Well, this is not exactly serious enough to merit "moral dilemma", but I thought if I titled the post this way, you will be more likely to read it (yes, I'm so evil...). Am I right? :-)
So here's the so-called moral dilemma. I'm not losing sleep over this, but it has been bugging me from time to time over the last couple of days. This is what happened. In the last couple of months, I have been toying with the idea of starting to teach yoga again. I used to teach at a local yoga studio in Florida when I was in grad school, but after I got my PhD in 2009 and started a "real" job, I decided to stop teaching yoga and focus on my own practice. The reasons for this decision are many and very involved, and would take another post to really go into, so I'll skip them here.
Anyway, recently, I finally decided to come out of my self-imposed "yoga shell" and start teaching yoga again. On Tuesday, I met with C, the owner of a local yoga studio (the same studio that I wrote about in this post) to talk about possibly teaching an Ashtanga class once a week at her studio.
[Big Disclaimer: You probably already know this if you read this blog regularly, but I'm going to say this again anyway. I am not an authorized teacher, nor have I ever been to Mysore. I have decided to teach anyway, because I really feel that in my part of this country, many people can get to know and benefit from this practice who may otherwise never know about this practice. So, despite my lack of credentials (and probably, ability), I have decided to step up to the plate and share what I know with whoever wants to try this practice. If you want to throw electronic eggs or stones at me, go right ahead. I will endure...]
Wow, I have written four paragraphs, and I still haven't told you what my dilemma is? I apologize; I don't mean to squander your cyber-attention in this way. I'll get to it right now. So C and I were talking about what to name my class. She told me that over the years, there have been a few teachers who have taught Ashtanga classes in the area, but only a few people showed up to these classes. However, when these teachers changed the name of their classes from "Ashtanga" to "Vinyasa Flow", the number of people attending these classes suddenly shot up. C doesn't really know why this happened; she thinks that maybe there is a lack of education in this area about what Ashtanga is, and maybe people only hear about Ashtanga's bad reputation (the injuries, the super-physically-intense nature of the practice, etc., etc.), and so decided to stay away from any class that has the word "Ashtanga" in its name.
I listened, and nodded in understanding. And then she dropped an unexpected bombshell. She asked me most sweetly, "So, I'm sure you would be okay with not calling your class "Ashtanga" at the start, wouldn't you? Maybe sometime in the fall, when you are more established, you can run a six-week series of classes called "Intro to Ashtanga" or something along these lines. I think this would give people a smoother way to adjust to Ashtanga."
To my surprise (and horror), I actually said yes to her proposal. And I said it without thinking, almost as a reflex (there is a part of me that really hates myself for being such a yes-person. But maybe you can forgive me: After all, as you can see, I was caught off-guard.).
So where's the dilemma? Well, there's a part of me that feels that not calling my class an Ashtanga class when this is really what it is amounts on some level to a betrayal of both what I stand for and the practice itself. Sure, one may say that a name's just a name. But I believe that what we choose to call ourselves is a very powerful reflection of what we stand for and what we dare to do and believe in in this world. Besides, if there really is a lack of education here about what Ashtanga is about, wouldn't not calling something Ashtanga when it is just add to this lack of education? Moreover, I seriously don't care if just one or two people come to my class, so long as they are interested in giving the practice a try. But of course, C doesn't see it this way...
But there's also a part of me that says that in business, we sometimes have to compromise in order to get a foothold and move forward in getting what we want. And besides, C has been around in this area much longer than I have, and may very well know many things about the temperament and attitudes of the locals that I am ignorant of. So her proposal may turn out to be a wise one.
In any case, I just emailed C my class description. In it, I am very explicit that my class is going to be based on the Ashtanga Vinyasa Method and the Tristana system. In this way, I try to remain true to what the class will be about (I intend to teach Ashtanga the traditional way, posture by posture).
Maybe I'm overreacting to all this, I don't know. Any thoughts on this?