Lately I have noticed many discussions of the ethics of using the terms “family” or “tribe” to describe the relationship we have with others in our yoga lineage. The problems of doing so are obvious – we want to steer away from cultural appropriation, and many of us are aware that projecting “family” could give cover to a multitude of sins. Still, we do seek some language to express the sense of connection and mutual care that we wish to embody with our chosen yoga community.
Whatever we call them, it is a mistake to think that our yoga communities are immune to the dysfunctions of our larger society. Consumerist attitudes are everywhere. Another dysfunction I’ve observed in many places connects to the belief that the lineage is a story about the past. In a living yoga school, a lineage is meaningless if it does not exist in the present. Right now, our lineage is holding us all up.
When I taught Modern History one of my favorite textbooks was called Who Built America? If we had a comparable book about Who Built Pranakriya, it might look a little different than the official history in our manuals. There are people who completed their 200-hour YTT at Yoganand’s house in North Augusta, people who completed it at Crofton or in Atlanta, and now in many other places. Most of the work for Pranakriya is done by volunteers. The non-profit has existed for 5.5 years, and during that time, a board of directors and the curriculum committee have done the lion’s share of the organization’s work, in cooperation with a few paid administrative and marketing people. For most of the last year, a volunteer has acted as executive director. A sub-committee is getting our 200-hour YTT into alignment with new Yoga Alliance standards. Whenever seasoned Pranakriya teachers come in to practice with 200-hour YTT students, answer questions about our programs, or let a visiting teacher stay in their home, they build the organization. Lateral, not hierarchical, connections are the key to our strength.
If you have taken a Pranakriya training, that training was planned a year in advance, usually, by a team of people who felt responsibility for the organization. Usually the person teaching it went through a lengthy process of training with other directors. Quality control comes from within. Some accounting functions and work on the manuals is done by members for steeply discounted fees. More often than not our projects are cooperatively created. What builds Pranakriya is that sense of personal connection that keeps us pulling together for years. That’s extraordinary, when you think about the hundreds of students we have graduated in about a dozen states, and about the high quality of training we offer. This magic happens because we are the lineage. Future yogis will partake of these teachings because we gave our time and energy.
As we seek balance and try to embody ahimsa with regard to ourselves and others, let us remember that, however we imagine the social body, we are not in this experience alone. We in Pranakriya School of Yoga can know that hundreds of invisible hands – real people – are doing work to support us. It’s a good idea to get to know who these people are (and to jump back into this work, in some way, if you haven’t lately). Thank you for your part in the lineage, whatever it is.