I found my passion. Now what?

Ashanga yoga has an interesting reputation. Those outside of the practice, or those who aren’t suited for it, often demean it.

“It’s only for 12 year old boys”

“It’s just hard for the sake of hard”

“Ashtanga is only about the gross body, what I teach is more subtle, more powerful”

“That’s yoga Type-A people”

I’ve heard so much rage, so much judgement from people, from yogis, over the years. The one thing I understand is that Ashtanga is one of the few branches that demands discipline. You’re expected to be on your mat 6 days a week with a few exceptions. You are on time.

While assisting a Mysore practice with Clayton years ago, we had to arrive at 4:30am to practice before the doors opened to students at 6am. If you showed up at 4:31am, you found the door locked and you didn’t assist that day.

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“Follow your passion” is the worst advice for any person starting a new career.


I know. “But, I love yoga and I want to share my passion with everyone!”

I know. I understand.

That spark that ignites the passion is critical. Passion gets you to your first step. There has to be more. Much more. Discipline is key to reaching your goals and dreams without burnout. Passion gets you to the door, discipline opens it!

How do you find discipline in your teaching career? Here are a few ideas.

  • Take notes…create a practice diary. We teach what we practice. Do you still practice? What does that look like? Do you make excuses to avoid the mat?
  • R&D…research new themes for your class and develop sequences that support the theme. Real research isn’t just searching the net for what someone else is doing. Make it unique, from your heart.
  • Take another one…teacher trainings are time consuming and increasingly expensive but a training or a teacher intensive can be the catalyst to get your passion back on the right track and create good work habits.
  • Clean up after yourself…What? Seriously. When you exit the studio, leave it better than you found it. Be an example of selfless effort. When a teacher leaves their props behind for ‘someone else to use’, so do the students. It makes a mess that the next group has to clean up.

Check out this passionate article about the value of disciple from Christian motivational speaker, Scott Cochrane:

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http://www.scottcochrane.com/index.php/2018/05/29/what-to-do-when-you-discover-that-passion-alone-isnt-enough/

Measure Twice, Cut Once

As teachers, we teach what we know. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut of teaching what we’re good at. I’ve taken classes with yogis who have dance backgrounds and very flexible hips. Every class explored hip openers. Every class featured the teacher demonstrating the “right way” to do a pose.

What about the rest of us?  How can a student find his or her individual practice when, as teachers, we preach right vs wrong poses and only teach what we can do well.

We all come to the mat for different reasons. And, every body is very different. Someone handed me an article about a decade ago that explained why some people will never get their hips to the ground in virasana. NEVER. It’s not about flexibility, knee health or dedication to the practice. It’s about the shape of the pelvis and its relationship to the femur head. Bone against bone. I constantly meet students who have become convinced that they aren’t “really doing yoga” because their hero’s pose doesn’t look like the picture in the magazine, the teacher at the front of the room, etc. So, what’s right and what’s wrong here?

By relying on what’s easy for us, we can involuntarily teach our students to measure themselves against our personal standard instead of what’s right for them.

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I recently taught an inversion workshop during a period of time when my own handstands weren’t very stable. I still had to demo the action of lifting up instead of kicking up. I fell backwards and sideways every-single-time.

I was embarrassed but it was what it was. I got the point across.

Thankfully, one student remarked that she was terrified of trying a handstand without a wall until she saw me, the teacher, fall …fail. I wasn’t perfect. I did something I wasn’t good at and it helped the class.

There is no right…just right now.

We should often try to teach those poses that we don’t love or aren’t proficient in. The students come to benefit from the wisdom of our journeys. If that journey is long and difficult, the wisdom we share may be deeper and more impactful in a positive way.

Every time I teach pincha mayurasana, I tell the story of getting unilateral direction for success. I tried to follow that direction for over 8 years and never went up. EIGHT YEARS!!  Then I noticed another teacher doing it differently. I tried it and I’ve had a stable pincha mayurasana ever since. But, it works for me. The other direction works for others. I teach both and everything in between so students have the opportunity to find their own practice and not just watch me do it the right way at the front of the room.

 

I’m not a doctor but I play one in the studio…

We’re yoga teachers…not doctors!

As teachers, we always ask if there are any injuries in the room that we should know about before beginning class. It’s a precaution and helps teachers become more responsive to the room. And, covers our asses if there’s ever a lawsuit.

The replies usually fall into two extremes. Students sit silent while rubbing the injured/tweaky body part or they tell everything that’s going on in an overwhelmingly long list.

As teachers, we’re very excited about the health benefits of yoga. Many of us teach because we’ve experienced a personal healing-physical, mental, spiritual. We want others to have the same joy.

But there’s a thick line between enthusiasm and irresponsibility.

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Someone recently posted a snarky article begging yoga teachers, specifically, to stop telling students that inversions reverse blood flow. I’m no doctor but I know enough anatomy to know that reversing blood flow is not possible.  No matter how long you hold that hand stand. Consistent twisting in a flow class does not wring out the liver and detox the body.

Many teachers believe these things and repeat them.

Too often, at the end of class students ask teachers for advice for tweaks and even chronic conditions. Typically the question is leading. “What stretch can I do to help my tweaky shoulder?” As yoga teachers, we’re not capable of diagnosing anything and risk causing harm to the students we love and care for by giving medical advice. Being proficient in the Latin names of muscles does not give teachers license to diagnose and treat.

But, it is impressive to students. Increasingly, it’s a way to fill the studio with adoring students who look to the front of the room to heal all that hurts.

I know, I know…there are yoga teachers with medical backgrounds. Former nurses and doctors who love yoga enough to share teachings. There are yoga teachers who concurrently work as therapists. That’s not the majourity.

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The more we know the more likely we are to steer students to experts. It feels great when students seek our input but we must let go of the ego.We can spread good vibes without misleading students about our expertise.

Yoga can be life-changing. Whether it’s for the better or not depends on our honest approach to the risks and benefits.

We need to stop playing doctor in the studio.

The more you know :: Scoliosis

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited a study that focused on patients with Scoliosis practicing Vasitsthasana regularly.  The study was small, microscopic by scientific standards, with only 25 participants.  It is a good start though.

PJ-BY040_RESREP_J_20141027121320According to 2013 statistics from Yoga Journal, about 15million people practice yoga in the  US.  It’s estimated that 6 million people in the US have scoliosis.  There’s a good chance that there is some overlap in those populations.

As teachers, we can see scoliosis that students may not even be aware of having.  It’s good to know what helps and why.

Based on the results of this small study, what other poses would benefit students with scoliosis?

The more you know :: Brainwork

For better or worse, Yoga is increasingly categorized as part of the Fitness Industry.  There are many fitness professionals who have included yoga in their routines.  And, many yoga teachers borrow from other areas of fitness to create something different.  Kettlebell Yoga comes to mind.

Above all, it’s exercise.  We all encourage people to move and become or stay healthy.

This interesting article from FastCompany gives good info about the positive effect of exercise on the brain.

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Good news morning yogis!!  Keep it up.