Wild Yoga

yoga and thought from Theo Wildcroft

Collaborative magic

Yoli, Uma and TheoIt’s been a long fortnight for me – nearly two weeks at the Santosa yoga camp, then three days at the BASR conference in Leeds. They’re very different events, involving different worldviews, conversations, and even clothes! But what they have in common for me, is working hard with others, and catching up with friends and colleagues.

Etienne Wenger famously defined communities of practice as having shared culture, shared history and shared work. All the crew at Santosa 2019 will have many shared victories to be proud of, from the new chai shop, to the newly energised Men’s Space. But we’ll also never forget having a baby born on site, as most of us giggled along to Laura Doe’s Vaudeville of the Vulva. And at BASR2019, we skipped from panel to panel, recording podcasts in spare moments and hatching dozens of future plans together. Those who weren’t there will never quite understand why #mindprisons has become our favourite new hashtag. Of such big and small memories is community made.

I miss them all, already, as much as I’ve been missing my regular students. So it’s a bitter sweet, nostalgic return to my cosy home, in keeping with the weather turning colder, the nights drawing in, and the feeling like we’ve all got a lot to do in the months ahead, on so many fronts, from politics to social justice, to looming deadlines.

One thing I treasure most about these moments where we come together in communities of practice, is the collaborations that can emerge in the right moment, in the right place, with friends I love to work with. Coming soon will be the podcast I recorded with Vivian Asimos for the RSP, and plans for more. But for now, I can share with you two of my favourite teaching moments from the summer – yoga nidra collaborations. These are really only properly possible within a network that has truly embraced the idea of peer learning structures.

While the Yoga Nidra Network does have levels of training, they – we – try very hard to encourage sharing and empower innovation in our teachers. So, at events like Santosa, but also at conferences and training courses, there are often moments where we get to co-lead and share the teaching space with others. These collaborations are enabled by a clear, modular structure for the practice, which allows us to sketch out plans together very quickly and then let the actual yoga nidra flow in real time.

Mostly this means agreeing who’s covering which section of the practice, and then letting each other know what type of rotation or settling or opposites we want to choose. Delegates to the International Yoga Nidra Conference were often amazed that because of a clear structure, a close and collegiate community of our peers, and a lot of practice channelling the inspirational force of nidra shakti, Uma and I were able to deliver a lush and moving multi-voice, two language yoga nidra, with song and poetry, and without rehearsal. That practice is now available as part of the conference download package, if you’re interested, and have the money.

But at Santosa, we’re much more used to these spontaneous collaborative offerings. I think my favourite was the evening of Celtic and Native song and story – where Yoli Maya Yeh, Uma Disnmore-Tuli and I hosted space for a weaving of Irish, English, Manx and Seneca voices. That was a magical, epic, unique and unrecorded evening. But here’s two more of my summer collaborations that you can download and enjoy for free. The first is a dream-powered sailing journey with Ling Mann on singing bowls and ocean drum. Not for those who are uncomfortable with sea voyages! And the second is a shorter practice, in which I introduce and frame the yoga nidra, and the incomparably talented Susie Ro takes over with a mini Dreamsong.

There were other collaborations – flute players who offered their support to all sorts of relaxations, dance teachers who’d never taught together before, and many more. These kind of collaborations aren’t unique to the kind of yoga spaces in which I teach and research, but post-lineage yoga describes, by definition, a way of negotiating authority and authenticity in which traditional vertical hierarchies are both supported and subverted by horizontally-organised, intuitive and fast-moving communities of peers. As I write in my forthcoming book-of-the-thesis:

“More recently, collaborations between teachers are becoming increasingly popular at many of the events I have attended. These are not pre-planned in great detail, and are often experimental. Nevertheless, they also model the distribution of authority over practice to multiple people in the session, and students are able to appreciate the ways in which teaching is emergent and contingent on both place and participants.” (Wildcroft, Theo, forthcoming)

For most yoga teachers that are constrained by fixed relationships and roles, collaboration is that much harder to arrange, imagine, or see the worth of. I hope that these few links prove what’s possible when we work together, either as researchers, or as teachers.

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