Why we don’t say “manifest” at The Yoga Harbor

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Part of being a leader is having a clearly defined vision, holding tight to it, and knowing how to let it evolve fluidly and responsively without compromising it. I’m working on the last part. Fluid and responsive is my aspiration. Furrowed and feisty is my default.

If our vision was something like “make people sweaty,” it would be pretty simple to ensure we held ourselves to it every class. It would be pretty simple to ensure our students understood that vision. I have tasked our teachers with something marvelously more difficult.

My vision for The Yoga Harbor has always been about stripping down the crap that gets piled on the yoga practice to make it seem more exciting and letting it be as boring, plain, and direct as it can be. It’s been about reaching every day people dealing with every day problems in our every day world.

In a phrase, my vision, which our team has so succinctly tried to follow, is something like, “make people be people.”

So, how do we do it? Well, some days, we probably don’t. Some days we probably fall well short of our vision. Some days we likely sugar coat the shit out of the practice, run away from the boring, and avoid the direct. Some days we do that on purpose. Some days we try to be honest, but we fall short.

Here are some guidelines I ask my teachers to stay on top of:

  1. Never take a photo during the yoga practice. Our student’s journeys on the mat are not “content” for media. Also, maybe they just don’t want you posting their boob sweat to the Internet.
  2. Remember that energy is real. And it is not “good” or “bad.” Energy is an actual thing that presents itself in our physical world. You can study it, calculate it, and observe it. In yoga we may witness gravitational energy, muscular energy,  thermo-dynamic energy. When you talk about energy, there is no need to fluff it up to sound magical. Let it be what it is. It’s already magical enough. Seriously. Review your high school physics notes if you don’t believe me. That shit cray.
  3. Never say “manifest.” If you believe the universe conspires to create anything you can dream of, remember that 65 million people are currently displaced from their homes in the largest migration crisis in history. It is not because they didn’t visualize; it is not because they are not powerful “manifestors.” Don’t talk about manifestation without putting it firmly in the context of the reality of the world. If things have simply turned out positively for you in your life, be thankful. You are one of the lucky ones.
  4. Move beyond the group and let yoga be personal. This is the hardest one. You will routinely try to corral people into a specific experience. You will do this because you care. But, the best way to show you care is to let them have their own space. Don’t play music they know. Don’t make the class about how much everyone can move together. Don’t teach a sequence like you’re teaching a group dance. Don’t repeat the jargon and phrases of the day if they aren’t personal and meaningful to you. Yoga is ultimately about universal concepts (union). The more specific you are, the more universal you are.* The more personal you make the practice, the more the group can be together on a journey.

*Not my words. The words of Chris Rock.