Inspired by a post by Jenna and an unrelated, but coincidentally recent, discussion I had with another blogger who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of privacy, I have been thinking about the issue of whether it is ever okay for a non-authorized teacher to teach the Ashtanga system (or at least what one knows of it) to someone who would not otherwise have access to an authorized teacher (and by “authorized teacher”, I mean one who has been authorized to teach the Asthanga system by Guruji, himself).
Here in NYC, we are lucky to have access to more than four studios that specialize in teaching Ashtanga in the Mysore style plus a number of authorized teachers not necessarily affiliated with those studios. But there are plenty of folks out there who wish to practice Ashtanga, or at least to give it a try, but who don’t have personal access to an authorized teacher. One of those is my cousin, D, who lives far enough away from the nearest shala to make it completely impractical for her to go there on any regular basis. I asked Sir what D should do, and he suggested that she spend a week at a shala and then go practice on her own for a while, then spend another week at a shala (doesn’t have to be the same one as the first) and then go back home and practice again, and so on. Still, this is not practical for D because she has young children and is, herself, in graduate school, and so cannot run off for a week here and a week there. Others, including many who are reading this, have similar stories – no shala within a 50 mile radius, the impossibility of travel, etc.
So, let’s say that a wannabe Ashtangi without an authorized teacher discovers that there is someone in town who has studied Ashtanga with an authorized teacher and who maintains a daily personal practice. And let’s say that the wannabe Ashtangi without an authorized teacher asks the student who has studied with an authorized teacher to teach her Ashtanga.
Would it be wrong in this case for the student who has studied with an authorized teacher but who is not authorized by Guruji to teach Ashtanga, to teach Asthanga to the wannabe Ashtangi? What would be worse, for the wannabe Ashtangi to be taught by a non-authorized teacher? Or for the wannabe Ashtangi to miss out on the benefits of Ashtanga? What would be worse, for the wannabe Ashtangi to receive a diluted third-hand version of the teachings? Or for the world to be deprived of the birth of another Ashtangi, albeit a somewhat bastardized version?