In my yoga teacher training program, I clocked 300 hours of yoga ‘learning’, attending classes and teaching. I have read the books with markers and such, and written in the margins all the nuggets of knowledge that I knew would some day be important. I use these books a lot when I am building a class. But mostly, I try to stay true to my own practice.
When I was a student of yoga, I used to hear people talk about their practice. To be honest, I had no idea what that meant. Nor could I rattle off Sanskrit like it was a second language (because it’s not. I am a writer, and I used words for clarity. And in my experience, most people that I teach don’t really care if I call it a Tadasana or a mountain pose.) During teacher training, I admitted my failure to speak Sanskrit-eze as if I was practicing meditation in my mother’s womb, but I promised that I would learn 25 words. I think I might know 30. Does that make me less of a teacher, or a yogi, or a person?
I wonder where I fit in this world of yoga. Am I a teacher? Who decides? Who am I to call myself a ‘teacher’. That’s a big word - something that I think is up to those whom I teach. I love yoga that moves. I know I should mediatate more, but truthfully I would rather have a bath. I know I should be all spiritual, but that’s just not me. In fact, the word spiritual freaks me out. (I like to live my spirit, not impose it on others.)
There is a lot of discussion it seems in the yoga community (since the beginning of yoga) about which yoga is the right or true yoga. Is it Hatha? Ashtanga? Bikrim? Core Strength Vinyasa? Are we warriors, rock stars or gurus? Do we have the answers to the universe or do we just tune out long enough to actually listen for them? Are we somehow enlightened through or because of yoga? I don’t think so. I think enlightenment comes through facing life altering challenge and surviving. Why do we think we have to make yoga bigger than it is, or as small as one person or another might want it it be? Can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to kill this thing that I love?
And what does it mean to be a teacher? Do I know any more than the person in front of me? Yes, I know more about how to move in and out of postures, alignment, and I can take some one places they have never been in their body, but aside from that, I am going to venture a guess on that last question and say no. As one who teaches “yoga”, I teach someone my own practice and knowledge because that’s all I have to give. I don’t teach my beliefs because those are personal and can change. In fact, I don’t think beliefs belong in yoga. And who am I do that? I personally have never been to a mountain high in the clouds in India, although I have been above the clouds in Canada on the top of a mountain. Does that count?
With all these questions about this world of yoga (which I admit will take the rest of my life to understand), I do know one thing. I have a practice that has nothing to do with which style of yoga I like, or whether or not I can speak Sanskrit. But my practice is yogic because it is about living as authentically and truthfully as possible, and being the best person I can be.
And here it is in a nutshell.
What does all that mean? It means this.
1. Commit three acts of defiance a day. Do not accept what does not serve my purpose or feel right.
2. Practice imperfection. Be courageous in admitting what I do not yet know, and to allow myself to be a work in progress. And others.
3. Listen to and seek to understand the secrets of the universe. This means having faith in that feeling that speaks to me deep from within my gut. This means knowing that it’s not always about me. That sometimes I just don’t get my way. And that’s OK. Because there is something bigger than me that I have yet to understand.
4. Avoid rooms with no doors. As the master of my own fate, I choose my doors. And my rooms.
So this is my practice. Yes, I found it learning to be a yoga teacher, but not because of yoga. I found it because I was looking for it. I just happen to be doing yoga at the time.
The bottom line is this.
I am about to 54 in November, and yoga can’t teach me what time already has.