Guest Teacher, Dominic Corigliano

by Angela

Dominic Corigliano is my teaching mentor. He will guest teach Sunday, October 21 – Thursday, October 25, during the waxing moon.

Dominic is coming because he mentioned offhand that he could swing through Ann Arbor, and I took that seriously. I’d like him to see the house that he helped build here. And I’d like for the practitioners here to experience one of the most awesome yoga teachers in the world – someone whose energetic and psychic clarity you have heard me mention with delight and bewilderment.

Finally, because I will not be traveling to Mysore this January due to my responsibilities at the University, I need to create circumstances in which I can be a student in a Mysore room. Having made a long, quasi-sociological investigation of Mysore programs that fail, I’ve concluded that there are three practices of highly effective Mysore teachers. Those who don’t follow these practices tend to  lose sight of the way that one’s teaching practice is just another aspect of ashtanga yoga – a method that systematically checks the ego and endlessly asks us to give up our dull ideas of who we think we are. Anyway, one of the three practices of effective teachers is maintaining strong, loving, respectful relationships with our teachers. All of them. Ever. This builds on an underlying skill we all know, by intuition, that our teachers must practice to be worthy of our trust: that of being a student. Anyway. What a blessing to get to practice asana in the room along with you all.

My time as Dominic’s student, and then as his apprentice, altered the course of my life’s work and my inner evolution. This was a process supported by the the space that he held, by his rare and subtle of cues that would significantly reorient my awareness and guide my energy deeper, by a loving community, and just the method of daily practice itself. The shift that took place in those years was of the ineffable sort, so it’s most honest to pass over it in silence. The most I can say is that I learned to take a predominantly energetic practice (my consciousness was centered in pranamaya kosha) and integrate an awareness of all levels of my being – physical, analytical/discursive, intuitive/psychic and spiritual. The boundaries I’d set up between my practice and the rest of my life began to really fall away. Experiences of weird stillness started to happen, and stayed happening.

I will not project these experiences on to Dominic, but he did hold the space for deep shifts to occur naturally. And he did keep sufficient distance and comfort with uncertainty about what would happen next that I could undergo a phase of very rapid growth. The gratitude is endless.

In general, Dominic’s teaching is energetic. After a while, there isn’t much verbal instruction. He will not fix anything in your practice; he doesn’t think you are broken. He won’t give you a take-away technique, because the teaching is about the present moment. He won’t give you better (insert bugaboo posture here), because he’s too energy-efficient to do anyone’s work for them. As a teacher, he taught me to (1) relax, (2) establish rapport, and (3) shut up. At one point, I felt that I’d had my head ritually anointed with SKPJ-brand teflon – this reflective coating helps transmitters of the method to keep our personalities from distorting our teaching  (having a personality is cool, but I do not teach Jamison yoga); and it helps us not to take stuff personally. SKPJ teflon, turns out, is also quite flexible.

Instead of giving people teachings that can be noted in books or turned into checklists, Dominic shows up and channels the  energy signature of Pattabhi Jois (which, sources say, is also the vibe of Krishnamacharya). It’s not really a big deal; and it’s not something we can grasp on to or take home for later. This way of being is mostly indescribable, because it arises from a nondual awareness that sounds like a myth until it is experienced directly, and consistently. Yet this vibe does have some obvious qualities: diamond clarity of mental awareness, a spacious and not-personal feeling around human interactions, a clean and safe way of honoring the differences between masculine and feminine, and radical equanimity that allows students to drop social hierarchies and comparing-mind.

The signature element of our lineage is fire; and the closer we stay to the source, the warmer and more clean it burns. It doesn’t matter what the physical practice looks like, if we have a perfect body, or if we have a perfect mind. What is that, anyway? High quality heat and light are super effective for buffing out self-torturing ideas we inherit from popular culture. So just show up like usual. It’s no big thing.

Dom is not some yoga celebrity. Yoga celebrity is as dead as the Gaiam mat you shredded in the first month of ashtanga practice. It’s as dead as stock growth at Lululemon. It’s as dead as the animals in the fast food meals that (sorry; it’s the practice’s fault) have stopped smelling good. Dominic’s not anything high and mighty at all. Nobody is. He is a dude who’s got an uncommonly strong line on the source. Turns out, yoga’s just really awesome like that.

Dom does have a resume’ and stuff. It includes 3 decades (thirty.years.) of teaching experience, being the film guy for Pattabhi Jois and Sharath on one of their long world teaching tours, lots of time in India, being one of a handful of Certified teachers, being a father, and husband, and a motorcycle travelin’ man. And funny. He’s very human; and very funny. He’s no-bullsh*t; and he loves to shoot the sh*t. That’s what it doesn’t say in the resume’.

So. This is a pretty awesome moment for ashtanga in our region. To support everyone out here on the new frontier of ashtanga yoga- the Midwest – I will be opening up some drop in slots during Dominic’s visit. Home practitioners out there in neighboring states, or any daily ashtanga practitioner from around the area, this is for you. Saraswati Jois puts it like this: You come. But she means Mysore. That’s more logistics than a drive to A2. Just email and we’ll figure it out.