Scandals on gurus galore abounded in the mid nineties.
In the summer of 1994, at the renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga, one such scandal unraveled.
I was there taking a thirty day intensive yoga teacher training. At my graduation ceremony, Amrit Desai, the guru in residence at what was still his yoga center, spoke to us insecure newbie teachers about our future in yoga. Little did I know that within three weeks of my graduating, Amrit would be ousted from his position for improprieties with several female devotees, a shock that reverberated for several years in the yoga world. Still, on that sweltering hot day in late August, all was well.
In the months to come Amrit would be judged, condemned and ex-communicated from the community he started and ruled for over twenty years. Amrit delivered a message on my graduation day, which is forever engraved on the soft ware of my yoga teacher soul. In spite of his fall from grace, he was and remains a brilliant teacher. I want to share with yoga teachers what he revealed and how it helped me to build a huge international following of students and become, yes, a beloved yoga teacher. Here are the essential lessons on how you can do it too.
Lesson One: From Amrit Desai. “You have all learned how to teach yoga and are prepared to give classes. You are afraid you will not remember what to do. There is only one thing for you to remember.” He paused and we were all on the edge of our seats. This is what he said:
Oh yeah. That touched my heart. I nevah, evah forget this when I teach. What I have found as both a nurse and yoga teacher is people all have the same needs. Attention, affection, appreciation and approval. The four A’s which are wrapped up in love. Most of your students have NO idea they are coming to you for love. They realize it when they feel the love you are sending from your mystical heart to theirs through the yoga practices of deep breathing, postures and relaxation. This is why many students cry in yoga classes (or at least in my classes) and they are taken aback at the outpouring of sweet emotions released. One gets in touch with a sacred place deep inside for transforming and often transcending stress, anxiety pain and suffering.
That love pours out of you in your classes when you have a burning passion to make a difference in your students’ lives and of course in your own. It is tangible in your energy. Palpable. Electric. Let it flow from your own yoga awakened heart into theirs. This one lesson alone with fill your classes to the max PLUS keep your students coming back for the rest of their lives and you will grow and grow old together.
NEXT add the following after you take Lesson number one to heart. BEWARE! The following lessons contain jewels of wisdom, yet on their own without the LOVE transmission, they are a half assed and a half hearted substitute and will not build the bond you and they both seek.
Lesson Two: Your voice. Uh huh. Lots of students have hearing challenges and will never admit it. If they can’t hear you, they are NOT coming back. Trust me, I have heard it from countless students who have told me they did not go back to ‘so and so’s class because they could not hear them. And speaking loud enough is not good enough. The quality of your voice can make it or break it. Your voice should be melodic, soothing, even sensual, and deep with variable tones. Make a recording of your voice and practice modulating its’ sound. Which teachers do you love whose yoga classes are filled to the max? Emulate their voice qualities.
Lesson Three: Touch your Students—appropriately of course. Most students love to have assists when they are in a posture. Always ask your student for permission to touch them before you do. At the end of my classes, especially with my new students, when they are in shavasana, the relaxation posture, I sit down beside them. They can always feel my presence as I approach so I do not startle them. I slowly bring my hand about one inch above their open hand on the floor. They feel the energy, and then slowly and gently, I place my hand on top of their hand and rest it there for a few moments. I send them love and silent messages of reassurance that all is well. I do not move my hand around. I apply healing touch. Know that many of your students are starved for touch as well as love. This gesture will forge an unspoken bond between the two of you.
Here then are my three lessons for becoming a beloved yoga teacher and filling your classes.
There are many other points I include in my classes based on 43 years in the wonderful world of yoga, yet these are the BIG THREE. I truly hope this helps to serve you as you serve others. May it help you to be a loving yoga life style change agent, transforming and maybe even transcending your students’ lives—and your own.
Photo credit here.
Annette is ‘expanding consciousness in health care,’ transforming, enlightening and saving lives physically, financially and spiritually. She lives on the pristine South Outer Banks of North Carolina where she dallies with dolphins and loves to play her not so mean blues harp.