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Follow Where Your Guru is Walking

There is a Zen story about a man riding a horse that is galloping very quickly. Another man, standing alongside the road, yells at him, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse yells back, “I don’t know. Ask the horse.” I think that is our situation. We are riding many horses that we cannot control.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“Follow where your Guru is walking”-Sharath Jois
I have attended many yoga classes and workshops where I feel like the man on the horse. The class is not taking me anywhere. It is not touching my heart and it is not deepening my asana. The choreography was nice and the playlist was awesome but it was as good an activity as any. I could have been at a number of other places and I would have gotten the same result which is the ability to check “yoga” off my “to do” list for the day. It could be worse. I could have been one of the unfortunate ones whose teachers are wrapped up in scandal and whose picture is posted on the evening news.
Sharath’s words in Miami, “follow where your Guru is walking”, really hit home.  How often do we ignore where our teachers are walking because we are just there for the asana, the fame and notoriety of being a part of a community, or the money we make teaching? Would teacher scandals happen in the Yoga world if students paid attention to where the teacher was walking?  How often do we ignore where our boss is walking because we need a pay check? How often do we ignore where our lover is walking because we feel attached? How often do we ignore where our children are walking and just hope for the best? How often do we ignore where our elected leaders are going, the food industry is going, healthcare is going because it is just easier not to think about?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life on that horse that I cannot control and that I have no clue where it is going. Whether you choose to live according to the Guru inside your heart or choose a Guru in flesh, where that Guru is going has a huge impact on your Yoga practice, your future and your life. If you see your teacher, boss, government, lover, children, walking in a direction you are not interested in going, don’t ignore it.  If you do, the best scenario is that you waste years of your life. The worst scenario is that, when they fall,  you wind up in the ditch with them desperately trying to crawl your way out.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail

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