Support Your Local Yoga Teacher
I’ve been giving this post a lot of munching, mulling, and milling. In other words, I’ve been procrastinating. It’s not because I don’t want to write about it, it’s because I keep convincing myself that I don’t have enough: not enough information, not enough well-thought out reasons, not enough cohesive call to action, etc. In fact, it has taken me two hours from the time I clicked “Add New” for a new blog post until the time I actually started writing this.
You know what I mean. You might have been there too. It’s pretty safe to assume we’ve all been paralyzed by something: attention-deficit, over-analysis, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, anger, addiction, doubt, etc., to name a few things we’ve got to work with. Dr. Robert Svodoba said in a workshop I recently attended: “We are all possessed by something.”
I don’t know if *we* are all possessed. Maybe there’s someone out there who’s seen every Dr. Phil’s episode, read all the Stephen Covey books, attended all the Tony Robbins seminars and listened to all the Wayne Dyer’s CDs, and is now working a 4-hour work-week a la Tim Ferris sipping a tequila somewhere in the French Riviera. Good for them.
As for me, I’m slow and need more help than that. Yoga and meditation may not be appropriate or work for everybody. But it works for me. The yoga practice is ultimately my best hope in this battle at this point. Among other things, my practice is for grounding in stability when I need it, gaining strength and flexibility when those are called for, and feeding my inner demons when they’re hungry.
My guess is, if you’re reading this, yoga means something to you too, and so, hear me out, and help me out with what I’m drumming up for: Support Your Local Yoga Teacher.
They Help Us Grow a Consistent Practice
Yoga is a practice. It’s a day-in, day-out practice. There is nothing instant about it. Supposedly it takes 21 days to train a new habit. Some of us are lucky if we successfully get rid of an unwanted habit in under a month, especially if we have been strengthening that habit for years, or decades. Yoga teachers are there so we can keep coming back and keep at it.
Without yoga, we would fill our book shelves with self-help books and beautiful philosophies and research studies and findings telling us we should do this and that, and we would intellectually know what to do, but without a consistent practice and perseverance, we may not achieve any lasting results. Local yoga teachers also have a chance to get to know us on a regular basis, and are therefore better acquainted with our progress. They’re familiar with our bodies and their tendencies. They are aware of what we’ve done and are capable of. This allows them to help us to our appropriate level.
The skills to stick to something, to keep coming back to it, to surrender, to detach, to learn to fail and be humbled by our falling. Those are very real skills that can be brought into the real world.
They’re Committed to the Learning Process: Theirs and Ours
Dedicated yoga teachers are always learning. They continue to pour time and money into their education. They get second, third, fourth jobs to keep learning and teaching yoga. Local yoga teachers do not have marketing teams behind them. They do not have endorsements and deals. They teach, they do their own marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, making ends meet, the whole enchilada.
Authentic teachers are not preaching. They know that they, too, are in this human form, with all the maladies and fallacies of the human mind. They are doing the practice, too.
Seeing someone else working on the very same thing we are and getting support from them is the basis of a community. We need local yoga teachers to cultivate this community.
They Bring the Teachings to Life
The teachings of the Yoga texts are great, but face it, they can be esoteric and downright bizarre. It is one thing to just pick up a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra or any copy of the Upanishads and toil away at trying to understand their meaning. It is another to have a teacher to explain these things to you and provide an environment where you can discuss them.
As awesome as the great teachers out there are, and as much as they have done to disseminate information, with them, we often learn in non-interactive, one-way street manner: reading something, watching something, listening to something. It is the local yoga teachers that break it down for us, put it together for us,and make the whole wide world of yoga less enigmatic to us.
Imagine if tomorrow, all the yoga classes in the neighborhood disappeared. Now, I know some of you would rejoice, thinking: yes! *some* of them *should* disappear. No no, I’m not talking about Cult Yoga, or Playboy Yoga, or… well, Whatever-Irks-You-Yoga. I’m talking about yoga beyond aerobics here. I’m talking about the local yoga class where people go to practice their Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, their Pratyahara, their meditation: Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. (And yes, we need to start putting the foot down and not be ashamed of saying, “Why yes, I’m working on my Samadhi”, but that’s a different post.)
Imagine if tomorrow, no one’s left in town to tell us about Ayurveda, about Sanskrit, mantra, mudras, the cakras, our constitution; about Jyotish, the bandhas and the nadis, about samsara and kleshas, the seer and the vrtti and the gunas. Imagine if tomorrow, there’s no one to help us work with our breath, our prana, no one left to teach pre-natal and senior yoga, no one to explain why we just threw out our back trying to do Upward Dog, no one to explain esoteric concepts, no one to show us how to work on Warrior I.
I will also say this at the expense of ruffling some feathers: if yoga teachers disappeared tomorrow, the people who are only in it for the workout will have other options. They’ll move on to Crossfit or Bootcamp or whatever the new hot fitness thing is. But, for people who are it for more than sweatin’ and burnin’ calories, we’d be losing out on access to something that can help us become fully functional humans and members of society.
We get to know ourselves and the inner workings of our minds through many ways, one of which is from the yoga philosophy. I’m not saying it’s the *only* way. Far, far from it. I’m saying the teaching, the models, the concepts are useful starting points for self-introspection and self-awareness.
In Practical Terms
What does this all mean? I have a few ideas, but I’m inviting you to help me think of more.
I’m committed to:
- Never stop learning.
- Only teach what I know, and teach from my experience.
- Exchange ideas and get feedback from fellow teachers.
- Keep raising the bar on the quality of my teaching.
- Help promote other teachers whose work I’m familiar with to people who will benefit from it.
- Continue to work with my teachers locally, especially now that my 500-hour training is over, I’ve got to be even more proactive about keeping up with a consistent study program.
What other ways can we support local yoga teachers? I’d love to hear from you.