I’ve noticed that in the yoga culture we often talk about the most famous teachers that we have worked with rather than the lesser-known teachers who have guided us, and even perhaps started us on our yoga journey. I wonder, is this simply because in conversation we can’t connect over teachers we don’t both know? Or, is this somehow a way of being famous by proxy? If I have worked with some amazing yoga superstars, does that make me more of a yoga superstar? I know in my own experience people are often asking me who I have studied with, and I usually pick out a few names that are more recognizable to an international audience (and yes I’ll admit perhaps more impressive), but what this does is leaves out the most important teachers who have guided, supported, and shaped my journey.
So, I want to be really clear about this and say, if it wasn’t for Gita Masiques – who you probably have never heard of – I would not be a contented yogi or a yoga teacher today. In fact, if it wasn’t for Gita reaching out to me and offering her care and guidance, I would likely still be an anxious basket-case flinging myself about in the world and crashing into things.
There are many wonderful things I could say about my first yoga teacher, but what stands out to me still after so many years is that she took me as I was and didn’t try to make me something else. I was anxious, doubtful, competitive, erratic, loud, and occasionally even obnoxious. She didn’t try to change that, and didn’t try to make me experience yoga the way that she experiences yoga. She just held a space for me to come and practice, and was patient with whichever variation of me showed up that day (or didn’t – I was chronically absent!). I have studied with many more great teachers since my first tentative classes with Gita, but it is still so often her voice that I hear in my head and heart when I’m on the mat.
This doesn’t take away from any of the other teachers who have guided my practice over the years. And don’t get me wrong, famous yogis can still be humble, grounded, wise, and deeply inspiring. I just wanted to point out that our yoga culture sometimes has a darker underbelly of ‘so who have you worked with?’ and, as a member of the yoga culture, I feel it’s my duty (and honour) to speak up about the hometown, grassroots teachers who may never make the cover of Yoga Journal or teach to a room of 200, but who will hold a hand out to people in need and share the grace and guidance that is Yoga.
My eternal thanks.