My Guru

Just kidding!! I don’t have a guru. With due respect to gurus everywhere, that word gives me the creeps. It may date back to my time in teacher training, in a school of yoga started by then-revered-but-subsequently-disgraced John Friend. Friend created Anusara yoga, whose principles of alignment really made (and still make) sense to me. But my gag reflex kicked in when people in the Anusara world referred to “John” as if everyone should know him, and be on a first-name basis—until his fall from grace. Friend is certainly not the only revered yoga teacher with a tarnished reputation: witness the recent legal proceedings against Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, the famous practice of 26 poses performed in a super-heated studio. I know many who adore the practice, but the behavior of Bikram himself tends to be a bit more…polarizing. Several years ago Benjamin Lorr wrote a revealing memoir about the world Bikram created. It was called, Hell-Bent, and I reviewed it at the time for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Give it a read sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.

To be fair, though, a guru is really just a mentor, someone whose ideas and teachings shape your own thinking and practice. A mentor may not even be someone you’ve met in person. Take my latest intellectual “crush”—biomechanist Katy Bowman—for example. She’s not a yoga teacher; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard her mention yoga in her blog, podcast, webinars or anywhere else that I follow her. I’ve never met her, and she certainly doesn’t know me. But her ideas about anatomy, footwear, and “natural movement” are seeping into my consciousness, and oozing into every class I teach.

In a nutshell, Bowman advocates (with a great deal of scientific evidence) for a kind of “paleo” (my word…forgive me Katy!) approach to movement. That is, she wants to see us stop sitting so much (of course she’s not alone in this one), but also find ways to move more like our ancestors did. Not exercise, per se—in fact Katy B. is skeptical about “exercise”—but rather moving all parts of the body in varied and functional ways. All. Day. Long. You’ll hear more about Katy and her Nutritious Movement ideas from me, but if you’re intrigued, and you only have time to read one blog…start with hers!

Categories: Yoga