by Liz Doyle
For me it all starts with sincerity, a teacher who is a yogi in their own right, someone who can teach me something I don’t know, and the application of a high level of intellectual rigor to the practice.
I’ll use Edward Clark, founder of Tripsichore Yoga, as an example. A few years ago, I completed his one month intensive training, and I’m headed back to London next month to complete his two week “graduate” program.
What initially drew me to Edward was that what he was doing was so uniquely different. Even the few poses that I was familiar with were done differently. Though handstands are pretty ubiquitous these days, at the time it was highly unusual and even suspect, to do inversions mid-sequence. And what’s more, he’d actually thought through the process and had a reason or intention for everything he did—from the choice of vinyasa to whether a particular move was an inhale or exhale—and could articulate it.
Every time Edward came to town, I would consider what and how I was teaching asana and think I should scrap everything and start over. It was a radical departure from the mainstream. He was also gut-bustingly funny, and for those of you who know me, you understand how I prioritize humor.
Asking questions, I was worried and hesitating; I wasn’t sure if a question was overstepping my privilege as a student and would be unwelcome. I was delighted to discover that he is incredibly kind, thoughtful and accessible as a teacher. In sharp contrast to the other “master” teachers that I had encountered, he welcomed sincere and thoughtful questions and discussion, even when questioning his logic or method.
I remember one instance where I questioned something that seemed contradictory to a previous principle he’d espoused. Edward’s reply? “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that.” Wow!
This combination of passion, ingenuity, creativity, intellect, lack of ego around being “right”, and an obvious desire to share his knowledge led me to his training in London. When I arrived, I was even more pleased to discover his knowledge and study of traditional yogic texts, and learn about the grounding of his methodology in yoga tradition. And all of this from a guy with no real teacher– I was flabbergasted. Before ignoring or disagreeing with the ancient traditional texts in yoga, he actually studied them, and then created his own system based on the teachings. This system is rather iconoclastic in terms of its pursuit of sainthood or enlightenment via movement. These yogic pursuits have historically been achieved through the more still practices of seated meditation and inner practices. No one has ever done it through vinyasa.
Edward readily acknowledges this is an experiment, one that likely won’t bear definitive fruit until after he’s gone, but he has his mandate from the yogic texts, this is what he thinks will do the trick, and he’s committed. He’s committed his life to what’s possible. Whether you agree or not, you have to respect that. Who is that brave? Who is that intelligent or creative? Not many of us.
History will tell whether he is an innovative yogic genius, failure, or even more interesting, the guy who “invented” the yogic equivalent of the glue used on post-it notes (an accidental invention by a scientist working on developing a super strong adhesive- characterized as “a solution without a problem”.)
What impresses me most about Edward is how generously he offers his knowledge and experience, and tirelessly teaches everything he knows. This comes with the expectation that the student will not rest on that knowledge, but take what he has given and do more. Use that knowledge to advance the practice, as a foundational springboard to something better that can only be given by someone else who has learned, experienced and added to that knowledge.
In a world of participation trophies and short cuts, I appreciate the contrast of a teacher that exemplifies discipline, and a challenging practice that requires it. Of course, the best teachings are always by example. Edward not only lives his practice, but has high expectations in terms of work ethic and effort on the part of his students. He can be incredibly sweet and caring, and it’s wrapped up in greater expectations of the students than we have of ourselves. Edward has done it, he’s been there, and he’s learned what he knows without a “guru”. That knowledge is hard-won, and can be respected through effort and a willingness to try, even when success is beyond our grasp.
It’s a blessing to have had incredible teachers who have these qualities, and Edward exemplifies them beautifully. In gratitude, I will strive my entire life to embody these examples.
If you would like to learn more about Tripsichore Yoga, check out Liz Doyle Yoga at the Seattle Yoga Shala offering Tripsichore led classes weekly: lizdoyleyoga.com.