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Keeping On

ashtanga community practice tim miller yoga teacher Jul 02, 2018

Today marks the beginning of my third month in Encinitas. And, so far (as I should perhaps have expected somehow, although it’s naturally impossible to expect this) nothing has gone as I planned. I realize now, though, that perhaps I’m not the one doing the planning.

When I announced to my community that I would be taking a sabbatical and leaving DC to study with Tim Miller for a year, I told them to keep doing their practice. We all need to remember that practicing because of an attachment to a teacher is a dead end. In fact, to practice for any reason other than a love for the practice is a dead end. Practicing because you love a teacher is like looking for something you’ll never find - teachers can give us a false sense of permanency, especially considering how formative a good teacher can be, but one of the most crucial things this practice teaches us every day is that nothing is permanent.

I certainly didn’t think that I would get here and be confronted with this exact thing just a few weeks after my arrival in Encinitas, but then Tim was hospitalized right before the primary series teacher training was scheduled to begin. (Carol Miller, his wife has asked that we respect his privacy, keep him in our thoughts, and do our practices).

In April when I was apartment hunting, I told Tim I would be here soon, that I would help him anyway I could, and that he could use me. And now, as I count the coincidences, it all feels eerie. 

On the morning that the teacher training was to start, I was asked to teach it along with Holly and Adam. I was out here to study and to practice - I never thought I was good enough to teach at the AYC. I remember my first few visits, basically idolizing the teachers here and how knowledgeable they are, how they carry themselves in the room, how they serve Tim and the community. And suddenly, I was one of them.

Filling in for Tim is no easy task, but, guided by his influence on our own lives and practices, we did a great job and hopefully allowed him to rest easy knowing that the teaching was in good hands. I got to teach with people I love, with students at a level beyond asana. They practiced their hearts out, seemingly without attachment to a teacher. They set a beautiful example of love for the practice, for each other and for us as well. The group had come from all over the world to practice with Tim, and they hadn’t gotten him. But that didn’t stop them from practicing. 

Teaching for two weeks straight here was particularly hard for me. At home in DC, I have a support system and a team of assistants behind me, supporting me, making it all a little easier. This practice has given me so much, but it has also taken a lot from me. I’ve always had a hard time managing my energy when I teach; I tend to give too much away and take on too much weight from my students. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to recharge the battery, and I’m still teaching myself to actually do that.

It took me years to finally follow my heart to Encinitas. People tell me that I got here right in time, but I feel like I’m a decade late.

Yes, I came here to study with Tim. But I also came to practice as a member of a community, surrounded by people who inspire me. Where people are series more advanced than I am. Where I can put my mat down next to a number of other practitioners, and practice advanced series with them pose by pose and feed off the energy of the group. In a room where 50 year olds do fourth series, where kids sit outside and read during practice, where people have rearranged their schedules to practice and the room is often full at 11am. Half the people here moved from other states just to study with Tim. This is a place where people have prioritized practice over almost everything else. I am not an outlier here - I’m the norm. 

So, I’ll continue what I came to do. Finish learning fourth series, serve Tim, and reclaim part of my life that I lost in teaching so much for so many years. Even though the past few weeks have been particularly hard, I trust that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I came out here to reclaim a part of myself and my practice that I felt I’d drifted away from (or had drifted away from me). But I was only really able to begin doing this when my plan went out the window, and along with it some of my attachments and perceptions of myself and what I was capable of.

I can’t say enough thanks to all the people at home who’ve sent me cupcakes and dog walkers and acupuncture treatments and just simple well-wishes to make this all so much easier for me. Being a teacher can feel really lonely sometimes, and it’s nice to be reminded that we’re not alone in this at all. Thank you to all my helpers near and far who had my back so that I could have Tim’s. Reflecting on the independence that this day connotes, we all think of ourselves as independent, and it’s true to a degree, but that’s only strengthened by all the other independent people in our communities who bolster us with support and love and collaboration without giving it a second thought and enable us to share that support - with them, with each other, and with ourselves.

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Check out all the teachers at the AYC who set a beautiful example of practicing yoga, do an amazing job teaching it, and who I have learned so much from.

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About Jen René

Hey there! I'm a dedicated Ashtanga teacher and fourth series practitioner. I'm also a Pilates enthusiast. I taught my first class in 2005. And since then I have learned lots of amazing tricks that can help you on your own yoga journey.


Connect with Me! @jenreneyoga