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Cyber Sangha Reflections, Svadhyaya and Growing Your Practice

in YD News

by Cora Wen

Two years ago, I wrote a year-end reflection about what I had seen beautifully develop in the cyber sangha. In that piece, I shared that “the cyber sangha has sometimes proven a greater support than studio communities.”

And my, how that has been true these past two years.

I have connected with many more people online since then – from around the world and in my own backyard. Through social media, I have met people who are today students in my advanced yoga teacher training, have participated in my retreats or have met me for tea and a chat. The world has truly become closer through the communications available to us. It’s incredible.

Shifting Tides
As we have also seen this year, though, this explosive growth of the online community has brought many of us clarity about our roles in our offline communities. Some of us have changed traditions while others of us have become stronger in our lineage.

I suppose this is to be expected; it’s an ebb and flow that we often see in traditions such as yoga, or even Buddhism. The more it expands out, the more people can get clear about what it is that they are truly looking for.

Finding Your Way
I had a conversation with one of my students recently about how it often doesn’t feel like “enough” these days to be a great teacher in your local community. And I think this is true; more and more people contact me every day to have me help them get on the workshop circuit, get into Yoga Journal, etc.

I find this amusing because (a) I don’t have a magic yoga wand to do any of these things and (b) it’s such a strange concept to me that this is where we are now in yoga. When I first started teaching workshops many years ago, it was a long and slow path. Sure, I still had to hustle, and recommendations from my teachers didn’t hurt, but no one was an overnight success. And very few teachers went on the road.

For those of us who did, we still kept our local communities strong. I only gave up teaching public classes this year; that’s how important those ties are to me. And I still connect with my local students as much as I’m able when I’m in town.

One of my themes for this year, for both myself and my teacher trainees, has been svhadyaya, or self-study. Svhadyaya is one of the niyamas, and it encourages us to connect with and develop our selves.

This also reminds me of one of my favorite sloka from the Bhagavad Gita (6.5):

uddhared ātmanātmānaḿ
nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

Only the Self by the Self can raise the Self.
The Self is the greatest friend, and it is also the greatest enemy.

I do my best to encourage my teacher trainees to get deeply grounded in themselves. We talk about the five qualities of a teacher: clarity, sincerity, creativity, intuition and spontaneity. In Chinese medicine, these each relate to one of the five elements, which has a nice synchronicity. But they also encourage teachers today to consider what they want to cultivate as teachers and what their ultimate goals are. Sure, if you have a great idea
worth sharing, it is nice to travel and connect with others.

But if not? That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Far from it, in fact. Because the truth is that we can’t all go on the road. Just like we can’t all write blogs. We each have to find our unique skills, that best fit our current personal and family situations, and go from there.

Growing Your Practice
Even for myself, as I find myself called more and more to offer advanced yoga teacher training around the world, I long to stay connected with my local community. As much support as I receive from the cyber sangha, there is something so beautiful about the long-term connections you build as a local teacher.

I have several private students who I have worked with for years. I have been with them through illness, children leaving home and even death. And for me, this is where the yoga is. If all I ever did was connect with a handful of students in this deep, transformative
way, that would be enough.

This is what I wish for all of us as we head into 2012: that we can feel like enough, just as we are. Because when one of us introduces a new group of people to yoga, or helps a private student create a major shift, we are changing our corner of the world for the better. And the more of us who do that across the country and world, the more change we can effect. And the more we can effect change, the more likely it is that peace is possible.

Wishing you many blessings and much enoughness in the New Year.

with love and pranams,
Cora YogaCrone




33 comments… add one
  • Doreen

    “Through social media, I have met people who are today students in my advanced yoga teacher training, have participated in my retreats…” What a great skill. Luring people into your ‘social media/oh we’re such great friends’ web to get them to buy your products.
    “more and more people contact me every day to have me help them get on the workshop circuit, get into Yoga Journal, etc…”.. she talks as if she’s some kind of rockstar who’s made it. You’re a yoga teacher Cora. Stop blabbing to the world about how great you are. If you’re that great, you’d be doing your thing quietly instead of spending your energy trumpeting it to the world.
    “For those of us who did..” … she writes as if she part of some elite group. She has an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, based on ego.
    “Even for myself, as I find myself called more and more to offer advanced yoga teacher training around the world…” More ego. Yawn.
    And count the number of times she uses the word ‘I’ in this speech? Enough said.

    • Rae

      Doreen, I felt the same way. How many times did she work in Advanced teacher trainings in the article? I mean, there are many others ways to communicate that you travel to teach without coming across as if your a master of Head-up-your-own-ass-asana.

      Now that yoga has gone mainstream, *sigh*, we see the rising of the yoga “douche”. Maybe this blog is short on writers? Or maybe Cora is a bad writer? Or maybe I am just looking for a way to excuse someone parading as adept that is just used to swimming in the shallow kiddee pool.

      This article has been a big turnoff for me in reading this blog. I am searching for more of an online yoga community – and I find self-promoting, ego, blah, blah, self serving selfishness while pretending to not be. I mean, who did she write this article for? From what I have seen in this world in my brief time here, those are the marks of the novice, not the advanced, but maybe this is what is considered advanced now?

      I am off to soak my head and shake more disappointment from my dirtied mind, more disapointment in the emerging online yoga community. Good job, Cora.

  • Toodles

    I was pleased to read this article, unlike the other two posters. Cora’s message is very clear – that online activities are changing the landscape of how yoga students, and their teachers, come together for practice and conversation. Her statements are a call NOT to forget local communities where yoga teachers begin their work, no matter where their travels take them. Cora, herself, seems to be lamenting about the struggles of remaining connected to her roots – for this introspection she should be applauded. I was dismayed by the highly negative comments posted here – which reflect more about the two of them, than Cora herself. Your inability to find anything positive in Cora’s post is not Cora’s problem – but your own jealousy. Please take heed.

  • Rae

    The current influx of positivity psychology, and the need of the yoga community to turn away from true discernment and discretion is so strange to me. If someone dares to shed light on a failing in the article, on the obvious ego and condescension that is present, then that person must be something negative – ie jealous, etc. Your assumption that I found nothing positive in the articles illuminates that you are operating from a polarized perception, and your assumption that I need be jealous of someone doing the same kind of work I do also shows where you are coming from. Did you ever suppose that I am traveling yoga teacher, and a writer, and therefore have the insight to accurately critique this article for it’s “tone”? No, you did not. You see, I thought I would enjoy this article, as I travel and teach yoga, and I write, the exact things that this woman does, but I would never communicate that in a manner so separatist, elitist and condescending to my fellow practitioners. I am also not afraid to speak when something is amiss, as I remember the days before positivity psychology took over this community. Anything positive in this article, and there were a few things, is overshadowed by the tone of the communication. If you are not able to sense these things, and feel the need to only emit positive feedback, good luck on the day you actually decide to look at your own shadow, for you will need it. Some of us are not afraid of the darkness, and believe that by illuminating shadows, we can truly see what is going on. There is shadow in this person’s writing, and that is very clear to those of that are not blinded by a constant need to see only light. Please don’t be jealous of my insight, and boldness in speaking. Your inability to find anything positive in honest criticism seems to be a personal struggle and I wish you the best of luck on your journey – as this is your problem and not mine. Try not to harbor jealousy and anger in your heart, as they are poison on the subtle chi channels. Please take heed;)

  • Vision_Quest2

    “If you are not able to sense these things, and feel the need to only emit positive feedback, good luck on the day you actually decide to look at your own shadow, for you will need it. Some of us are not afraid of the darkness, and believe that by illuminating shadows, we can truly see what is going on. There is shadow in this person’s writing, and that is very clear to those of that are not blinded by a constant need to see only light. “*

    The only thing I sense lacking with this article, from the point of view as a student without a whole lot of cash, is the lack of mass media outreach via online. Even Nadine Fawell and others, who may not have the current YJ look, are putting out dvds these days. Helloooo, mainstream … We shop at Target, never mind the un-P.C.-ness of the place …

    Taken in the aggregate, there are more of me ($$-wise) out there than there are of your workshop attendees and private students, Cora …

    Otherwise, the rich have always been with us.

    I got over that a while ago (finally) …

    And I know a bright and shiny distracting object when I see one … although most of them could be featured in YJ … lol …

    Hoping Nathan does not feel embarrassed for his sister Buddhist here …

  • Jenna

    I don’t understand the attack on this women. Is this some kind of vendetta from something that happened in the past? Of all the posts on this site showcasing yoga celebs, I question why this person is ganged on like this? It’s obvious that Rae is an idiot and hiding is stupid.

  • Rae

    Hi Jenna!!

    Nice to make your acquaintance. Just an honest review here, said what I thought, didn’t like the tone of the article. I can see you are very upset and would like to censor me, also very sweet of you. Are you a yogi and did you learn this in your practice? Glad you spoke your mind and called me an idiot, I can tell you have a sweet soul full of divine nectar. Is it your usual manner to resort to name calling to show your strength and intellectual prowess? The one thing that I wonder is who is hiding and what that refers too? Please enlighten me, as I am guessing you are wont to do…. On the subject of name calling, since it seems to be your default setting, a choice I applaud in your case because it relegates your actual point as moot, I would refer you to the rules of fallacy, which you can read to illuminate yourself on how to actually put forth your viewpoint in a debate. One of them is the fallacy of attacking the messenger because you do not like the message. Let me give you an example, in case you are not clear; that would be like me calling you (some mean name which I am too lazy to do, but you can channel the shadow you use for calling me names here, and create a fun one for yourself!!!). That kind of attack is called : An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy. If you do not understand fallacy, you can google it, or continue insulting me, as I think you are crunchy and probably taste good with vegan ketchup. Smile, cause we all know you are fun to hang out with!!! As an unrelated side note, I find it quite interesting how many people(and how many more are likely to follow) are coming out of the woodworks, and attacking me, for speaking the truth about this article. Not attacking my words, but attacking my PERSON!!! Look! This is what happens when you repress yourself! The shadow rules you, and your true inner visciousness comes out. If you are so enlightened(and these are just the words of a named idiot, so you can’t take it too seriously), if you are so enlightened, and sweet spirited, living in bliss and positivity, enjoying ananda…. clearly, my review could not disturb the truth of your state…. Unless it was just a vain illusion you tell yourself and how quickly you reveal what lurks inside. LOL. Thank you for confirming my experiment. I am having a lively discussion about repression, and this entire positivity psychology, and you my dear, brilliant lovelies have proven me right!!!! I am copying all of your response to use in my next article, so please respond.

    your personal idiot!

  • Beth

    Rae is TROLL and would suggest not responding to it. It is also an Idiot!

  • Rae

    Omg. Beth, you just responded to me by calling me a name. Why would you call me a troll? A troll does not want dialog, and they only call names and spout out lies. I am addressing each response sanely. And I get viscous name calling… Which seems to be how everyone is responding to me, by calling me names…. So in essence, if someone thinks an article on here is crap, then you call them an idiot, a troll etc? Seems to be a case of the pot calling ummm…. ahhh… why am I even trying to explain this to the obvious flouride drinkers in the audience(BETH, Jenna)?

    This is what my, I am guessing, soon to be censored voice is saying. I did not like this article. I did not like the tone the author used. I found it condescending, separatist, and elitist. I thought it generally sucked and was kind of showcasing the larger dilemna I find in the yoga community. The new yoga community, as I have been practicing a fucking long time. Back when actual dialog existed between people, and great teachers were known not by their bragging, but by their reputation as masters.

    If you disagree with me, please try an act like an adult, and present a valid discourse on why you think this article is sooo great. Without resulting to name calling, or other such juvenile tactics. God forbid someone disagrees!!!!

    This reminds of the a comedy skit by Bill Engvall…. Maybe no one will get the reference on here, as this seems more like a community that wants to burn a perceived witch, than a yoga community, but I do enjoy a long shot….

    I posted a critical comment on a yoga blog, supporting someone else who also thought similarly, and wondered to my BF if the flamers, and name calling trolls existed in the yoga community and would rear their nasty little pinheads…..

    well… sadly, many of you did.

    Hey Beth….. Here’s your sign!

  • Rae

    Or maybe I have it wrong and these are all Cora’s students and that is why they respond with such soul searching brilliance. Now that would make sense.

    • Vision_Quest2

      If these teachers don’t really care anymore anyway (because they’ve hit the big time), and this is their way of taking stock –in gratitude, as it were; at least a few little reminders and references to seva or to #Occupy would be welcome in the current economic climate … even Seane Corn made an effort …

      I agree with you, Rae. I’d run into a lot of divisiveness on here before, but never a cross-section before of old school and new school at the same time …

  • Rae

    Thanks, Vision Quest2. I thought I was all alone out here. I actually googled cora wen, and she has written some other things that are ok, so I don’t know what happened with this article, but it was a real turnoff. And frankly, kinda offensive for someone who is leading people to teach them that communicating in this way is appropriate. This was my first time on this site, and I read a few other articles that were cute, but this one just seemed offensive to me, as a lifetime practitioner, in lieu of the 200 and 500 hour certification generation that has taken over. In this new generation, everyone is afraid to have an opinion that is not glaringly positive, and supportive of things that actually are not inline with yogic principles, and spends so much time only finding the good in everything… and it seems like a new addiction. How do they deal with pain? DO they just pretend nothing is happening instead of going thru it?

    SO this is what happens if someone speaks their mind…

    Discernment is a lacking quality for some reason(maybe how easy it is to just “become” a teacher is one cause, but that’s only speculation), and I find it very rampant in the communities I teach in. I keep it real, and refuse to pretend to be something I am not when I teach, practice or breath. At first, some yogis get offended by honesty, but then eventually they admit they were thinking the same things, only that I was not afraid to say them. ANd they begin the path of finding a real voice. So why are all these people who are seeking spirituality so attuned to self censorship? This creates inner disharmony. One must never run from ones shadow, or true feelings. But, it gets tiring to keep speaking up within the tidal wave of positivity addiction, especially when everything is not ok in the world.

    As to protests, i am very politically active, and find that the positivity generation is also the complacency generation, as fighting any battle causes them deep cognitive dissodance, even if fighting that battle would preserve the very life they love, they would rather not “deal with it”. So then what happens if you do not deal with the flood? It sweeps you away. “Pray to god, but tie up your camel.”

    I come from a different era, when we wanted to learn, we would go and live with our teacher. There was no certificate, you actually got your ass handed to you a plate, everyday and were deeply humbled, instead of having your ego stroked…. there was no certification, and you only got hired as a teacher if you were very good at your job. Now, students decide one day while sitting at their cubicle after having taken a few yoga classes that they want to be a teacher and then getting told after a month or two or maybe a year in the most extreme cases, that you are certified, and you are an advanced teacher!!! wooop! This new generation always has to appear so spiritual, so positive, so so so so, in essence, falsly enlightened. I was debating with my boyfriend if I should post how I actually felt about the article, and I told him the yoga world was full of viscous repressed people now, who will attack, and he didn’t think they would. These chicks are next level meanies.

    Anyway, have a great night and keep dodging stoopid as best you can:)

    Yours Truly,
    – The Idiot Troll

  • Rae

    Wow! that was exactly how I feel…

  • Rae

    “The feelings of guilt and betrayal I felt when exposing my truth in my last Recovering Yogi article were the tiny echoes of a victim/abuser relationship, where the victim feels protective of the abuser, says things to defend the abuser, and is afraid to speak truthfully about the experience publicly.”

    This part. Spot on. its a hard inner battle to speak how you feel, with color and wit amongst the yoga community. Especially when people just attack you instead of refuting your opinion.

  • YD

    All are entitled and welcome to their opinions. Respectfully. This comment thread is a bit embarrassing and it’s not because of seeing too much light or too much dark, or adhering to too much positivity as alleged. There’s certainly a way to speak your mind without being on the offensive, pointing fingers and becoming the victim (on either side). This was a guest article and is Cora’s personal reflection on the past year(s) of experiences. Like it or not, that’s totally fine. Attacking each other over opinions and petty name calling is a loss for everyone.

    “Now, students decide one day while sitting at their cubicle after having taken a few yoga classes that they want to be a teacher and then getting told after a month or two or maybe a year in the most extreme cases, that you are certified, and you are an advanced teacher!!!”

    Funny enough, Cora would probably agree with you on this and other points you make. Though no one can speak for Cora but Cora herself, as we sometimes forget.

    As for realists and positivists, why would you have to be one or the other? Plenty of things suck, but if we were always an asshole about it, life would probably be the suckiest of all.

    ps. “obvious flouride drinkers”, “nasty little pinheads”, “flamers” and “name calling trolls” is also calling people names and playing the game.

    pps. Please continue to speak your mind, dialogue, converse, share ideas and opinions with the integrity and respect that we’re all capable of whatever your thoughts may be.

  • abbylou

    What happened? When did everyone get so crazy?

  • Rae

    Not sure when everyone went so crazy, but glad you could join us, AbbyLou. It’s lonely at the top;)

  • Vision_Quest2

    Rae, you, Doreen and abbylou have diagnosed the problem. For a description of the symptoms:


    An excerpt:

    does the Yoga marketing industry really want to avoid being so closely identified with broken people? Do they feel they will sell less magazines if they feature stories about yoga inmates, cancer survivors, domestic violence victims rather than Yoga Barbie on their covers? Their target demographic is not the downtrodden and beleaguered practicing yoga. Rather, it’s the enlightened and evolved Cosmo girl.

    Will the evolving image of yoga being so closely aligned with perceived ‘losers’ and sufferers hurt the bottom dollar when it comes to selling high priced mats, workshops, clothing? Clearly many of those benefiting greatly from yoga are not able to participate in the conspicuous consumption aspect of the practice. Rather, they are reaping benefits of a simple and soulful practice centered around yoga’s true essence and not the latest trends.

    • abbylou

      I think that the “yoga industry” is like any industry or movement. Some people might be in it because it is hip and trendy and others are in it because they truly believe in it. I have met some people in my classes who are “doing yoga” to get more fit and because it is associated with a certain image or lifestyle to which they aspire. (It’s just like academic education. Some people go to college or graduate school because they love to learn and are interested in studying certain subject matter. Others go to college or grad school because it is what everybody else in their social class does.) But overall, the people I have met through yoga have come from many different places and don’t separate themselves from the “perceived losers and sufferers.” (Isn’t the starting point for a more spiritual yoga practice, as opposed to purely physical, realizing that we are all suffering?) A few of my friends teach in prisons and women’s shelters. Some friends teach yoga to addicts to help them with their recovery. Some of my teacher friends themselves are recovering addicts. Some suffer from depression and anxiety. Some are in bad marriages. On their faces maybe these people look like Lululemon Barbies, but why hold that against them? It’s only an appearance for God’s sake? Often there is more there than what you see. Why judge?

  • Rae

    Ya. Its an epidemic. Reminds of when i went to a lullemon grand opening and the people were all in yoga clothes and 6 inch high heels. It was very comical.

    Email me at kittenavenger@gmail.com

  • Rae

    Aw jeez vision quest2. I missed message from abby lou. That email is addy is for you so we can discuss off this thread….

    As to Abbey, please dont judge us for using discernment. Obviously everyone has their crap going on. I agree with you completely, VQ2 and thats why i dont turn sincere students away for not having money.

    I love that recovering yogi site. Clearly, the sense of humor and levity and discernment is much more relatable than posting here where i get called very unoriginal names(and i do appreciate YD making a point that i too was calling names, although I was hoping for a few ‘points’ for both originality and irony- somehow I Doubt that will happen here……;)

    Ok, I am off to judge some more people and places and things…. But in the end, tell me where god is not?

  • Jones

    Her email address above tracks to a cat blog. Must be an angry cat person.

  • Rae

    Clearly, i must be an angry cat person and clearly using your deductive reasoning skills you are clearly a genius. And clearly also a creepy lurker, which is why i left a very clear path for you to clearly find me!!! Arrgghh! I feel so exposed.

    Please try not to OD on that stalker sauce.

    This site not only has a condescending article, but a lot of real awesome genius posters.;)


    The angry cat troll etc….

  • Rae

    A related article that is something I address with all of my students, VQ2(and especially the cats, lol) is this


    So as yoga becomes mainstream, we also need to look at addressing how to not injure people with bodies that are weak in hidden ways, or inflexible or some myriad of other common western ailments. Whether they are cosmo yogis:) or loners or in recovery, it is very important to remember that no one pose equals yoga and we don’t want to break them further.

    The email addy I gave you will be forwarded to me, as obviously I would never post a direct way for anyone on here to find me.(as you can see, those fears were well founded) Otherwise I am comm-out on this thread(sorry to all the haters who are astounded that a yogi can voice a dissenting opinion, but just like unicorns, although rare, we do exist), and probably this site, but think that it would be cool to keep in touch.


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