The Teachings, Not the Teacher

By Iris Cohen, January, 2019

We gathered shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle, the constellation of the Costa Rican sky above, the sand under our feet, a burning fire before us.  The shaman instructed us to blow on a wooden stick and toss it into the fire as an offering to burn our teachers.

Burn our teachers?  Images of The Crucible began to dance in my brain.  I love my teachers, even the ones I don’t like.  Their wise, nurturing guidance on my yoga path has sustained and inspired me for the past 20 years.  Studying with many masters of different lineages has been an honor and a privilege, one that I am not apt to surrender into the burning pyre.  And yet, the ritual presents us with a higher purpose in this metaphorical offering.  We are invited to surrender the glorification of the teacher, so we are left with the purity of the teaching.  The teacher is a guide, a transmitter of the ancient yogic teachings.

Colleen and Rodney define yoga as inquiry.  As much as their brilliance dazzles or soothes, they are interpreters leading us through hundreds of years of tantra, sutras and vedas, defining, refining and evolving them for relevance.  As students we are called to use the teachings for our own self-study, svadhyaya.

As a teacher, I am humbly aware that every time I offer a practice of asana, pranayama or meditation, I am in service to the teachings, the alchemy that comes from my life experience as mother, wife, daughter, sister, seeker.  May we continue to serve the teachings as we shed the lionization of the messenger for the pure love of the yogic inquiry.

Iris Cohen

Iris Cohen has practiced and studied yoga for over 20 years with Colleen Saidman Yee, Rodney Yee, Elena Brower and Ellen Saltonstall, who ushered her into a world of study that would sustain her through life’s many challenges with presence and awareness. She founded Be True Yoga in 2010 in Scarsdale, New York to create a nurturing space to access the transformational power of yoga, meditation and sustainable wellness.

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