February 24, 2012

Dude, Where’s My Teacher?!

I’ve been totally short-changed on my yoga journey.

Never once have I had a “real” yoga teacher.

You know, the kind you have an on-going relationship with. The kind who support your yoga journey while parsing out morsels of wisdom and insight at the exact moment you need them. The kind who are interested in your development and answers all your questions.

Nope, thanks to some cruel twist of fate, I’ve been left to blunder through the mine field of yoga all by my lonesome.

This might have come down to geography. When I first woke up to a desire for Real Yoga Teacher, I was living in Glenorchy, population 250, and no resident yoga teachers.

Then I moved to Queenstown, population 23,000 and, a smattering of yoga teachers who I auditioned for the role as My Yoga Teacher.

None of them got a call-back.

My expectations of what it took to be Real Yoga Teacher were high—knowing postures wasn’t enough. I wanted a teacher that could see through the bullshit, and who knew what Kundalini was all about.

I finally had a run-in with such a teacher in about 2006— Swami Shantimurti.

From across a crowded room, he spotted the fear I was drowning in and knew—just knew—that I’d had a Kundalini Awakening (although I probably haven’t, otherwise I’d be enlightened). Now that was the kind of teacher I wanted. Problem was, this Ashram Yoga yogi lived in Auckland.

The Swami was kind enough to spend some time with me one-on-one and give me a few practices designed to help ground and centre before sending me on my way. Those tit-bits of pranayama and mantra kept me going for a year or two.

Fast forward to Wellington in 2008 and I’m out cruising the local yoga scene looking for Real Yoga Teacher. And I found lots – Wellington is awash with gifted teachers. But after a couple of years of teaching yoga myself, these people were my peers and so instead of becoming my Real Yoga Teacher, they became my friends.

Finally, in 2010, I got myself over to L.A. for an immersion teacher training with a “real” yoga teacher, Shiva Rea. This was it—had I finally found my teacher? Well, yes and no.

In my ideal world, a “real” yoga teacher has time to work with individual students on a regular basis. In Shiva’s Rockstar Yoga Teacher world, she’s teaching classes of 100 students or more, and leading immersions with 70+ students.

The interactions I had with her was illuminating, but with me in New Zealand and her fulfilling her Rockstar Yoga Teacher Dharma, there’s no space for the kind of relationship I’d been dreaming of.

So it was back to New Zealaand, sans-Real Yoga Teacher.

Back in Wellington, moaning about my lack of a teacher to friend and yes, yoga teacher, he asked:

Why do you want a teacher?

Well, you know, so they can tell me what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. So they can guide me with exactly what I need. Give me the perfect practice that will fix me.

He laughed.

Who’s been guiding you for the last 10 years?

Yeah but… I want a Real Yoga… OH.

That pulled me up short.

Who had been guiding me for the last 10 years or so on my yoga journey?

With no Real Yoga Teacher ever looming large, I’d been forced to rely on my own resources.

I’d had to figure it out all by myself, trial and error, listening to my breath, observing results, taking note of what worked and what didn’t.

And along the way, life had become my teacher. My breath, my body, my heart, my relationships, my friends, my families, my environment. Everything taught me in some way shape or form.

I’d been forced, by circumstance, not to be a yoga student, but to be a yogi.

All those years of looking for a “real” yoga teacher, and feeling like I was missing out…well, I was missing out…

On the fact that…

I didn’t need a teacher and it was actually a great gift to learn yoga from the world itself.

So I’ve let go of my search for Real Yoga Teacher.

I’ve accepted life as my teacher, my breath as my guide, and my heart as my light.

And I feel lighter already. More complete. More…perfect.

Although I do wonder… maybe it’s a guru I should be looking for?


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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