Newsletter Feb 2019: Should I quit yoga?

I’ve been teaching yoga for 15 years and practicing for nearly 20. Why would I quit now? Well, I’m going to have to take you back. Before yoga, there was my mom. She’s from a quiet, leafy suburb of Boston.  She’s a middle child – wedged between two brothers.  Her mother was smart and observant – but she didn’t speak her mind. She deferred to her husband and sons. My mother wanted to speak. To challenge. So, she went to law school. With her law degree, she went to one of the roughest neighbourhoods in New Jersey and represented the most marginalised people including war protestors and black panthers. Then she turned her considerable intellect towards writing legislation to help women and children out of poverty.  Today in her 70’s she is retired from law.  Now she is a volunteer teacher, serving the large immigrant community who work in low-wage service job and want more for their children. She wants to give these men and women a voice.  

My mother is not afraid to stand up for people in order to protect principles that are bigger than all of us.  She is a person in solution, looking for opportunities to shift the balance of power in some small way. She fights hard but fair. Her positions are clear but her mind is open. She listens.  She knows hypocrisy when she sees it – even her own.  

In her 50’s my mother joined the Catholic Church. I was confused. My mother – the feminist, the pioneer – becoming a Catholic?  A member of a church that doesn’t allow women to say mass? I tried to understand. She tried to explain. When I was home at Christmas, she shared that she is leaving the church.  I asked why, after all this time?  She thought for a moment and then spoke about how the church has failed the many survivors of sexual assault who have come forward to share their stories.  Her crisis of faith is a result of her strong sense of justice.  She cannot tolerate an institution that turns its back on vulnerable men and women. She said, “I realised that I would not want my own grandchildren to become part of this church. So, how can I stay?”  

It’s great to be smart.  To be principled.  To be committed.  I admire all those qualities in my mother.  But I am newly in awe of her ability to leave a community that includes people she cares about.  A community that once offered her significant support. It’s hard at any age.  And at 72?  My mom has an easy out. She’s lived a life of service.  Who would question her if she stood by the church that helped her through difficult times. The answer is, SHE does.  She questions.  And so, rather than digging in, she keeps feeling for higher ground. 

Right now, I’m feeling a little bit like my mom.  But my Catholic Church is yoga. Like my mother, I believe in the principles set down in the sacred texts.  I know that yoga can change lives.  It continues to change mine.  I know there are sincere, dedicated people who practice yoga.  But I have taught yoga for almost 15 years and I have watched yoga studios and yoga teaching standards deteriorate as the demand for yoga rises. There are fewer and fewer studios where I want to work because, like my mom, I just can’t stick with a community that doesn’t practice what it preaches. 

At the end of last year I left a major Melbourne city studio because the owners are guilty of financial misconduct and are being investigated for sexually assaulting an employee. A few years ago, I left another major studio because the owner was abusive to teachers and exploited vulnerable teacher training students. These studios are well-known and they are both still open for business.  And they are not alone.

So, I’m asking some pretty big questions. “Do I continue teaching yoga?” “If so, what is my role in the yoga community?” “And how can I contribute to the change I want to see?”

Here’s where I’m starting:

Weekly Classes: I continue to teach at Yoke Yoga and Ohana Yoga. I’ve also joined the team at I Am That Yoga in Collingwood.  

Teacher Training: I’m partnering with Moksha Yoga to offer Yin Teacher Trainings.  The first module, Yin Fundamentals, starts March 2 and I’d love to see you there!  Register using the link above. If you have questions about whether this course is for you, contact me at jencrescenzo@gmail.com

Mentoring: I’m launching a group mentorship program for yoga teachers.  These sessions will be affordable and practical. Each session will focus on ways that teachers get “stuck” – whether it’s confident delivery, communicating a theme in your sequence, or adapting movements for beginners.  You’ll get to meet other teachers facing the same challenges and I’ll give you tools and techniques for getting “unstuck”.  Contact me for details. 

Continuing Education: I’m focusing my studies this year on trauma and chronic pain including courses with “The Body Keeps the Score” author Bessel van der Kolk and “Explain Pain” authors Lorimer Moseley and David Butler.

As yogis, I think we can be like my mom.  We can ask the important questions about where we stand on things and why.  

So if you join me for a class, or a mentorship, or a training, expect to go deep.  Expect to ask why.  You won’t find easy answers or quick fixes.  Don’t expect that.  But you will experience how moving with purpose can change the way you show up for everything that you do.