The journey of becoming a yoga teacher.
Our Philosophy of yoga classes are led by yoga teacher Darren Main, author ofYoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic. His wit and humor, infusing the philosophical teachings with stories and anecdotes, inform and entertain us, as well as keep us awake during these Friday night classes.
“So, what does yoga mean to you?” That’s one of the first questions Darren posed. And, it means something different to everyone. What we learned from Darren is that yoga is both a noun, i.e. the state in which there is an absence of perceived separation, and a verb, i.e. the joining together of that which is perceived to be separate.
We learned that Hatha, symbolically, is the union of the sun and moon. Hatha, more literally in Sanskrit, means willful or forceful, meaning that when we do Hatha yoga poses willfully, with intention, it also focuses the mind, through attention and awareness. We are observing, instead of reacting, harmonizing the contrasting parts of us. So, yoga is really about changing our consciousness. It teaches us not to react to that which is painful, but instead to witness it, to acknowledge its presence and just be with it, until it passes.
This is so similar to what I’ve learned through my spiritual practice, from teacher/philosophers like Ernest Holmes and Eckhart Tolle — that our ego is always pulling us into the past, mostly through regret, or into the future, mostly through anxiety or anticipation, and it’s up to us to know that we are not our thoughts – that we are the silent watcher, witnessing our thoughts, and not reacting to them. And, that our thoughts create our reality, so we might as well keep them focused on the positive, and focus on what we want.
It’s so gratifying to see my spiritual studies and my yoga practice come together in such alignment, as I’m sure is happening with other trainees as well. In fact, Darren is about to start the Living Yoga Series on Thursdays at Unity Spiritual Center in San Francisco (http://darrenmain.com/schedule/the-living-yoga-series). The series will explore the living practice of yoga. By drawing on the wisdom and texts of ancient India, the group will reflect on ways in which a modern yogi can live more mindfully in every aspect of life.
With a few lessons of Anatomy under our belt, we were introduced to Alignment, under the guidance and expertise of Sean Haleen. Sean is fearless in demonstrating what to do and what not to do, in terms of proper alignment. This creates a feeling of safety and security in the class when he calls on various trainees to demonstrate certain asanas, so he can then talk us through what to look for. His sense of humor and levity make it enjoyable and memorable to learn something that is so significant for a safe yoga practice.
He taught us to teach to what we see in the room, not to just revert to autopilot, and mimic back what we’ve learned or what our own yoga teachers have ingrained in us. This brings us back to the whole concept of being present, which applies to every aspect of yoga – practicing it, teaching it, etc. Presence is probably the most challenging thing as a new teacher, as it will take some time to get comfortable teaching in our unique style, without one eye on the clock and the other on a mental ”cue card.”
So, it’s such a relief that we started teaching each other poses in Day One of Sean’s class. While it was unexpected, it threw us right into why most of us are here, and enabled us to start getting comfortable directing other people into and out of poses. It teaches us how to project our voices to be heard, but not yell; to find our way through pacing the poses; and to be present and look at what we see with whoever we are “instructing” each day.
One of the most important things I learned in this first weekend of Alignment, was how to check for locked knees, something my knees have been known to do. It was a great reminder and something I will try to incorporate into my own yoga practice more often.