Yoga conversations

I had a lot of ‘conversations’ about yoga today, albeit in a lockdown kind of way.

A stranger wrote to me asking for advice. They know I teach part time and they asked me how I could do this, and didn’t I feel divided because I wasn’t a full time yogi. For them yoga was calling to them to deepen their practice and devote themselves to it, to give up their office job even though they’d not yet completed a TT.

I suspect they didn’t like my response because our communication didn’t continue after I replied! I have no idea what this level of calling and devotion would feel like… And my own teachers help me to understand all of life as yoga… Of course I try not to be judgmental and who am I to know if this person doesn’t feel something immensely more than I do to the point of being seismic in her life.

Then again a yoga friend and fellow teacher shared something today about her dislike when yoga becomes ‘wishy washy avoidant shit’, calling out the crystals and unicorn school of yoga and nailing her colours firmly on the uncomfortable idea that ‘the only way out of it is through it’. Well, she’s a Forrest Yoga teacher! While that’s not my path, I admire her grit and perseverance. I know that one should be careful not to equate painful with real, and easy or joyful with unreal or false… but I also think (for me at least) there’s a progression from real pain to real joy and when I try to jump ahead and get straight to the joyful part it feels unstable and unsatisfying to the point of unreal. Joy may be our innate state but for now at least I have to work quite hard to access my true nature 🙂 .

In the evening I had philosophy class with one of my teachers. She views yoga as a practice to uplift us. I certainly need that practice! She was talking about the sanctity of one’s own practice, and how important it is to have something which is just for ourselves, not to be shared, something that is a secret within our heart. Not because we’re selfish teachers and don’t give freely of all that we understand from our experience, but because this is an intimacy to cultivate, necessarily out of sight of all others, an offering just to ourselves and our ‘god’. I’m never sure I understand fully what she says (she has travelled so much further than me), but this helped me see that there is something almost inevitable and perhaps actually necessary about the gap I feel (sometimes uncomfortably) between what I practise and what I teach.

Finally an email from one of my mentors. We’ve been in conversation about a decision I’m trying to reach, partly related to the tension I feel between being simultaneously a student and a teacher of the practice, this gap between what I practise and what I teach. After dancing around in generalising terms, I just cathartically unloaded the whole sorry story on her and got the most wonderfully supportive response back, beginning with thanking me for sharing my inner process with her. She had a practical solution (involving her offering freely of her own time to help me) but was also so affirming about her estimation of my teaching ability — based not on classroom observation, only on her view of my own work and my own practice. Here she sees a degree of clarity and understanding which must shine through to my students. I am uplifted by her faith in me.

The thread running through all these communications about yoga is around the fundamental need to continue one’s own practice whole-heartedly with whatever sense of devotion is possible and to trust that something of truth and goodness will flow from that. Or to quote my teacher in one of his off-guard moments “shut the F up and get on with it”.

3 thoughts on “Yoga conversations

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  1. Oh!! The rabbit hole of “am I worthy enough, devoted enough, YOGIC enough”…
    Students and teachers, we’re all playing these roles temporarily, conditionally. The roles could switch in a heartbeat. We’re all just walking the path. Together.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Full time yoga teacher. What does that even mean anymore? Punching a clock for 40 hours a week at a studio? For those who are lucky to make a living at it, and that’s how they want to make a living, then the blessings are there*.
    That being said, would you get the enjoyment and “juice” from the practice as a full time teacher, or as a full time “yogi” who has a full time desk job and teaches on the side?

    We get older, and our bodies get older. Teaching asana takes a toll on that body. In addition, I have had too many friends who were full time yoga teachers die at a young age who thought that the practice would keep them young forever. One then confronts the dilemma of “if I can’t teach asana, can I teach yoga?” Far and wide, people want asana class, and not yoga class.

    As you know, I have had years of contempt for those who do a weekend training in Mexico or Bali, slap up a nice website, rent a studio and rake in thousands being a “full time yoga teacher.” Now I am somewhat indifferent to those poor souls. COVID sure had its way with the yoga biz, and those savvy enough to hook up a nice zoom yoga studio continue to profit until this day.

    I decided to forego my Iyengar certificate, the one I spent years to get, because I too realized that I get more juice out of the practice by not teaching. I still have many good friends who are “full time” Iyengar teachers, but at this point my my life it seems moot.

    tl;dr: I consider you to be a full time yogi, despite what you may do for money in the yoga world. Your years of Sanskrit lessons and connection to others in the yoga community carry much more weight than a paycheck. Now back to your day job!

    *blessings may vary

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing your feelings on this!
    It made me remember a meeting of several high profile yoga teachers in the US: when discussing the problem that arises from teaching too many classes, i.e., not enough time to deepen one’s own practice, they each started to brag about how much they DIDN’T teach. HAHA!
    My own experience has been that some teaching is important. It could be sharing the practice with a friend. As practitioners we need to share what we’ve learned in our own practice. Give it back out to the world. And the feedback from sharing in turn informs our personal practice: svadhyaya pravacane ca (taittiriya upanishad).
    Much love,
    k8 xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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