As you know, I like to eat. A lot. Frequently. I am after all, hungryphil. I try to walk to burn off some calories and raise my heart rate. And, I practice yoga to calm my frenzy of eating. Admittedly, my practice of both has been sporadic. In an effort to live more mindfully and consistently, I just started a yoga teacher training program. For me, teaching seems to be the best way to learn. In order to share my experience with you, I offer: Wobblyogi Wednesday.
I’m over forty, my knees creak and inversions make me dizzy. I am not aiming for perfection. There are eight of us in this session of yoga teacher training at the Community Yoga in West Lafayette Indiana. Most of my fellow yogis are shiny-smart and kind-eyed young women around my daughter’s age. As I munched on my mix of nuts and dates, I listened to their stories that brought them there. Each impressive and so amazingly diverse. After introducing ourselves we talked about our expectations, worries and mostly about what the role of a yoga teacher maybe. I imagine this question will be an ongoing thought throughout the coming months.
Here is how I responded to assignment number 1:
Please answer the following in a few paragraphs. We will be sharing our thoughts as a group as well.
From your perspective, what is the role of a yoga teacher? Take into consideration your own experience, your ideal, and your goals as it relates to teaching yoga.
It is rare for someone to engage in the practice of yoga because they are feeling fantastic body and mind. We all enter a yoga practice achy and unfocused. The first and most crucial role of a yoga teacher from my perspective is an empathetic acceptance of human imperfection and weakness. Honesty and humility allows us to accept the cranky knees, the tights shoulders, the sad heart or restless mind. As a teacher, by voicing these concerns I give my fellow yogis permission to accept their own limits without judgment. The most successful yoga teachers create a nourishing, safe and supportive atmosphere. They notice the telltale details of strained spirits, bodies and minds.
Rule #1: There is no room for judgment on the yoga mat. Only honesty sprinkled with humor.
Once the atmosphere is charged with trust and honesty, good yoga teachers, set the mood, tone and pace of the session. If new poses are attempted, they offer reassurance of what is about to happen. Break down difficult sequences. Build up to difficult poses. They do this while reminding each yogi that they are in control of their practice and can choose to follow a much or as little as they wish. The goal of good teachers, like good parents, is to make themselves unnecessary. The best yoga teachers train us not to need them for direction. They are constantly learning, growing and teaching, and show us how to do the same.
Rule #2: Each yogi is his/her own teacher. A good teacher shows us how to teach ourselves.
If we are all empowered by our own practice, then why come together as a community to practice? What is the difference between mountain pose and just standing? A mountain pose harnesses the shared intentionality of standing (through individual intentions) in respect, in prayer or in defiance. The best yoga teachers cultivate a supportive community of individuals. They remind us that we are not alone in our practice, even at 6am on a cold Indiana morning. They help us carry the mindfulness generated on the mat, off the mat and into our day. They help us commit to the search for intentions, even if each of us holds a different intent. A good teacher translates between traditions, movements and words that project the principle of peace: Salam, Namaste or Shalom.
Rule #3: My yoga demands a non-dogmatic search for mindfulness. There can be no inner peace without aspiring towards outer-peace.
No judgment, no authority, no dogma. This is where I want to start…..
Wishing you mindful moving,
Yogi Elephant image from here.