The following episode is a recording from Stillpoint Yoga’s weekend Spring Gathering this past May. The annual event is the brainchild of Scott Johnson who has made it a bit of a personal mission to provide space and opportunity for students and teachers alike to come together in more than just practice – but in conversation also. That we may all learn from each other and grow together. This year’s focus spanned the following topics: power, lineage, and how this method is currently shared.
Many of the conversations had over the weekend were intense and deeply personal. For this reason, we chose to protect the intimacy of the group and the privacy of individuals by not broadcasting the entire weekend. However, the following excerpt is from Day 2’s panel discussion, featuring Scott, Greg Nardi, and me as we fielded questions submitted through the Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast group on Facebook. Specifically, the role of social media, the importance of just one teacher, and the structure of a healthy teacher/student relationship.
Q & A with Stillpoint Yoga’s Scott Johnson
What is the Spring Gathering?
Scott Johnson: The idea was initially to get some great teachers together for my 40th birthday in 2013. We had John Scott and Lucy Crawford teach led classes, Liz Lark teach Vinyasa flow, Ranchor Prime lead chanting and philosophy and Nikki Slade lead Kirtan.
I loved the idea that we all came together to practice and listen to each other. Over the years we have had great teachers such as Greg Nardi, Kia Naddermier, Joey Miles, Norman Blair, Matthew Remski and now yourself to share with the Stillpoint community.
But I felt we hit a beautiful tone when Greg, Kia and I worked together for the first time. There was a genuine synergy between the 3 of us. I felt that the people who came really felt that. It then became about just being together for two full days and exploring yoga together as a community. About all having a voice that could be heard and valued. Between the three of us we hit the tone I felt Stillpoint needed.
How did you decide this year’s topic and why?
SJ: This years topic was as a response to the deep conversations that ashtanga yoga is undergoing. The women abused by Pattabhi Jois, the difficulty in balancing someone who has given so much yet used his power in such a negative way, the difficulties in acceptance of this truth. Also, the decision Sharath took by changing the KPJ list. We wanted to just talk about all these things. About power, about lineage, about how this method is shared. Is there another way for it to move? What would that look like?
Greg and I always work on a topic for the afternoon sessions of the Gathering around January time. We both agreed we couldn’t shy away from talking about what’s going on in the ashtanga community. It felt too important to not address it yet we both felt vulnerable about doing it too. We decided to invite you Peg, to support both of us and Kia as we negotiated this highly sensitive topic. Your voice in the community is so beautiful and necessary. You aren’t afraid to meet the stuff that is sticky so having you with us felt like we were stronger to approach these issues. We also invited our dear friend and colleague Josefin Wikstrom who has worked with trauma for over 10 years. We were so sad when she was unable to attend due to an unfortunate accident the day before the event. But she helped us clarify things over email.
What did you hope to accomplish?
SJ: We didn’t want to accomplish too much. As always with any Gathering it was just to come together and create a space for engagement, to talk and wrestle with things as a community. It’s too easy to close our ears off and wish things would go away. This seems to be how things have been in the past. But the Gathering has grown into a real space where we can meet together and listen to each other. I trusted that I could bring this topic to the afternoon session and we would be able negotiate it.
What’s the plan for next year?
SJ: Next year Stillpoint is 10 years old, so I plan to go big and make the Spring Gathering extra special. We may invite a few more friends along … 😉
The Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast is edited and produced by Chris Lucas and hosted by me, Peg Mulqueen. Opening chant by Greg Nardi from the Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine #2 in Digital. Also thanks to good friends who support this podcast over at Patreon who support this show through their monthly donations. If you would like to join them, please visit Patreon.com/ashtangadispatch – Thank you!