yoga student

The Evolution of Going Deeper

When I started practicing Yoga 22 years ago, my experience of going deeper was relegated to the possibility of laying flat over my legs when in a forward fold or catching the bind in a seated twist.  I was in fast pursuit of how deeply I could go in an asana, and this gave me the feeling of completely losing myself in a posture.  I felt a bit invincible on my yoga mat.  I yearned for that moment where I was immersed deeply in the pose,  in my breath, in the movement, in the “union” of my body, my mind, and my spirit The moment where the world faded into the background and peace emerged.

The deeper my practice became, the more it felt like my practice was a solitary one.  It was difficult for me to express to my friends and family the profound connection to myself I felt when I was practicing yoga, and that made me feel very alone. I realized that when I left my mat, I was edgy.  

Time passed.  I got married, I had babies.  My body changed.  It rebelled.  I swam in a constant sea of injury and pain striving to get back to that place I had found in my youth.  I was struggling to re-unite. All I knew was to keep striving to push the edge of physicality. After all, I had only found that beautiful place of "union", through the vehicle of my body.  In the rare moments I was able to be present in my practice long enough to go deep, I found that the agitation and frustration that I felt at the completion of my practice was heightened. I even felt resentful to my family for not being able to line-up with my inner peace.  At some point, I knew there had to be more than this tug-of-war between the peace I found in my practice and the chaos of the world.  So, I found a teacher.  

n finding that teacher, my mind was blown.  The Yoga I had known and practiced for so many years of my life began to morph and evolve into something wholly different than anything I had ever experienced before.  I started prioritizing my meditative practices as highly as my physical ones, I immersed myself in study and contemplation.  I was amazed at how much more there was to the practice than I had ever realized.  My new pursuit looked a lot less like a badass arm balance, and a lot more like hours of silent exploration.  Gradually my practice became less daunting (regardless of the external evidence), and I gained more confidence in my individuated approach to practice.  I even started changing the way I was teaching. My experience of yoga became more allowing, more curious.  Yet, I was still uncomfortable in my daily life.  In practice, I could find my peace, but in the world I felt like a whirlwind of thoughts and frustration.  I kept turning to my mat and my cushion for respite, but still found it difficult to integrate what I was discovering about myself and my practice in my fast-paced life of work and family.

I asked myself what is required of me now to move deeper and I realized that the answer was to take this graceful and curious heart of mine off my mat and my cushion and out into the world. This is the next level of my practice.  

Of course I will always re-charge on my mat and my cushion, but the real practice of yoga is now what happens on the street, in the coffee shop, and the grocery store.  The real practice of yoga begins in that moment where I can roll over onto my side, use my hands and arms to lift this gift of a body up, blow out the candles, put on my shoes and walk out into the world. 

Are you ready to go deeper? To bridge the gap between your internal practice and the life you lead? If you are, join me.  

300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training... Are you ready?

I can remember the moment when I knew it was time to go deeper.  I was teaching an asana class about expanding beyond your boundaries.  It was a fast, hot, vinyasa class and the windows of the studio were dripping with steam. The soundtrack was killing it, and the instructions, adjustments and inspiration were flowing. I was hitting on all cylinders, what many would consider to be on the top of my game, but as I was standing there in the middle of that class, I realized that I had hit a plateau.  I had stopped expanding and was instead sitting in the eddie of comfort with my practice and my teaching.  I knew, right there in that moment, that it was time to take the next step.  The next day, I began researching 300 hour Teacher Training Certification Programs.

That was 2007.  My studies and practices have taken me on amazing journeys. My teachers have expanded my mind and challenged me greatly.  And I am still growing.  I am still being challenged to stretch the limits of my experience beyond what feels comfortable each day.  I am finding that my practice is in constant evolution and as I age, it rarely resembles anything I was doing in 2007.  But I feel rich.  I have a wealth of trust and faith within myself, I have a toolbox of practices that support and sustain me, I am constantly inspired by the opportunity to teach and share.  

So when do you know that it’s time to expand your studies?  How do you know if it is time for you to advance your skills as a practitioner and a teacher?  Let me begin by explaining that I have always believed in having a teacher as a guide.  Yes, I can study and explore on my own (and I do), but I have never been able to fully access on my own what I can with the support of a well-qualified teacher.  So if you are feeling a bit stuck in your life or your practice (or both), stepping into a higher level training will catalyze movement. The next level of training will expose you to new and unfamiliar aspects of the practice that may inspire and challenge you, but it will most definitely shift you. 

If you feel that your practice or teachings have become routine, then it might be time to explore the next level of training.  One of my teachers has a dependable saying, “You should always know a little more than your students.”  If your offerings have become automatic and your students are always one step ahead of you, it is evidence that you are no longer exploring your practice in a way that is providing new insight.  The beauty of Yoga is that there is never an end to what you can learn and discover, and as teachers there shouldn’t be an end to what we can offer.  Our job as teachers is to inspire our students toward growth.  If it doesn’t feel like you are supporting that yourself or your students, then it’s time to reach out for more. 

Like me, maybe you’ve reached a place of longing.  You know there is more to Yoga than choreographing a kick-ass asana class, and you are ready to peek behind the curtain.  An advanced studies teacher training certification program will show you more.  The key to expanding is your willingness. Will it show youmore of what you already know or will it take you to new and uncharted territory in your practice? 

Learning new things and exploring doing things differently cab be quite frightening.  Often it will make you feel uncomfortable as you enhance your understanding and awareness.  You may discover parts of your life or your inner world that you don’t like… it is in our Advanced Program that we take a compassion eye to ourselves and learn practice to deepen our awareness and compassion. If this feels right for you there is only one questions to ask yourself…. “Am I ready to look within and do the work?”.  

Vira Bhava Yoga 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Trainings will support you to look deeply, our training will provide the tools for discovery and will offer you the space and container to challenge your assumptions about teaching yoga in the world.  If you are ready to light a fire to your practice and teaching, then now is the time. Join us in June 2016.

Please Don’t Call Me a Yoga Teacher

It never fails.  I am settling into my seat in coach when the nicely dressed businessman sitting next to me asks, “traveling for business or pleasure?”  A deceptively simple question, that I usually answer with a simple “both.” Then comes the question I dread the most, “what do you do?”  To encapsulate this answer with a simple statement falls short of explaining my profession.  Yet, inevitably I say it.  “I am a Yoga Teacher. ”  He then tells me how his niece/daughter/friend is also a yoga teacher and begins the usual talk about how tight his hamstrings are, how he can’t touch his toes, or (my favorite) how fit I must be doing Yoga all the time. This is a gross misrepresentation of how I fill my professional hours and my personal time, but the task of redefining what it means to teach yoga seems insurmountable.

Mr. Businessman’s idea of yoga isn’t a totally inaccurate perception in the yoga industry.  I go to yoga classes from time to time that are simply physical fitness classes.  But that’s not all that’s out there. Some Yoga teachers guide their students to do more than open the hips or broaden the collar bones.

Some Yoga teachers are using the asanas (physical postures) to help students develop an understanding of themselves at the deepest level.  These teachers are helping us to understand the body as an intricate part of the whole system of our humanness, and they are helping us to see that in working with the body, we are also working with our mind, our heart, and our spirit.

So the term “Yoga teacher” is starting to fall short of the truth of what I (and many others like me) do “for a living.”  The problem is that to relegate a vast and multifaceted philosophical and scientific system to a physical workout is a mistake. The postures are the catalyst to discovery of deeper truths and a more meaningful relationship with what is real and true. They are not exercise. The breathing is a tool to experience our life in a different way, more connected and more complete.  The sensitivity to alignment is more than a way to keep the body safe, it’s a way to move and express the energy within and around us that is always working to shape our experience.

It’s time to change the conversation. For all of us who study and teach Yoga as something that is much, much bigger than physical fitness. It is time we work to reframe what it means to be a Yoga Teacher in the world today. It is time that we own the full scope of what yoga can offer and not stop short by limiting its benefits just to the body.  

What are we afraid of?  If you are a practitioner of Yoga (and not simply doing a Yoga workout), then let’s start talking about that. Can we take back the label of Yoga Teacher as source of integrity and authenticity and not just another YogaGirl YouTube spoof?  Can we revive the understanding and practice of Yoga  to be more than just our hamstrings?  

Can we bring back the term “Yoga Teacher,” and not cringe at the thought of telling Mr. Businessman what we do for a living and a life practice?