has become ostensibly no different than Zumba (Side note: Zumba is fun and a great workout, I'm not hating) young teachers are being churned out of dubious schools lightning fast, inflating a multibillion dollar bubble doomed to pop, leaving disaster and disillusionment for a legacy.
So that's an inadequate summary, but you get the gist I think? A damning string of accusations that I had no choice but to take seriously. I could not plainly answer why I had chosen this unlikely career path, but I knew that it wasn't to fan the flames of a commercial trend more interested in selling tight pants than honoring the practice I had fallen in love with. (Side note II: Yoga pants are also fun. They look great and are ultimately harmless. Still not hating.) To reconcile this, the question needed to be taken head on: Why did I become a yoga teacher? I first found yoga while deep in the throes of the worst depression I had ever suffered, a doubly damning blight made worse for being self-inflicted. I hadn't come to yoga looking for answers ... that ship had sailed. I was looking for different. A place where I could pretend to not be me for an hour. My teacher, my first serious teacher, unwittingly guided me in this surgery of asana; often manually contorting me: hands here, head here, breath, ground down, breath, find length, draw in, breath, breath, breath! I call it 'surgery' and mean it, my blue Yoga mat an operating table. I was hoodwinked into looking inside myself, and I'll be damned if I didn't find something. A single mustard seed of hope, soft and breathless. My teacher didn't heal me, to this day I'm unclear on whether or not she even knew I was hurting – or how much. We never talked about it in any detail until much later. She just showed me how to breathe and move, and that showed me a way in, and then it built on itself. From there things progressed organically. I had gardened a little hope and suspected more could be grown. So I got to work on the soil of my heart. Relief from the sharp pangs of shame and regret proved a powerful motivator. Soon I was a daily student, and with each class this seemingly indomitable cancer released its hold. Inch by inch, freeing up space that I could then use to nurture this new momentum. Motivation to momentum, powering the bellows of my chest and growing hot.
Equal parts sentimental and vague, I know, but it’s my suspicion that a nearly unanimous number of yoga teachers and the vast majority of students stick with their practice for similar personal reasons. Though it is certainly possible to come to yoga for exercise, few remain committed to an asana practice for that singular aim. We all have stuff in the vault, things hid away inside that we don't like too much. Yoga asana offers us a way to witness and perhaps even safely evict these 'Boogeymen' we've collected and collectively fed for far too long. My story is not unique. So why would the world possibly need more yoga teachers? Because nobody I know is in it for money or fame, to be the coolest kid in school with the coolest hobby, subvert longstanding religious beliefs, or start a sex cult. Nobody is pushing pastel Ganesha silkscreen tees to reify and rebrand unchecked consumerism, in an endless corporate procession of new markets soon to run cold. As a new teacher I would presume too much to tell you what yoga is and what it is not; but my yoga is antidote to all that rot, not arbiter. I move forward today for the same reason I did 4 years ago: I found a little solace and wanted a little more. And when I gathered up my fill what choice was left but to share? I didn't choose to become a teacher, not really, and while I'm certain this sounds hokey, I was compelled. I needed to be of service. To guide in my stumblebum fashion whoever would be charitable enough to let me, onto the operating table and into the very personal exploratory surgery of asana.
A final word to my friends in the current yoga teacher training at the SYC, who graduate this coming May. If you're anything like I was this time last year, then I'mcertain you're flanked at every turn by insecurities and doubt. Remember how you got started, keep a beginner's playful heart, teach what you know and practice, practice, practice what you teach! It's easy when you're feeling vulnerable to shrink away from the challenges that are waiting for you; to feel you're not ready, not good enough, that you've made a mistake. But you are ready, and if you don't believe that right this second it’s okay, because I've got faith enough for the both of us! In my humble opinion, the world absolutely needs more yoga teachers. So take heart and be always brave!
Interested in deepening your own practice? Or perhaps moving your brightly colored rectangle up to the teacher's seat? Well you can click our link here and read all about our Yoga Teacher Training at the SYC, or you can attend one of our free info sessions and have all of your questions addressed face to face.