I spent the weekend in Austin, TX leading a 3-day practice Intermediate-Advanced Asana Intensive called The Power of Practice. We had a great turnout and worked our way through a big long list of poses— standing poses, arm balances, hip openers, back bends, forward bends, and twists. Given that I taught for over ten years in Austin, TX, there were long-term students of mine present as well as a lot of students who were students of my students with students of their own.
A practice intensive is an instructional, facilitated, and guided group practice in which I practice along with the group. I also get up, help people, explain my perspectives and answer questions. But, a practice intensive is not me walking around the whole time with an “eagle eye” on everyone while making corrections and adjustments. I love this format because I made so much progress in group practice with my teachers when they taught in a similar style. I also love this format because group practice keeps me in the game of strong work where I receive the benefit of the group support.
Don’t get me wrong— I think highly instructional, feed-back-oriented classes are crucial so we learn how to work on the poses. I think practice-based classes are useful because we also need to let the poses work on us and allow progress to happen through repetition over a long period of time. I think web courses are awesome because participants can stop the videos, repeat, review, and in my programs, sit down to a lecture and take notes without feeling like the explanation compromises the time they have set aside for physical practice. I think workshops and trainings of all kinds contribute to our yoga education in ways too numerous and varied to name.
My point is, I am not a one-size, one-style, one-approach type of yoga student or teacher. For me, teaching styles and learning circumstances are more like a kaleidoscope— they fall into a unique pattern within and throughout our journey; illumined by the same light of yoga, yet reflecting the knowledge differently person to person and over time.
So- this was a practice intensive. We laughed, worked hard, and covered a lot of territory. After three long days in a room with committed students, I went to bed with a heart full of gratitude for practice, community, and the Grace that binds us to the teachings, to ourselves, and to one another. Drifting off to sleep, I realized that, while for many years, I felt that I was a practitioner first and foremost and what made me a teacher was the fact that people came to my classes to learn. I always felt like I would be practicing whether or not I was teaching.
However, I recognized that, over the last few years, I have needed the support, challenge, camaraderie, and inspiration of my students— not to stay inspired in my teaching— but to stay committed to my practice. After all this time, a small honest voice inside reminded me that the last few years I have found it harder than ever to prioritize asana practice and having regular intensives with my advanced students has kept me showing up through those less-than-inspired times.
Once again, I am reminded that lineage flows both ways. (And I don’t mean lineage related as a string of gurus but simply the chain of the student, the teachers, the teacher’s teachers and so on.) As much as I find it rewarding and fulfilling to be any kind of witness, guide, or helper for my students in their journey, my students are my witnesses, guides, and helpers as well. My mistakes, blind spots, confusions and missed opportunities are as much a part of my offering as the successes, joys, and shared celebrations. And, none of that is possible without students. I have always recognized our interdependence and have invested considerable soul searching (and quite a bit of psychotherapy) to be able to grow my capacity to serve that bond reliably and compassionately. And this weekend took my appreciation deeper.
I stayed an extra day in Austin and went to a great Bikram class and then I ran an 2-hour Asana Junkies group practice at Bfree (which was super-fun and left me sore, which I fondly blame on Ricky Tran and viparita chakrasana, which is part of the same story about how friends, students and colleagues are important because we need to borrow faith, inspiration and motivation from one another to keep going). This morning I went to my sister’s Iyengar yoga class and we are now up in Waco visiting Dad. I fly to Denver tomorrow and then to Tucson for the writing and yoga course this weekend. (Another example of how I am leaning into group support for my own unfolding. More on that next week!)
Follow This Blog
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."