By Sachie Alessio Heath
The Internet has been abuzz with reactions from the Anusara community to the news of the resignation of three of its master teachers: Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Christina Sell. If social media is a trusted gauge, comments have ranged from sheer bewilderment (“But why?”) to the subtly disappointed (“I still love you!”), as if leaving Anusara is like getting a face tattoo.
In the West, with the branding of all that is yoga, a lot of us have grown really attached to the style of yoga we take, sometimes to the point that it becomes a part of us. We think we can typecast people based on their methodology of choice. For example, there’s Ashtanga (“Vertebrae are for pussies”) and Iyengar (“PBS is fun!) and yes, Anusara, (“Well, the Universal Principles work because they’re universal; they’re like, true because they come from truth, and also. I love this kula SO much!”).
I joke, but kinda not. And here’s the thing – it’s unrealistic to expect people to follow only one path of yoga forever or to fit neatly into a single asana box.
My most revered teachers don’t even label themselves, because they, too, have graced through a few different styles of yoga and consequently reject the pigeonholing that occurs with labels. Teachers Without Borders, I call them. As their student, I can’t imagine any label that could adequately describe the breadth of wisdom they bring to each class.
As a recovering perfectionist, I loved the structure of Anusara. Everything was simply explained and contained within the framework of the UPAs and loops. This, plus the community really resonated with me for a while, but I left in search of more. More doesn’t necessarily mean better, or worse, evolved or unevolved, I just felt that there was more information out there for me to learn. I realized that once I was immersed in a particular school of yoga, and deepened my search only with teachers within that school of yoga, I was only learning specific information that is contained in that particular label of yoga. There is no system of checks and balances, if you will. I had to step outside of the system, and even questioned everything I had ever studied, to really know what still served me and what didn’t.
My students eventually caught on to the fact that I wasn’t teaching Anusara any longer.
Some students bolted, as though my leaving was contagious, but I also gained more students. I know people feel safe with labels — they know what to expect. I chose to keep my reasons for leaving to myself because I felt it was a personal choice for me and I wouldn’t want to influence my students and their choice of practice.
I haven’t taken class from Ms. Sell or Elena. I have had the honor to practice with Darren. I cannot speak for the reasons they resigned their certifications, nor do I feel they need to explain themselves. (That said, you can read about Elena’s take here.) But I can say that I’m excited to see what they will bring the world next. The qualities that have made them great teachers will endure (and maybe flourish?) without the paper certification. I’m looking forward to watching and learning as they evolve and branch out and teach free of any brand. Because, yoga is yoga — it has never belonged to anyone. Oh, unless you’re Bikram Choudhury, of course.
About Sachie Alessio Heath
Sachie Alessio Heath is a yoga teacher, actress, foodie, and action hero. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Josh, and their two adorable pit bulls, Sasha and Bruiser. She loves learning and sharing knowledge, and also happens to have a preternatural talent for impersonations. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website.