In the last several weeks, I have been the substitute teacher for a “Yoga Foundations” class at the local Equinox Gym—and it has been one of the most valuable teaching opportunities that I’ve had.
It came about at a perfect time.
Prior to this opportunity, I had started to feel that I was in somewhat of a lull in terms of my teaching and, not so surprisingly, in my own personal practice as well.
I felt stale, dull and, although I was not feeling uninspired, I was falling back into the I’m-not-good-enough-at-this-whole teaching-yoga-thing-or-at-this-practicing-yoga-thing mentality.
Teaching a class that is specifically called ‘foundations’ allowed me to get ‘back to the basics’, so to speak; it not only allowed me to share my knowledge of the foundational aspects of asana, like proper alignment and core activation—but it really allowed me a chance to reconnect with the most primary and central part of the yogic practice…the breath.
Aaaah, yes, the breath—that delightful sip of fresh oxygen into the body and the lovely feeling of connection and rootedness, of letting go as we empty it out of the body.
For some reason, the breath seems to have been lost in translation in many of the classes I have taken lately, likely due to the popular mindset that ‘asana is only good for a ‘hot ‘n’ sweaty workout’ (who can workout without the breath anyway?!).
It is remarkable how many people tell me they don’t breathe in yoga!
Teaching a foundations class provided a service to me and to my students. It allowed me the opportunity to guide these new yogis back to their own inner teacher and to their own breath; in so doing, I received reassurance that I am indeed on the right career path, in teaching yoga…and that I am on the right life path by embodying yoga.
After teaching the first of three foundations classes, I left feeling extremely irritable, mostly for my lack of patience with ridiculously improper yoga etiquette, like talking throughout class and ‘harumphing’ when something seemed too challenging.
When I got home that night, to take my own deep sips of breath, I started to reflect on the fact that I felt so frustrated teaching these beginners—it made me understand one of my own downfalls—which is impatience. I like to think I am a very patient person—one has to be in order to teach—but, many times, I am lacking patience with myself.
I was unhappy with my own personal practice—and I was impatient because I had not made any noticeable strides into new postures, nor had I made any life changing revelations in several weeks.
Coincidentally, my impatience with myself translated directly to some impatience into my teaching. As beginners, my students understandably lacked confidence, self discipline and trust; trust in their own strength and capabilities, trust in their own teacher…and trust in their own breath.
It was at this point that I was reminded that we all start from a different place.
For some people, moving, breathing and the mind body connection is a natural thing and, for others, there is a disconnect. It can be entirely foreign: and this is why they come to yoga—to find connection—to lengthen and expand themselves.
This is a beautiful thing.
As for the idea of patience, this experience reminded me to be patient with myself, not only in my own physical practice of yoga but also, very importantly, in the place where I am at in my yoga teaching career.
Nothing in life can be forced or rushed. (Well, it can be, but it often turns out with a negative outcome or, at least, something missed.)
The yogic idea of ‘trusting that you are exactly where you need to be’ entered my realm of thought and, suddenly, I felt much better; trust the practice.
Suzie Blackman, having dreamt of a career in clinical psychology or psychiatric social work and having an extensive background in athletics training and dance, decided to pursue a career that would combine her desire to improve mental, emotional and physical well being, both individually and collectively, as a community. In the summer between her junior and senior year of college, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Suzie began practicing yoga at the Inner Fire Yoga studio. As a young university student, just back from living abroad for a semester, she returned to the United States feeling very out of sorts; what began as a quest for clarity and calm turned into an epic journey of self discovery, leading Suzie to find a rejuvenated sense of lightness and vitality with which to approach life. Quickly reaping the benefits of a daily yoga practice, she developed an intense (but playful) passion for the yogic lifestyle. After graduation, Suzie moved to San Francisco, where she became heavily entrenched in the local yoga culture, attending two classes per day with different instructors, at a plethora of studios all around the Bay Area. Having returned to her home on the east coast, Suzie decided to take her practice to the next level, by taking part in a 200 hour yoga teacher training program. Suzie is bursting with joy and is eager to share the sacred practice of balance, stability, flexibility and strength, with those in and around the community—she has come to appreciate the art of teaching yoga, as a practice of yoga, in and of itself, always feeling humbled and immensely grateful for the lessons she learns about communication, breath, movement, transition, awareness and perception at the end of each and every class. Join Suzie in an elevating, joy filled, detoxifying practice that will ultimately help you to actualize and achieve your full potential: a still and stable mind, and an expansive, receptive and strong, loving heart.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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