I had been practicing (and intermittently teaching) yoga for years before I decided it was time to take my Yoga Teacher Training at Live Yoga in the summer of 2011 and finally certify to teach. I picked a teacher that I loved (Dan Clement from Open Source Yoga) and embarked on an experience that would change me in more ways that I could ever imagine.
Although I had been attending classes for all those years, it wasn’t until I became a yoga teacher that I truly started learning what it means to be a student of yoga.
I’m not saying that understanding yoga is inaccessible to students, or that the light of yoga only comes with teaching it. For me, it wasn’t until I needed to articulate to others the benefits and purposes of yoga that I truly started integrating my knowledge into my own practice.
Many experiences as a teacher have deepened my personal practice: when students ask me about the philosophy behind the practice, or the anatomy behind the body; when students describe sensations or emotions during poses and how yoga helped them to heal; when students want advice for rehabilitating injuries and conditions; when students push too hard in class, or not hard enough; when students recount failures and successes and how yoga helped them to develop a fulfilling life.
Teaching so many wonderful people has enriched my own understanding and appreciation of yoga in profound and unimaginable ways. Here are a few of the things I have learned and integrated into my personal practice as a result of teaching and observing my students:
My body is unique and beautiful. Seriously. Nobody has my bones, my history, my evolution with my body. Nobody knows my body like I do and how it moves, how it responds and what it needs to feel healthy. My practice needs to be sensitive and respect this uniqueness. Sometimes that means I don’t do a pose even though my neighbour is doing it. I'm ok with that now, because my body is mine and I need to take care of it.
I require and deserve respect, patience and love. At All Times. Absolutely and without exception.
Every class/day/experience is an opportunity to learn (about myself and others). It doesn’t matter who I am talking to, who I'm learning from or which students are in front of me. Every person has a story that is interesting, full and inspiring. Even in mundane or tense moments of life, there are opportunities to learn and grow.
I deserve compassion and care, from others and especially myself. In yoga you explore your body (and spirit at times) and learn things. Sometimes you learn that you can’t do certain poses or exercises, while at other times you learn you can. This ebb and flow is an integral part of the practice. It is not yet another chance for judgement, repulsion or disappointment. I may never get into poses that make me look like a pretzel- that doesn’t mean I am less spiritually developed, physically fit or deserving of love! I try to understand and love myself for all my limitations and abilities alike. They are what make me ME.
Yoga should be shared. There is so much variety in yoga. So much that can help with health and wellness. I am to spread the word. Not in a dogmatic way, but in a way that expresses and abounds from the passion and belief I have in what I do.
Yoga isn’t about getting your legs behind your head, it’s about integration, health, vitality and wellness. That’s right. No one is meant to do ALL the poses that have ever been invented. There are a variety so you can pick and choose what works for your body. I do what feels safe, good and beneficial, I modify some to suit my needs, and I always give myself permission to leave some poses out completely.
I aspire to live my yoga on and off my mat. The more I learn patience, determination, how to overcome challenges, enjoy successes, demonstrate care and compassion on my mat, the more I want to be the person I am on my mat, all the time.
When I soften my practice, things open up (but sometimes when I get too soft, I need to energize too!). I used to practice power, hot and flow yoga all the time. I thought that to improve and get stronger at yoga, I needed HARDER classes. I have started to realize that a consistent, softer practice, with lots of intention, exploration, alignment and care has wielded far greater results for me. I make time for Yin and Restorative now. I make time to rest and breathe. I am gaining strength and energy with less tension. My practice is getting more advanced in a natural way – and I am having so much fun doing it!
Committing to my practice sets me free – whether that means a full practice in the morning, or just a few minutes of breathing, reading or relaxation at the end of my day. Making the practice of yoga part of my daily routine keeps me connected and fulfilled.
Sharing the wisdom of yoga as a teacher has made me a much more sensitive, caring and dedicated student. I am so blessed to share a practice that I love with others, and have them teach and inspire me in my own practice as well.
I hope that as a teacher, I continue to learn and get inspired by my students, so that I can deepen and expand my practice always.