Sharing inspiration

I try to never let myself forget that although I teach yoga to others I am, and will remain, a student myself.  The constant circle of daily life takes up too much time sometimes and I find myself sacrificing precious yoga time.  And it is precious.  It is my own time on my own mat that helps to inform my teaching and without it I am nothing but a teacher-by-rote.

This is the lesson I learnt last year when I first started teaching.  I struggled to put lesson plans together, not through lack of knowledge but lack of inspiration which I believe came from a disconnection to my own practice.  My own thoughts and ideas were lost in study notes and books written by other people.   And so I quit.  Well, I took a break.  I got back to my own practice, found my own thoughts and realised that, though informed by, they weren’t just a regurgitation of, other people’s.

And so I discovered the importance of self-study.  Maybe not exactly the “Self-Study” to which Patanjali talks about in his Yoga Sutras, but a self-study that does nonetheless mean knowing when it’s time to step back and observe.  If I am not inspired when working on my lesson plans how can I inspire others?!

I aspire to always be inspired especially when sharing my knowledge with other people.  Otherwise it’s just information.

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Staying connected

19/07/2011

Some people come to yoga for the physical or health benefits under the guidance of a physician or physiotherapist or on the recommendation of a friend.  Some people come to yoga for relaxation or spiritual quest.  Some people do not come to yoga at all because they just don’t get this “hippy shit”, as someone very dear to me refers to it.  I learnt my lesson quite early on that, as a teacher, you have to know why your students have come and understand why those you’d like to see in class have not.

I have a real problem with these terms “teacher” and “class”.  I prefer “sharer of knowledge” and “session”.  And herein lies the predicament because I want to show people the benefits of yoga, I want to reach out to as many people as possible, yet using my preferable terms I would be instantly losing half my clientele (another term I take issue with) who just don’t give a damn about the koshas and the chakras and the “hippy shit”.  But then as a yogi (even a western yogi) is it okay to hold back on being true to what I believe just to gain someone’s interest?

So my hope is this.  By talking to people and engaging with them, finding out what it is they want from a yoga session, I can be flexible with my
language and still be true to my beliefs.  I believe that many people come to yoga for one reason or another but find something that maybe they didn’t even know they were looking for or were not expecting to find.  And it’s this something that keeps them coming back.  It’s this something that I, as a teacher or rather, sharer of knowledge, cannot prepare for in a lesson plan.

For me it’s about being in the present, being connected with the  breath, with the body and with the soul, being
connected to the  heart of who I am and using this to connect with others in whatever way I can.

Restoring my rhythm

After a few months away from
teaching, focusing on my personal practice (oh and getting married!), I finally
got back to it by launching my July-August sessions.  I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy trying to
fit in teaching with a full time job elsewhere and I have to say I was a little
nervous.

I went through a phase, or maybe
that should be “I go through phases”, when I have a bit of a confidence crisis.  How can I call myself a yoga teacher, I wasn’t
born in India, I haven’t spent half my life living in an ashram sitting at the
feet of a guru meditating 14 hours a day, I don’t have a ZZ Top beard (or any
facial hair actually) and I can’t get my hips into Lotus position without
dislocating my knees.  But then I
remember, something a very wise woman once told me –

“It’s not teaching, it’s sharing
knowledge”

And all of a sudden the clouds
part and clarity shines through like the sun after a brief summer storm.  That is what I do, I am a sharer of
knowledge.  Knowledge that I have gained
from people who were born in the proverbial place, who have sat at the feet of
a guru and lived in ashrams and who have imparted their knowledge so that I
can, in turn, impart to others.  Yes I
admit it I am the quintessentially Western sharer of yoga knowledge.  It’s just that “yoga teacher” fits so much
better onto a business card!

So, with my re-found confidence, and my
knowledge of my own true abilities to share it (the knowledge that it, not the
confidence, or maybe both actually…I’m mumbling…) I found myself stood
before a group of 8 wonderful people who had turned up for my knowledge.  And, as with every session, it dawned on me
once again that familiar feeling of why I do this.  I want to share my knowledge of yoga because
I want everyone else to know how good it feels to move and breathe with awareness,
to feel an expansion within your heart, your body and your soul.  Who wouldn’t want to share that?!

The Road to Dru

My yoga journey began about 11 years ago, not long after my Mum died.  What began as a quest for physical exercise has, over the years, grown into a whole new path and way of life.  I didn’t know it back then, but yoga taught me how to breathe again, literally and metaphorically.  Nothing has ever made sense to me the way yoga does, and finding the flowing stillness of DRU felt just like coming home.

It all began with a Barbara Currie video from Woolworths.  I no longer have a video player, Woolies has gone but my yoga practice, like Barbara Currie, is still going strong (www.barbaracurrieyoga.com).  I never really took much notice of anything other than the physical workout back then.  I never realised how powerful the breath could be or how much further I could go by turning my focus inward rather than letting my mind stray whilst my body went through the motions.  As soon as I made that link it was as if something within me had been reconnected.  I started to reawaken from a slumber I didn’t even know I was sleeping.  Anyone who has ever practiced yoga, even just once through curiosity, cannot deny they felt something shift within them.

And so I practised with Barbara until the video tape started getting stuck in the player.  After that I practised on my own for a while until I stumbled across Katy Appleton, well Katy Appleton’s book actually (“Introducing Yoga”), probably around the same time as she was making her name as yoga teacher to the stars (well Geri Haliwell anyway).  I have since loaned this book to so many people and every time it returns to me a little more worn and I wear it some more.  The sign of a good book in anyone’s terms.

And so university came and went and I kept up my yoga practice sticking to what I’d learnt and not really going any further.  After university I found myself in India for a whole load of reasons other than yoga but of course yoga found me quite easily there and I took proper instruction from a real life yogi.  I was only in India for 5 weeks but something shifted inside me and I began to see a little clearer that the secret to yoga wasn’t in the yogi’s wife sitting on my back forcing me to reach my toes.  It was in the yogi’s wife sitting on my back focusing my mind to be in the present moment, clear, letting go.

After that I had a couple of years where yoga took second place to a relationship that taught me a lot about everything that is wrong with a relationship that is not right and a job that robbed me of any vision I might have had.  I began to realise just what life would be like if I chose not to follow my heart.  It was now up to me to decide whether I wanted to carry on having the life sucked out of me or make a run towards the rainbow before it disappeared forever.

I chose the rainbow and now I can’t even see the clouds for the sun in the rare moments when I do look back.  Of course it wasn’t just yoga that lit up my life but it was always there as my silver lining.  Yoga has a funny way of influencing your life and bringing in the happy.

It’s amazing how breaking away from something you see was no good for you can give you the confidence to go for something you know might be.  It took me a while but I finally braved a proper yoga class at a proper yoga studio (www.yogaviva.com) with a proper instructor called Yana.  As soon as I lay down on my mat, any apprehension (I’m not good enough, everyone’s going to be looking at me, I don’t have the right clothes blah blah blah) disappeared.  Yana’s chant of “Om” washed over me and ran through me and I was home.

Yana’s beginner’s class on a Sunday morning became Liz’s intermediate’s on a Saturday lunch time which became Jodie’s more advanced on a Tuesday and Thursday evening with a few other’s in between.   I learnt so much, not least that the more I knew the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to share this knowledge with others.  I wanted them to feel how I felt every time I stepped off my yoga mat and floated home.  It was as if I took a little part of yoga with me wherever I went.  I suppose I began to really live it without realising too much what I was doing.

But before this starts to sound too whimsical I must confess that I did, and still do, go through phases where I allowed life to prevent my practice.  I missed classes, sometimes for a whole month, and I didn’t keep my home practice up.  I lost my focus but I didn’t lose my love and enthusiasm for yoga.

In fact, it was my enthusiasm for, more than my practice of, yoga that sparked up a conversation that led to my first introduction to DRU and the beginning of a really great friendship.

Yoga By Heart

I have recently qualified as a yoga teacher with the International School of DRU Yoga, another step along the path on a journey towards what I hope will be a fascinating and fulfilling career.  DRU has its roots firmly planted in the great yoga tradition.  It is a refuge from the modern world but also a practical tool for inspiring and achieving a positive mind and healthy body.  It focuses on the continuous flow of movement and breath.  It brings softness to the joints, stability and strength to the muscles and flexibility to the spine.  It offers deep relaxation, calmness and clarity to the busy stress-inflamed mind.

From physical fitness to mental de-stress, from prenatal to therapeutic care, whatever you are searching for in a yoga package, DRU can offer.  It really is an “anyone can do it” and definitely not a “one size fits all” style of yoga.

I am currently in the process of launching “Yoga By Heart”, continuing teaching classes in my local area but looking to branch out into London offering one-to-one sessions, group sessions and even packages for the corporate market. 

My tag line is simply “restore your rhythm”, and that is exactly what I aim to do for all my students.