Every yoga teacher will tell you that they are still a yoga student. Or at least, they should. If anyone tells you they have it all worked out and you should follow them, it might be best to turn and walk the other way.
This fall, I felt it was time for me to embrace being a student again. I chose to return to my roots and come back to one of my first teachers, spending time returning to classical yoga practices and study. This week, home for me is a little Airbnb in Houston, going each day to the Institute of Spirituality and Heath at the Texas Medical Center to practice with my original teacher trainer, Lex Gillan. I last saw him 18 years ago for my first Yoga Teacher Training Program in New Mexico. I was young (25!) and had been practicing yoga sporadically for a few years. Soon after graduation, I moved to Seattle to begin my yoga teaching career.
As far as yoga goes, Lex is old school in a way that I don’t see much anymore in the yoga world, and I just love it. He started practicing yoga in the 60’s and was granted permission to teach from Ram Dass. He opened one of the first yoga studios in the US in 1973, which is still in existence today. I was drawn to returning to train with him because of the wisdom he has to share from a lifetime of practice, and for his no-nonsense approach to yoga. There is nothing fad about how he teaches, nothing hip, no new take on alignment. Just simple, pure, yoga.
The asana practice we are doing is simple, clean, and authentic. We do fewer poses and hold them for longer periods of time that you see in most typical western yoga classes. It is challenging and calls forth deep focus and concentration. We spend a lot of time on pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation. In returning to the roots of my practice, I am reminded that there is no rush. As Lex says, “yoga is slo-mo.” We all have a lifetime to learn and grow and develop on our yoga path.
As students, we are sometimes (ahem…often) impatient with ourselves. We want our yoga poses to be better, we want to be more flexible, we want that sore shoulder or bum knee to not be as it is. We want our meditation to not be so chaotic, and we judge ourselves for not growing at the rate we think we should. We want there to be a clear, always upward trajectory of improvement in our lives and in our practice. You’re not alone, I do it too.
This week, 18 years after I first trained to teach yoga, I have gained a fresh perspective on what growth in yoga practice looks like. I can see clearly both how I have grown in my yoga practice and teaching, and how much more there is. I am stronger and understand the subtleties of the poses more. My meditation is much steadier than it was 18 years ago. Teaching is generally smooth and easy now, where when I began, it took effort to think of each word out of my mouth, how to link the postures together, how to teach a breath practice.
And on the other hand, today I let my ego get the better of me, and pushed myself too hard in practice. I felt a strong, familiar twinge in my back and had to rest for the rest of the day. Ah well, here I am again. Still a student. Still learning. Still a beginner. Let go of the ego, be humble. Begin again. I am reminded that I will always be a student. There is always more to learn.
But just here is just fine for now.
When I did that first yoga training at a ranch in the high desert of New Mexico, I felt as if I had both learned so much in those days and weeks, and at the same time, had just dipped my toe in the vast ocean of wisdom that is yoga. Perhaps now I have tasted a bit more, but the ocean is expansive, and there is always incomprehensibly more. It is a relief, in a way, to know I can always be a student, and that there is no rush to learn it all. Yoga is slo-mo.
No matter what your interest in the yoga path is, it is my honor and my privilege to get to provide the space of the Source Yoga studios for you to come and deepen into an investigation of the self, to get to explore yoga and all it has to offer. We can be students together, finding our way along the path. In the words of Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
P.S. I am truly happy and inspired to be nearing the end of our 2nd year of training new yoga teachers. I am blown away by the growth in a relatively short amount of time of these teacher trainees, and I am truly excited to see where they go next on this journey. Rebecca Ray and I are gearing up to start our next teacher training program in early 2019, and I am curious about who will dive in to the ocean with us…might it be you that takes that leap? If you are curious about teaching or simply diving deep into yoga and mindfulness practice, please join us for an info session on Sunday, October 7th, 10:30am, in the lobby of our University Place Studio. Learn more here.