An Ashtanga Teacher's Five Keys

 

I try to make a point of taking a minute every so often to reflect on what I believe in as a teacher. I think it helps me to not only be a better teacher, but a better practitioner. There are a handful that have grown with me, the way my practice has grown with me. I believe that yoga is for everyone. I believe it’s for every body type, every gender, every race, every lifestyle, every schedule, every diet, every body. I believe it belongs to everybody. As a teacher, I believe most importantly that the practice journey belongs to the student. These are my four keys to remembering that.

 

I believe in making the posture work for the person; not the other way around.

It’s so easy to act like there’s any real knowability to a posture, to tell ourselves that there’s a “right” way that every single body should be able to achieve, and any other way is failure. But anybody with a body knows, if they’re being honest with themselves, that this just isn’t always the case. Whatever the cause, sometimes there are just differences in our practices, and I believe that it’s better to learn adaptability in this practice than it is to force a body into shapes it isn’t meant to go yet.

 

I believe Ashtanga can have a zero percent injury rate.

People so often think that injury is just a part of the Ashtanga practice, but I don’t think this needs to be the case. I’ve certainly faced injury in the course of my own practice journey, and I know a lot of people have, but I just refuse to believe that it’s an inevitability. I think that because so many of us have felt like our injuries could’ve been avoided, it’s on us as teachers to lead and to work with our students in a way that deeply engages with the practice while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood of injury. Every teacher has the knowledge and skills to make sure that students can reach all their goals safely — accidents will happen, but injury should not be an accepted part of the practice.

 

I believe that the heart of the yoga practice is different for each person.

So much of what I write is about the fact that every yoga journey is unique — what’s crucial about that, though, is that it’s just a reflection of each individual’s life. The journey of yoga is unique in the very same way that the journey of each one of our lives is unique, and what’s important about it will vary from individual to individual, and will change over time, and the specific benefits of it will vary and change. Our priorities, both in life and in the practice, grow and evolve just as we do. Respect wherever on the journey your student may be.

 

I believe in bearing witness to my students’ journeys and transformations.

Ultimately, I think the role of the teacher is just that: Bearing witness. We pass along the instruction, the same instruction that was passed on to us, and we share our own thoughts and perspectives on it, and we make some adjustments and help the students out in the tangible ways that they ask us to, but what it’s really all about is being there. We’re not there to tell them how to transform, but to guide them in the practice and watch the effect it has on their lives. It’s both the greatest responsibility of being a teacher and the greatest gift.

 

I believe that each person has a stake in how the tradition of Ashtanga will evolve.

The information is in the practice, and we as teachers need to act accordingly and hold ourselves accountable to our practices. Continue to experiment, decide what you value, share what you learn. As a teacher, I am committed to teaching from my heart and with integrity, to putting myself out there and sharing my unique representation of Ashtanga yoga, and to honoring myself and honoring the past.

 

 

 

 


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