Master Teacher: Glenn Black
This week, we have the rare opportunity to learn about master teacher Glenn Black, who was known as the Anonymous Yogi until he was interviewed by William Broad in his controversial book, The Science of Yoga; but he generally prefers to stay unknown. His inspiring, no-nonsense style of teaching is derived from more than 40 years of intensive study of yoga, movement, and therapeutic bodywork.
Black went to India in 1987 to study Iyengar Yoga with B.K.S. and although he continues to integrate these therapeutic principles into his teaching, he is primarily a student of Kriya Yoga under Swami Satyananda of India’s Bihar School. Like the legendary “forest yogis” of ancient times, Black has spent many years of intensive practice in solitude. He is also the only person certified by Shmuel Tatz, the creator of Body Tuning®, to teach this sophisticated system of bodywork. Black’s clients include top music, sports, and business celebrities.
Devoted student and author of The Roll Model, Jill Miller said, “Glenn is the “real deal” whom I have had the privilege of working with for more than 24 years. His inventiveness and accuracy regarding the human body and psyche are always evolving, solving human pain and suffering. Glenn’s classroom is filled with detailed concentration of the human form, jokes and transcendent philosophy. His hands-on manual therapy is the best I have ever experienced from any bodyworker on the planet. Glenn is a teacher who shuns notoriety, preferring solitude and silence. The few of us who have been able to dive deeply with him in meditation, movement and bodywork know how fortunate we are to have learned from a living master.”
Glenn Black and Jill Miller
Kathleen Kraft: What does your yoga practice look like every day?
Glenn Black: After forty-four years of practicing the first four stages of yoga, then pratyahara and dharana for the last fifteen years, and then dhyana for the last seven, I have ended practice. All I do is continue to develop Awareness and Conscious Relaxation from the Bihar School's Kriya and Yoga Nidra. They are no longer techniques. They are how I live my life. I watch the internal and external environments as often and with as much lucidity as I can.
The above is all I teach—no matter what the class is called—Awareness and Conscious Relaxation is the subject. So I teach how I live and live what I teach.
KK: What drew you to Bihar School's Kriya and Yoga Nidra, and why do you continue to practice those practices exclusively?
GB: In the late 1970's Swami Vikekanada from the Bihar School somehow managed
to find my hometown in the Midwest. He taught there for two years. I took every class.
After that I became a fanatic Iyengar student and mostly lost the Kriya. In the early
1990's when I was teaching a staff class at the Omega Institute, a student came up to me and said that I sounded a lot like a book he had found in India. He brought it to me the next day. As I skimmed through I wept. How had I gotten so far away from the real yoga. It was Swami Satayanda's book. It’s a three year course in Kriya Yoga. I have not strayed since.
The practices in this book work. When done in the right environment and with diligence,
the body is liberated and the mind ceases normal functioning, thereby permitting
a different perspective on reality to appear.
KK: Why did you move away from Vivekananda & Satyananda and towards Iyengar initially?
GB: Old habits die hard. After Swami Vivekananda left, I felt a bit abandoned and lost. Kriya practice is difficult enough, and without a teacher I reverted back to what my body knew. There were not any other students of Vivekananda's that I shared Kriya with.
It was a time when asana was becoming the only stage of yoga that people could relate to.
This was before I had heard of Mr. Iyengar. In 1982, I went to Omega for the first time.
It was there that someone shared with me the Iyengar system, if there is such a thing.
I was as fanatical about it as I had been about the Kriya. I could do every asana in Light on Yoga with ease. The ego took over and I started teaching asana again.
Even though I stopped Kriya practice, it was deep in my subconscious. It lay dormant, but was ever restless.
KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?
GB: The only attribute that should exist between a teacher and a student is TRUST.
The student needs to know that the teacher will not take power from them, or
teach something that the teacher has not directly experienced or cannot do themselves.
KK: How did you arrive at trust as the single most important attribute?
GB: I started practicing yoga in 1971. Since that time several major scandals have arisen
in the yoga world. My favorite teacher once said that he was taking a chance teaching us,
as yoga will enhance personality traits. If you have good traits they will become stronger.
If you have traits that make you inconsiderate or worse, they will become stronger.
Both teacher and student must bear the responsibility of this. Through Yoga Nidra
one achieves Awareness and Relaxation to a degree that allows you to more clearly
see yourself and how you relate to every sentient and non-sentient being. So trust in this relationship is mutual respect and the truth of the teaching.
KK: Which sutra guides you?
GB: Sutra shmutra. All of the book learning in the world will not help you attain the goal
that inspires you to practice. Philosophy and debating the finer points of someone
else's concepts will keep you mired in Spiritual Materialism. Basic, simple practices,
and a no-nonsense approach to the practice of them can help you race past the soap box
orators of every religion and ego-oriented concept.
Use Awareness to accept who you are. That is the start of becoming who you want to be.