WE ARE WHAT WE LOVE
There’s one major prejudice at WYC: we love people who love yoga. It also doesn’t matter whether the love has already helped someone master the poses. We can always teach people the poses. We can always teach people how to instruct the poses. We can’t teach people how to love yoga. Love just happens. It’s there or it’s not there. We love it when the love of yoga is there, because when it is there naturally, then the yogic knowledge comes easily. What we teach makes sense to yoga lovers because yoga evolved in connection with compassion. It became ultimately democratic (inclusive and accessible) because love is what yoga is.
So today’s yoga is for everyone. That’s the main yogic idea at WYC. It’s simple, and the simplicity makes sense because yoga evolved toward increased ease, and that’s what we love so much about it. Of course, people are free to just like yoga too, and our society gets credit for being a yoga-liking culture. But right there is where things get tricky. Merely liking yoga allows society to support a fantasy “yoga world” filled with imaginary happy commerce-oriented yogis eating, and wearing things they don’t really need. At Western Yoga College, we have a different vision.
What we see is the power of an open heart. And though it counters our own financial interests, we recognize that yoga lovers don’t have to be taught how to teach. People who love yoga are already teaching it. They’re sharing it through love and that’s what teachers do. Teachers share what they love, and the love is not a teachable thing. So what do we do at WYC? We just add to what yoga lovers are already doing. Naturally, we hope that (from the WYC student perspective) it’s also great to gain practical knowledge about yoga. And we do teach everything there is to know about yoga on a common-level. We even teach new common-level ideas. Thus, those new ideas are democratic ideas. They don’t conflict with anyone’s spiritual or practical yogic beliefs. They don’t interfere with yoga practice. They just help us understand things on a common-level so we can know what yoga is in a regular way.
Of course, our ideas do conflict with western society’s fantasy image of yoga. It’s an elitist fantasy. It makes yoga out to be something that only rich, superficially satisfied people do, and that idea serves society’s commercial interest in yoga. WYC is involved in commerce too, but we want to serve the interests of yoga lovers in a way that at least threatens society’s ruling class on some level. In India, where yoga was born, a Hindu Orthodoxy has run society for several thousand years. But the priests never loved yoga. A long, long time ago, they appropriated a lot of old yogic ideas, but the fully developed Hindu Orthodoxy never loved yoga. It didn’t even like yoga. It rightfully saw yoga as a threat and never embraced it. That was actually good for yogis. People who love yoga don’t trust society, which is why it’s confusing to live in a society that merely likes yoga.
But here we are. We live in the first yoga-liking society in history. And even at WYC, things are challenging. We love yoga, but we fall prey to the foibles of our culture. That’s the truth, and we try to be truthful. We recognize that all yogic institutions have issues. We’re not practicing yoga in a cave like the ancients. We’re part of society, and we know that affects us, so we try to have a sense of humor about it. That’s why our college logo is a funny twist on a well known cartoon college logo.
And, yes, we know it’s pretentious to think of ourselves as “a college.” We know that in the usual sense of the word, we’re not a college. We don’t give out degrees (only certificates). We don’t charge people huge tuitions. We teach things that actually pertain to real life. Oh, wait…that last point actually makes us better than regular colleges. We’re better because the studying at WYC is directed toward the art of real life energy experiencing. We study energy with all the love in our hearts and as a result we understand it better than Einstein. Because we love it with our whole collective heart, we have a real sense of what energy is in actual connection to our life force. And some of that knowledge relates to scientific understanding. We understand that all the really knowledgeable physicists are right when they recognize that it’s impossible to know what energy is. It’s impossible to know what energy is because energy is the one thing that is inseparable from all other things, and to know what something is in a scientific way requires that the thing being known is contrastable to other similar things. But that’s looking at it from a regular scientific perspective. We know what energy is in a yogic way. We experience it with love and we know what energy is. We experience yoga energetically and that allows us to know what today’s yoga is because today’s yoga is the yoga of energy.
At the same time, our yogic humor is serious. Any yogi knows that the third eye of Shiva is serious business. Only a fool would tempt fate just joking around with the symbol of Shiva’s spiritual vision. We may be overly confident, but we’re not fools. Using the Third Eye symbol on our logo is serious business. It’s risky. It’s risky for our mascot to be a guy in a giant Third Eye costume. It’s a risk we take because spiritual vision is everything to us and humor inspires spiritual vision. That’s why we have a spiritual music group. We call it WYC’s Third Eye Kirtan Band.
Clearly, then, WYC is more than a place to practice yoga poses. It’s a place where we all share yoga on a teacher-level. That’s also what makes it a college. We help everyone who loves yoga share what they love. So the yoga happens as a two-way teaching process even for beginners. All it takes is love. Everyone who loves yoga, or feels like they have the potential to love yoga is welcome at WYC. If the love is there, with some guidance, the teacher-level experiencing will happen. It can happen for anyone, not just yoga instructors, and WYC is not just for instructors. WYC is for everyone who loves yoga.
Of course, we do conduct actual Teacher Training Programs. In fact, WYC’s founder and director, Scott Miller, conducted the first studio Teacher Training Programs in the Inland Empire. That was back when he was also running the largest non-coastal yoga studio in California. The studio (Inland Yoga) no longer exists, and WYC is not a studio. It’s a college where everyone is taught to do yoga on a teacher-level.
And WYC does have Open Regular Sessions. They are open to drop-ins. Beginners are welcome. The only prerequisite is the aforementioned sense of love. Students need to already love yoga or have a strong sense that it could happen. Students who are less sure of how they feel should attend studio yoga classes and Anam Cara yoga studio holds night-time classes at our same location: 3870 Lemon St, downtown Riverside, CA.
All of sessions, both the daily open ones and the Teacher Training weekend ones, are directed by Scott Miller. Because Scott studied directly with Ashtanga Master Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar Master Lisa Walford, Yin Yoga master Paul Grilley, and Kundalini Yoga master Harijivan, WYC students experience the hathayogic methodologies and philosophies that have shaped the American yoga world over the last half century. Scott has also developed an original understanding of yoga history, and a unique method of yoga teaching. His ideas have formed several books that are helping to shape yoga’s future. Click here to read the first chapter of “What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga?”
While Scott directs all the WYC sessions, they are taught with everyone’s help. The teacher who helps out most regularly is Dr. Laura Cueva-Miller – psychologist, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Scott’s wife. Laura is also a member of three of the kirtan bands connected to WYC (collectively known as The Third Eye Bands). She plays harmonium, sings, and uses those talents to bring “yogic chanting” to life for WYC students. She also makes yogic art.
Actually, everyone at WYC makes yogic art. We refer to the practice as “yantra painting.” It’s part of the Teacher Training curriculum, and while Scott admits to having a degree in Fine Art, he insists that everyone, not just “artists,” can and should create yogic art. So, clearly, the guidance at WYC extends beyond even the usual broad Teacher Training boundaries. WYC pushes things creatively into uncharted (but still hathayogic) territory and that gives students a chance to explore how their spirituality can be expressed on all levels. It makes Western Yoga College a real college. It also explains why WYC can’t turn anyone away for lack of funds. We’re a real college. We generously share the teacher-level experience of real life energy-oriented yoga.
It is WYC’s great fortune to have Justine Lemos as an administrative faculty member. Justine conducts her own WYC Teacher Training Programs in the Ft. Bragg-Mendocino area. Far from just being a Yoga Alliance-registered Teacher – E-RYT – Justine holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis in Indian dance and South Asian embodied philosophy, as well as Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in other areas of dance and anthropology. She has extensively studied anatomy and kinesiology as the subjects apply to dance and yoga, has received training from Guru Ranjanaa Devi in classical Indian Odissi dance since 1996, and has performed as a principle dancer with the Nataraj Dance Company in the United States, India, Japan, and elsewhere.
Justine’s training and studies both in the U.S. and abroad also include Mohinniyattam classical dance, Belly Dance, Balinese Legong dance, Chauu dance, modern dance, and ballet; guided interpretation of classic yoga texts; and, most recently, intensive yogic instruction from her five-year-old son.