Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Rubbish question regarding Ashtanga authorisation,certification, ownership of yoga, lineage holders, the source and parampara.

 "...namely at home is spirit / not at the commencement, not at the source."
Holderlin The Ister


It's like the good old days when several blogs would pick up on a topic and run with it, each with a different perspective. On the whole I think we were respectful of each other, less so some of the comments perhaps but then some of us could be wilfully provocative, blogging with a hammer.

For a time the term Cybershala was in vogue, where does such terminology come from, who first coins it, how do such terms come in and out of fashion.

Where did The Source come from, to refer to Mysore.

or worse....

Lineage Holder (reminds me of an old fantasy novel I read as a kid 'White gold wielder')

When did Parampara gain such dominance and import.

Such terms make me wince and glaze over whenever I read them, I look forward to their passing.

Note: While I might not like such terminology personally  many of course find such ideas profound, enriching and supportive of their practice. It was Saharth's relationship with his Grandfather for that has no doubt brought about his focus on parampara a term/concept employed much less in the past. 'The Source' seems to have taken on the role the Yoga Korunta once held and Lineage seems perhaps to be taking the place of 'the tradition'.

*

Years ago M. and I started making walking trips upriver looking for the source of the Thames.

River Thames

We found some beautiful stretches of river....



At some point we googled Source of the Thames and it turned out to be here, Thames Head, there's a stone marking it and everything. Hmmmmmm...


needless to say we didn't bother making the trip.

*

Here in Lakeland, Shiga, Japan living on the banks of the four million year old Biwa lake I often find myself reflecting on the source of all-this-water. Walking around here we are constantly crossing little streams, rivulets, brooks, becks, burns, creeks, cricks, ghylls....., kills, licks, mills....rills, , sykes, runs and runnels.... all leading down to this mighty lake. Water is everywhere here, feeding the Lake..... which is THE source, where lies the source?

Omi-takashima, Lake Biwa, Shiga, Japan. Up a little way from us.

Great movie The Ister


Lineage holder. What is this Lineage of which we speak, a line stretching from Krishnamacharya's teacher and teacher's teacher down through him and Pattabhi Jois and on where..... to Sharath and the teachers he authorises, certifies or also the teachers that Pattabhi Jois authorised and certified or even perhaps, merely those he taught for a significant period of time... and on through those students that they taught in turn and who they are currently passing on this approach to practice.

What is a lineage holder? Where did this come from, when did the term arise, who first coined it. I often hear that Sharath is the Lineage holder, in other writing I hear the Jois family referred to as lineage holders. What is it to hold this lineage, has the terminology been thought out, thought through. Does Sharath too wince when he hears it.

Perhaps it merely means that this approach to practice is being held in trust, preserved intact. I didn't vote for Sharath to take on the post, nobody got to vote, this is old school hereditary. How Ironic that those coming from a Republic seem keenest of all to embrace the divine right of kings to rule, perhaps there is a little bit of Game of Thrones thrown into the mix too with a little bit of political Maneuvering, sons and grandsons. Sharath, Pattabhi Jois' grandson took on the name of Jois, what was that all about.

The British Royal family is German you know

The House of Windsor is the royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of the British Royal Family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (a branch of the House of Wettin) to the English Windsor, due primarily to the anti-German sentiment in the British Empire during World War I.



I didn't get to vote for the queen either.

Still, I'm fine personally with Sharath over there in Mysore keeping it honest. I practiced with his DVD for three months or so about eight years ago. It made it possible in the early days, before I slowed my practice right down, to switch from a forty minute David Swenson short form Ashtanga to the full series that Sharath hurtled through in just under an hour on his DVD. His practice, with it's seemingly complete lack of flourish or concern for alignment, strikes me as a perfect antidote to the current pretty presentations of the practice in evocative locations. Don't you kind of miss Richard Freeman and David Swenson with their vests tucked into their pants rather than all the pumped up, straining muscles shot with lots of contrast that we're constantly exposed to... and what is it with the soundtracks, when was the breath no longer enough.


Anyway, the reason I'm writing this post is a recent message I got sent "fight, fight, fight" concerning an ongoing discussion on the Ashtanga Yoga Discussion group.


SIDE NOTE: before the blogs I hear there were, the message boards, YUKU for example for Ashtanga, some of the early commenters on this blog honed their vitriol on those message boards. And now the blogs are passing away and the FB discussion groups seem to be taking over, it's going full circle.

Anyway in this discussion somebody asked an innocent question ( I think - you never know with this group) concerning the difference between Authorised and Certified Ashtanga Teachers. It's actually a good question. Years ago I heard that authorisation could be taken away but Certification was some how connected with the Indian government and couldn't be withdrawn, tenure if you like. I have no idea if any of that is true, you can't believe much you read on the Internet.

Somebody with a name beginning with Yogi (On principle I never accept FB friend requests  from anybody who puts Yogi in their name.... I don't tend to accept friend requests from any one with an Indian name either unless, well, they happen to be Indian. Somebody called Srivatsa Ramaswami sent me a friend request once and I had to check they weren't given the name by a Yoga teacher in New Jearsy authorised to hand out 'Indian names').

Anyway, Yogi XXXX somebody responded to the innocent Authorised/Certified question with "RUBBISH" (my dramatic capitals) and then another follow up comment exclaiming that "NOBODY owned yoga (again my provocative capitals).

Now lets face it the guy was being a bit of an arse, sorry Yogi XXX but you kinda were and somebody, taking umbrage, called him on it and I thought he was quite right to do so, it was an unnecessary, tacky response to an innocent ( I think) question, he wasn't being smart or clever but here's the thing, he was actually kind of right.


Because when you start to try and point out the difference between authorisation and certification you have to pause for a minute to ask what are they actually and where do they come from.

But who is to question all this, the authorised teachers themselves, those seeking authorisation or secretly hoping... perhaps one day, all are perhaps too invested in the system, and those on the edges or slightly outside, more often the not, seem to want to be want to be inside, included, not left out and don't want to rock the boat or see their stats go down. Interestingly in the Ashtanga group we find people joining from Ashtanga vinyasa and those who are interested in Ashtanga/Raja yoga so you end up with this mix of practitioners who are talking completely different language games, no wonder there is frustration, we are all so protective of our idea of what yoga is or isn't, myself included of course.

Who authorises, certifies and why do they have the right to do so.

Sharath has said again and again, going by conference notes ( he(s currently banned them), that nobody owns yoga..... but what about Ashtanga.

And here we pick up the Lineage holder terminology. Somehow or other Sharath and only Sharath possess the right to authorise and certify teachers. Manju Jois, Pattabhi Jois' Son and rightful heir too supposedly (see what I did there, went all Game of Thrones) but those he authorises and certifies don't seem to end up on the official list.

Can Saraswati authorise anybody?

It's the list isn't it.

The KPJAYI list is of approved teacher, those approved to teach Ashtanga ( as Authorised by the Institute to teach Half primary, full primary up to half Intermediate or Full Intermediate ) by KPJAYI, the approval coming from Pattabhi Jois in the past and now, currently Sharath.

Sharath doesn't own Yoga but I guess in some form or other he owns or is head of the institute. The KPJAYI, The Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. The Institute authorises and I assume Certifies teachers to teach Ashtanga in accordance with the method they present. All authorisation seems to mean is that these teachers are approved by the institute.

Somebody with more legalise could do a better job at this, I'm trying

In theory Sharath might seek to sue anyone who teaches Ashtanga without that authority and approval. he might try to lay claim to the series, to the methodology in the name of his grandfather but the Bikram case has shown how difficult if not impossible that would be. Sharath and the institute might feel they and only they posses ( look it up, it means owns) the authority to authorise but they are smart enough not to try and push it.

And besides all Pattabhi Jois did was simplify/codify Krishnamacharya's teaching. We have one of Krishnamacharya's original lists of asana. All Pattabhi Jois did was call Krishnamacharya's Primary, Intermediate and proficient Asana groups Primary, Intermediate and Advanced series with a slight tweak in the order here and there and allow it to be called Ashtanga. I say 'all' but what he really did was teach that practice with rigour, compassion and great good humour for years.

And then Madonna put her leg behind her head while in sequins and the rest is history (minor league to big league).




So, while Sharath and the institute can't legally claim to own Ashtanga they do have control of the list. If you want to be approved to teach by the institute you have to keep visiting Mysore (recently three times may well be enough). Once on the list you have to keep coming to Mysore regularly or you will be taken off. Do anything the institute, Sharath, doesn't approve off and you'll be taken off, offering training for example, you'll be taken off. Allow your name to be put on another list thus diminishing the exclusivity of the Institutes list and you can be taken off.

In this way, Sharath and or the institute manage to maintain some control, some degree of ownership over how Ashtanga is taught.

It may not be a bad thing.

I'm surprisingly traditional, you'll be shocked to hear. Many of my criticisms here have been to do with what I have seen as an oversimplification, a dumbing down of Krishnamacharya's original practice...., the speeding up of the breath, shorter stays, the rigidity of the system/sequences, the lack of attention to pranayama, and most importantly to the loss of kumbhaka, the soul of Krishnamacharya's practice. It's enough for me to post/rant about these occasionally. Sharath presents a nice straightforward presentation of Ashtanga, at some point somebody will, if they are interested, look to Krishnamacharya's original teaching.... or not.

But here's where I'm traditional ( for want of a better word), I expect my Ashtanga teacher to have studied Ashtanga for years. There is something about the discipline of Ashtanga, the getting on the mat and working your way through the practice morning after morning, day in day out and for years that for me constitutes the most important aspect of the practice. You may have studied Hatha or Iyengar for years, taught them for years but if you then take up Ashtanga and after a year or six months start to teach it then I'm like Topel and his third Daughter, no, NO..... NO, TRADITION!

The going to Mysore a bunch of times shows to some extent that you have been practicing for years and it's that I feel Sharath is recognising.... and after being Authorised you continue to practice and are perhaps ultimately Certified, a worthy representative of this approach to practice.

I really don't care if an Ashtanga teacher has ever been to Mysore only that they have practiced for years even if they've only ever practice with a dogeared copy of Yoga Mala... Of course you can learn this practice from books and DVD, hell you can put the whole practice on one laminated card, practicing it daily will teach it.

The more years you've practiced the more I'm interested, there are teacher's who've been practicing twenty years or more longer than Sharath and it's for that reason they interest me more. I was asked recently if I would go to Sharath's Tour in Tokyo, I said no and perhaps that seemed a little disrespectful but heredity means nothing to me, lineage nothing, parampara nothing I couldn't care less about them. I respect Sharath's practice, it's lack of fuss, his focus, I respect how hard he works to share the practice and that he does it with such good humour but I have no interest in basking in his presence, showering him devotion..... I respect the discipline of the practice, and though it perhaps respect Sharath, his grandfather and Krishnamacharya also.

Personally I feel that if you are Certified then you should be able to Authorise in turn, surely that's what lineage means or should mean. I don't see any difference between somebody who has been to Mysore a few times and has been granted their piece of paper and somebody who has been practicing with Nancy Gilgoff or Tim Miller or David Garrigues or Richard Freeman for years, piece of paper or not, I'm probably more interested in the latter. There are good teachers, excellent teachers and practitioners coming out of all these sources.

"...Yet the river almost seems
To flow backwards, and I
Think it must come
From the East.
Much could
Be said further. But why does
It hang so straight from the mountain? That other river,
The Rhine, has gone away
Sideways. Not for nothing rivers
Flow in dryness". 

Holderlin from The Ister

And then there is the money which I haven't touched on because it doesn't really interest me that much and somebody else can work it out. But by making Mysore the only place you can be authorised you ensure that people go back year after year which influences others, you doff the cap, bend the knee, use the terminology of lineage and parampara, the source, creating a whole narrative to be embraced while the money rolls in, and the lucrative led counted tours take place, year after year... let alone the money for authorisation and certification, has anybody tried working out how much the Institute is worth yearly, a million, more? Yoga is big business.

Sharath probably works too hard to care about the money that much, he likes his cars I hear and his cameras but that's about it, the institute seems in safe enough hands for now but what about the future, will Sharath's son be groomed.... more heredity.

Actually as much as it irritates me that we have a Royal family I'm loath to put anything else in it7s place, better the devil you have.

I've ranged far and wide here, top of my head blogging stuff but there is enough perhaps to show there are questions here surrounding Authorisation and Certification.

What's the difference between Authorisation and Certification?

Authorisation recognises that you've been practicing the discipline for a long time, Certification that you've been practicing the discipline for a really really long time.

I like to think of certified Ashtanga teachers as Princes of the Church (denoting male and female here like actors), having tenure and free to be creative in their exploration of the practice to be inspiring, perhaps it's a blessing that they don't have to worry about the authorisation side of things and can just get on and share their experience of the practice.



 "Yet what that one does, that river, / No one knows."

Holderlin The Ister




See also perhaps this new companion post

There is no 'official' Ashtanga (sequence).

and this response

A KPJAYI Authorised Ashtanga teacher's response to my recent posts on Authorisation, Parampara, Lineage, The Source etc.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting read... So, my understanding of the whole authorized vs certified thing is this: if you are proficient in primary and most if not all of intermediate series, you are 'authorized level 1'. If you are proficient in all of intermediate and working of advanced A, you are then 'authorized level 2'. If you are proficient in advanced A and beyond, you are then 'certified'.
    What I like about this is that avoids the "those who can't do, teach" issue. I assume that an authorized teacher can do the practice, does do the practice regularly, and has an understanding of it in such a way as to be able to 'teach' it. BUT and this is a big but, that doesn't mean that all authorized teachers are going to be good at teaching, adjusting, inspiring, listening, etc. However, the fact that they have committed to learning the practice (that commitment reflected in their repeated trips to Mysore) usually means that at the very least they have some idea of what works and what doesn't. However, I do agree with you that some of the other older teachers that were certified under Pattabhi Jois should be able to 'authorize' a person to teach and I have heard that one or two are doing just that; allowing a younger apprentice to teach and run their shala as they begin to take on a lesser role (though I don't believe they use the term 'authorized' to teach ashtanga).
    I've worked with both authorized, certified, and experienced 'unauthorized' teachers and have had good/bad experiences with all. I'm wary of any teacher I don't know, regardless of their credentials.

    There are good nurses and bad nurses...but they are all registered nurses, you know what I mean?

    All the best!

    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  2. Totally agree. I'm much more interested in how long a person has practiced and their personality. Authorisation / Certification doesn't come into it.
    Has a Certified teacher ever been removed from the list for 'mis behaving'? I'm certainly aware of certified teachers that offer teacher trainings - which according to Sharath is a No No! Maybe, it's because Sharath didn't certify these people, it was his Grandad. It wouldn't be right for Sharath to remove certification from someone his Grandad certified???
    Come to think of it, does Sharath certify?? Was it something his Grandad just did?

    I tend not to read anything about Ashtanga anymore. I have removed myself from most blogs / forums / social media. I like to take this opportunity to say - what an empowering experience.
    My practice is what informs me, directs me, teaches me. Not, what is coming out of Mysore.
    It's this that I look for in another teacher. Their conviction / belief that the consistent practice of Ashtanga (what ever that might be!!) is the real teacher. You are the teacher.
    A teacher that try's to make out that they are the teacher - I personally would avoid.

    If we are to recognise someone as teacher then it should be simply down to this

    "They have practiced regularly for at least 10 years (doesn't have to be full on physical practice every day!) and they have come to the conclusion that the most important lesson they can pass on is that 'the practice and your relationship with the practice is the true teacher' "

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting topic and it's a toughie. My own teacher learned from Sri K. Pattabhi and Manju and thus when Guruji passed she looked to Manju as her teacher and I have practiced with him as well. She was recently authorized by him to teach and has helped me progress far into my own practice but on occasion I think about making the trip to Mysore. I feel conflicted about this because I'd have to seek out a teacher on the "list" and study with them in order to meet the requirements to study at the Mysore Shala when I feel like I have the teacher I have a connection with already..It's interesting to see that a handful of the old school teachers IE Nancy Gilgoff have gathered around Manju. Also, do you know by any chance if Nancy was at one point authorized or certified?

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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