Tag Archives: Yoga teachers

Things You Only Know If You’ve Taken A Yoga Class

Things You Only Know If You’ve Taken A Yoga Class

1) Yoga holds a mirror up to your face and challenges you to identify what you see.
2) Yoga teachers are like politicians – some are professional bullshit artists, and some are genuinely concerned with making a difference.
3) A yoga class separates those who spew quotes around as a means of defining themselves from those who stay quiet but embody the essence of those quotes.
4) Breathing deeply is way more intense than touching your toes.
5) A good class leaves you with the understanding that the teacher hasn’t taught you anything – he or she has simply reminded you of what you already knew.
6) Staying focused on the moment you’re in is the hardest thing you can do.
7) What your mind believes the body braces itself for.
8) No one is better at getting in your way than you are.
9) People love to examine their toes, given the opportunity.
10) Yoga shifts your perception from what your take on life previously has been to what simply is.

Winding Down

I’ve just lay down on the couch with the winter storm wind howling past the windows of my flat and my dog curled up asleep against my legs. Today marks the end of in-class teaching for me for 2012, and the past few days I’ve felt this post taking form in my mind. Now feels like the right time to get it all down and attach the symbology of words to it.

This year has proven to be another massive opportunity for growth and learning, and as each year passes, I realize that that is what’s constantly available to us: the opportunity to view all that occurs in our lifetime as catalysts for growth and change. I do my best to ensure that every class I teach, every student I mentor, and every word I speak or write conveys certain things to those with whom my path crosses: that yoga is a big toolbox that provides us with what we need to live life fully, passionately, with full awareness and presence of mind…that we have the choice as to how we approach and end up living this life we’ve been blessed with…that how and where we find ourselves is exactly how and where we need to be to accomplish and fulfill our goals and dharma. We are each here for a reason – you are not reading this by accident, and you are not alive in this moment in time haphazardly. We each have a mission to carry out, and I believe that mine is to bring people together by waking them up to what matters on a fundamental, heartfelt level.

20121222-171342.jpgWith that said, I would get nothing communicated or expressed if no one thought me worthy of their time and attention. I’ve expressed my gratitude to students before, but this year has brought me to a place where simple gratitude pales in comparison to how I feel about those of you who encourage me to keep teaching, typing, and barreling onwards.

To those of you who have come to my classes, I thank you. To those of you who have joined me on retreats, I thank you. To those of you who have participated in the workshops and teacher training I’ve given, I thank you. To those of you who have followed my blog and taken the time to read my words, I thank you. To those of you who have taken any of my insight to heart and let it guide you closer to a place of truth and light, I thank you. To those of you who have laughed with me, I thank you. To those of you who have let down your guard and shared your stories, your suffering, your hopes and your journeys, I thank you. To those of you who have trusted me enough to come to me when it mattered, I thank you. To those of you who have taught me when you had no idea you were doing so, I thank you. To those of you whom I’ve disappointed and had enough respect and love for me to let me know the error of my ways, I thank you. To those of you who have let me assist in your healing, I thank you. To those of you who have shared your energy with me, I thank you. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and will never stop doing so.

To my teachers who have provided me space in their spheres of wisdom, namely Joan Ruvinsky, Jennifer Maagandans, Mark Darby, Kelly McGrath, Sharon Gannon, and David Life, I thank you. With my head bowed in humility and my heart open to learning, I thank you.

My path has been and continues to be blessed with messengers and bearers of light, and my hope is that in attempting to do them justice by passing on the wisdom bestowed upon them by their teachers, I can reflect and project that light as brightly and brilliantly as they do.

Without them, and without you all, I would merely be speaking words into empty space.

With love and heartfelt gratitude for you all, I wish you the brightest, happiest and healthiest of holidays. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, and we’ll see where it takes us in 2013!

Full Circle

My yoga practice started in 1999 when I found my guru living directly across the street from me. Joan Ruvinsky introduced me to my first yoga classes, which incorporated everything from inspirational discussions at the start of class to the most illuminating of approaches to the practice, including Body Sensing and Yoga Nidra. What really resounded with me were the Yoga Nidra sessions where we would lie down in Savasana after making ourselves as comfortable as possible with pillows, bolsters and blankets, and then allow our bodies to fall asleep while our minds stayed alert and focused on the teacher’s voice as she guided us through a meditation. Yoga Nidra is often defined as “yogic sleep”, and the whole exercise consists of letting the body relax and let go while conditioning the mind to not do the same. Every Yoga Nidra experience I have ever had has felt like an awakening, a realization of something I had always suspected was true, but had never encountered. Joan first introduced me to the experience, and her classes were beacons of peace for me when things were volatile in my life, and she gave me the yogic platform from which I have bounded off of in search of all things yoga.

That search led me to train in, practice, and teach different, more physical types of yoga, but my roots lie in yoga as less of a physical practice and more of a spiritual and sensory experience. After my yoga retreat in Croatia was over this past September, I came across a session-based Yoga Nidra class led by Montreal-based yoga teacher Kelly McGrath and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Bringing my studies back to where I started felt like a natural progression for me, and once I had registered for the class, I then registered for the Yoga Nidra Level 1 Training at the Kripalu Center so I could learn how to bring that sense of peace and connection that I had felt during classes to others.

At my first class with Kelly, she asked those of us in attendance to take a moment and write down why we were there that evening – what we hoped to gain, what our intention was. That question and the reasons for asking it ended up following me around for the next few weeks. I really became fascinated with the concept of asking myself what my intention was during any given moment during my day…why I felt inclined to speak to certain people, why I wanted to practice yoga, why I was eating whatever I found myself eating. It all came to a head when I got into bed one night early because I was exhausted from the previous few days and subsequently spent the next 30 minutes thinking and analyzing and essentially doing everything except falling sleep. When I realized that I wasn’t getting to sleep any earlier than I had intended to, I stopped the whirling of thoughts in my mind by asking myself, “Why did I got to bed early?” The answer was immediate, “Because I need to rest”…and it served to stop the whirling of mental activity until I was sleeping within minutes.

When we take a moment to examine why we do what we do, the benefits are many: we immediately bring ourselves into the present moment. We break the cycle of spending all our mental time in the past or future, going over what has already happened or trying to foresee what will, and we find ourselves where we are, with full awareness and connection to our immediate environment. We also end up with a measurable goal: if I can find the presence of mind to ask myself why I’m in bed early and I can come up with the answer telling me I need to rest, then I can start moving towards that rest. That goal immediately becomes a priority and everything else, all the mindless chatter, falls into the background. Basically, we start living more consciously and aware when we ask ourselves why.

I urge you to put this to the test: apply the “why” to whatever you’re doing right now. And then bring it to the next thing you end up doing. And keep going. It could potentially change who you are and how you see yourself. Or, at the very least, you may just end up falling asleep earlier this evening. Either way, it’s time well spent.

I’ll continue my studies in Yoga Nidra and continue to report my experiences here. Until then, I urge you to check out the Yoga Nidra Workshop that Kelly is giving this Sunday afternoon, November 25th, from 1pm-4pm at United Yoga Montreal. If you go, let me know how it went – I’ll be missing it unfortunately, but I can guarantee that you’ll be blown away by it 🙂

Five (More) Tips For New (and Seasoned) Yoga Teachers

 

Last week, Elephant Journal published a piece written by Sean Conley listing 5 Tips For New Yoga Teachers. I have been mulling over the mistakes I’ve made as a yoga teacher, both in the earlier days and even more recently, and I know others are making the same errors…so here are five more tips:

 

  1. Stop regurgitating what other teachers say. The students who keep coming back to your classes are doing so because they are relating to your energy and the way you pass on information. If you keep quoting other teachers and tapping into their energy, you’re stifling your own essence and selling yourself short.

     

  2. Stop comparing yourself to other teachers. Stop looking at attendance numbers in your classes vs attendance in other teacher’s classes, and stop comparing how many “friends” you have on various social media outlets compared to other teachers. Focus on what you have to say and use your classes, workshops, and retreats to help you say it. You will get to the top of your game by doing your absolute best, not by trying to one-up other teachers.

     

  3. If you’re teaching at a studio, make sure that what you teach aligns with what the studio owner wants to convey through the classes. You may feel compelled to teach different styles or bring different aspects of philosophy or insight into your classes, but make sure they accurately represent the person who believed in you enough to hire you.

     

  4. If you mess something up in class, laugh and keep going. Yoga teachers mess up constantly, but only the ones who let it affect their focus end up letting it affect their class.

     

  5. Speak to students the way you’d like to be spoken to. Use real language, even while incorporating Sanskrit or philosophical terms. No one wants to hear that breathing through their third eye will help them levitate. Give people real tools they can practically apply using real words. Speaking in the abstract is condescending and no one wants to be spoken down to.