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Welcome to part two of my conversation with Frank Jude Boccio – the dharma teacher who is so punk rock, he doesn’t even need to call himself punk rock! In the second half of our chat, Frank Jude graciously answered my pesky questions about some of my pet interests, including personal branding and making a living. This is stuff I’m trying to figure out for myself, so I find it fascinating and refreshing that Frank Jude is able to get his work out to the world without feeling the need to trademark his ideas or even have a functional website.

What does it mean to be independent and yet connected? How does personal branding contradict the “radical identity politics” of buddhadharma? How does trademarking and branding foster a “cult of personality” among some yoga and dharma teachers? Do business models and corporate structures takes away the intimacy of practice? And what about the environmental impact of the travel schedules of high profile teachers?

All this and more, in the second half of this feature conversation! And if you haven’t already, be sure to read part one of the conversation with Frank Jude Boccio.

Welcome to a new experiment on it’s all yoga, baby: feature video conversations with awesome figures in the yoga community! And first up is one of my favourite dharma and yoga teachers, Frank Jude Boccio, who graciously accepted my invitation for a Skype call. Basically, he was my guinea pig as I figure out how to ask questions, be on camera and edit video.

Frank Jude Boccio lives with his wife and baby daughter in Tucson, Arizona, where he teaches yoga, works on building sangha and is writing his next book. He is an ordained Zen Buddhist teacher, Interfaith Minister and a lay brother in the Tiep Hien Order established by Thich Nhat Hanh. While rooted in the Tucson community, he also teaches retreats and workshops around North America and is faculty on the Moksha Yoga teacher training program. His first book, Mindfulness Yoga, is considered essential reading for aspiring yoga practitioners.

I appreciate Frank Jude’s integrity, breadth of knowledge and ability to keep it real. Also, he’s so punk rock that he doesn’t even need to call himself punk rock. In this two-part conversation, we discussed the trials and joys of building community, the unifying threads in his eclectic background, a secular approach to zen practice, resisting the uniform of personal branding and making conscious choices.

The whole interview is almost half an hour long, so here is part one. The second part will be up on Monday!

After my posts here about the yoga teaching standards conversation in Toronto and the guerrilla mini-conversation in Montreal, I received an email from William J Collins III, a lawyer in Texas. He wanted to tell me how yoga teachers in the second largest US state were taking a gamble on freedom from state regulation.

Up in here in The Great White North, we are getting together to talk about possibilities and hypotheses, but we haven’t been under any sort of external threat. Several US states, including New York and Virginia, have received government pressure to step up and pay the proper fees if they’re training career yoga teachers. Both states fought back.

Willy (as he prefers to be known) and I had a long Skype conversation and he told me the story of the Texas yoga teachers. It’s a story of a community coming together, redefining the concept of teacher training programs, and subtly resisting, while working with, authority. It’s also an interesting reflection on the growing popularity of yoga and how it fits within the professional landscape.

It all started in January 2010, when the Texas Workforce Commission informed studios in Houston and Dallas that if they’re teaching people how to teach yoga, they’re considered a career school and subject to regulation and licensing fees of $3,000 – $5,000 per year. They were given 14 days to comply as a vocational school or seek exemption.

This wasn’t a problem for large corporate studios who were already involved in the process and they had the revenue to pay the fees. Smaller community studios, however, didn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

The lovely space at ahimsa yoga (image via ahimsayogamontreal.com)

On a chilly autumn afternoon, a small group of yoga enthusiasts gathered in the cozy ahimsa yoga studio, with a pot of tea and a computer. Inspired by last month’s Town Hall Meeting in Toronto, we planned to listen to the conversation and see what insights it could spark within our small group. There were four of us: three yoga teachers (myself, Miranda, and Jordan, who is also a massage therapist) and a bodyworker (Nadia).

We actually ended up listening to about 20 minutes of the 2.5 hour Toronto conversation – we had to keep hitting pause and talking amongst ourselves. Each comment on the audio recording lead to a counter comment (sometimes agreeing, sometimes not) from one of us, and these comments spiraled into a discussion. Here are some of the threads that emerged during our time together:

  • of the three yoga teachers in the room, none were certified with the Yoga Alliance. We also weren’t certain about the role of the Canadian Yoga Alliance.
  • it’s apparent that not every person who signs up for a YTT wants to “be” a yoga teacher. But if a person wants to deepen their knowledge of yoga, why are yoga teacher training programs one of the few options? How can there be more avenues for informal transmission of knowledge? And more than by-donation asana classes ~ how can people access classes for yoga philosophy or anatomy or history?
  • is it right that YTT grads can start teaching and making money right away, without ever teaching as an act of service? (Of course, there was some debate about this, since there are probably more grads who end up never teaching a single class than recent grads making a comfortable living.)
  • how can yoga students be empowered? How many students know what kind of yoga they’re practicing and have the confidence to ask their teachers about their skills and qualifications? Read the rest of this entry »

The latest RSA Animate video has taken the interwebs by storm and is turning up all over the place. Rightfully so ~ Sir Ken Robinson‘s talk on changing education paradigms is inspiring and persuasive. He calls for reforming the public education system for economic and cultural reasons. Clearly, the current paradigm, which is based on the intellectual culture of the enlightenment period and the economic model of the industrial revolution, isn’t applicable to our world. Inherent in these structures are also assumptions of social standing and capacity.

So basically, the education system, which is modeled on the interests and images of industrialism, continues to meet the future by doing what’s been done in the past. He illuminates how the current education system results in conformity and standardization, instead of creativity and “divergent thinking” (to see lots of possibilities). He also reveals recent research which indicates that we are all born with the capacity of a genius, and this is smothered out of us by schooling. Sir Ken calls for changing the education paradigm because it has and will continue to cause chaos in people’s lives. But before change can happen, we have to think differently about human capacity and recognize that collaboration is the stuff of growth.

As I was watching this, I thought about the system for educating people about yoga teachings in North America, and how this is based on a model that often serves economic interests (ie, keeping a studio in business, training more teachers to teach in one’s studio, etc). And I wondered if the  North American yoga community is also meeting the future by doing what’s been done in the past.

Yet, I also see how the way that yoga is often taught (and this speaks to my experiences studying at Yasodhara Ashram and in the Anusara teacher training) speaks to Sir Ken’s suggestions for adopting a new paradigm. Most yoga training happens collaboratively, in groups, and lacks rote learning and written exams (which some people are calling for in yoga training programs). And at the heart of yoga is the belief that human capacity is infinite and limitless.

What does yoga have to offer a new paradigm? How is the current paradigm distorting or not serving yoga in North America?

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