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Empowered by the Heart

A generous, supportive, and truth-centered leadership style is emerging in the yoga community.

By Kaitlin Quistgaard

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About 15 years ago, vinyasa flow teacher Seane Corn was getting her start as a teacher in Los Angeles, when one day she spied the name Patricia Walden on her class roster—as in Patricia Walden, the influential Iyengar teacher and creator of one of the best-selling yoga videos of all time. Corn nearly had a panic attack as she contemplated teaching a master, but she managed to calm down and teach as she normally would. Afterward, Walden complimented Corn on a class well taught.

"She was gracious, generous, honest, nothing but supportive," recalls Corn. "It was just a brief moment, but it had an impact 
on me, not just as a teacher but as a woman. I knew that's how I wanted to show up in the world."

The qualities that Corn admired in Walden are among those actively cultivated by the women who grace these pages, teachers who are both leaders and representatives of the many yogis experimenting with forward-thinking leadership ideals. What is striking about this particular group of women is the way they support each other. After all, these are ambitious teachers who compete with each other for students, for spots on the roster at big conferences, and so on. But Elena Brower, Kathryn Budig, and Faith Hunter, for instance, invite one another to guest-teach their own students; they co-teach classes, and they promote one another's workshops through social media like Facebook.

These teachers seem to be balancing the aggressive pursuit of goals and assets, traditionally seen as a masculine trait, with what are often considered feminine qualities, such as receptivity, support, and acceptance. Together, these women demonstrate how powerful it can be to embrace our vulnerability rather than trying to appear invincible. They suggest that looking out for others can be far more rewarding than getting all the way to the top alone.

These women would be the first to tell you that they aren't experts in enlightened leadership and that they don't always get it right. In essence, they are applying some of the basic skills we all hone on the mat—to observe feelings of discomfort and, when possible, to move closer and explore them fully, so that we can act consciously rather than getting stuck in unconscious reactions to negative feelings. Along the way, they are honoring a primary teaching of yoga: that everything is interconnected, and that each of us has the responsibility to act in ways that will benefit us all. To that end, they've shared their stories of friendship and leadership with the intention of inspiring all of us to bring these values to the pursuit of our dreams.

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June 2011

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Reader Comments

GG

What a fabulous and inspirational article!
Yoga is such a powerful of positive transformation that starts from within bringing such goodness into this world. Everyone should have access to yoga to experience this magic

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