Instructing people who practice yoga

What an incredible day it is here in Redding! It’s perfectly sunny and 75 degrees, and it’s November 13th. I’m sitting in my backyard with a cup of jasmine green tea (organic, free trade, and non-chlorine bleached paper tea bags, of course, from Numi), overlooking the pool, and the open space park that backs up against it. I know, it sounds all incredibly glamorous, being that I am in California and all, but there are real, non-glamorous things here as well (a black tarp along the fence rustling in the wind, the random pool toys littered about, the knocked over flower pot, the large burn pile of yard debris, leaves all over, the pool lining tearing, etc), but like ALL of life, I choose to look at the positive, and celebrate it. All of course, without ignoring the things that need to be changed, cleaned up, worked on, etc.

I have been teaching yoga now for 3 years! I can hardly believe it really. It was this month 3 years ago that I was asked by my pastor to lead my 25 person ministry team through a daily yoga practice while we were working with a church in Madrid, Spain. Wow. What a life changing trip, on so many levels. I had no idea it would lead me to where I am today, nor that I would fall more and more in love with yoga.

I taught one of my land yoga classes this morning and was talking with one of my students after class about his desire to teach. He used to coach sports and has some old injuries that make some poses and transitions very difficult or impossible. I asked him why he wanted to teach and heard a passion that is inspiring. Because of his background and experience he wants to lead, encourage, and inspire more men (and women) into the health benefits of yoga and knows that he can in a way that is unique and different than other instructors. It was a really great conversation and helps me remember why I started and show me how far I have grown and changed.

One of the struggles I have had as an instructor was the feeling that I needed to address everyone’s concern, everyone’s injury, everyone’s goals, and everyone’s problems. As I have gained experience, I have realized that I cannot, AND, I am ok with that. It is much like me looking at this yard: there is so much work that needs to be done here, but wow, it is still so beautiful, right now! It’s about trusting and believing that I am doing the best I can, keeping people’s best into consideration, of course, but also not taking things personally. It’s really not even about me! I have so enjoyed the practice of yoga for this reason: it has helped me to put into reality (practice), all the nice things that we hear at church, all the inspirational promptings we read in some famous person’s quote, all the incredible feats that we see in someone we admire. Yoga creates the opportunity to practice, in a safe place, so we can then carry this revelation out beyond the studio, or off the paddleboard. What a gift it is.

I pray a lot, as 1 Timothy 5:17 suggests, “Pray without ceasing” and have been striving to live my life as a continuous prayer (after all it is not feasible to be kneeling with hands folded and head bowed 24-7). Yoga has been the biggest vehicle by which I have gained progress in this goal. I pray for people’s lives to be changed and bettered through their interaction with me. I pray for the earth to be as wonderful as heaven (Matthew 6:10, Habakkuk 2:14). I pray for people to be healed. I pray for wisdom personally, locally, nationally, and for us all to take a stand for what is right, regardless of some short term discomfort we may feel. I pray for peace.

May my experience help you to choose the higher path, the better way. I could have easily gotten offended at my yoga student today because he gave me some great constructive criticism, but I chose not to. It’s getting easier each time because I am practicing. Like a physical posture/pose, yoga helps us to mentally grow healthier too. What are you choosing?

Namaste.

What is my heart for my yoga classes and my students?

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I have had people ask ‘What are your yoga classes like? What is your vision? What makes you different?’ These have been great questions for me to think about and work on formulating into understandable points, not only for others but for myself. As with all instructors, I have a particular style and way of teaching but there is power in knowing where you are, right here, right now. It allows for assessment and thus helps direct the future, it lines up like-minded and passionate people, and gives a person confidence and/or fuel for change. I teach and lead my students in this activity in my classes, now, it’s time for me to do the same.

My heart is for people to walk away from my classes more than just strengthened. My hope is that my students also walk away different: more relaxed, peaceful, while at the same time stronger and more confident. I want my students to feel and be equipped, more able to face life and decisions, confident yet humble, restful yet strong; a humble and valiant warrior enjoying each moment. I want my students to en-joy life, no matter the circumstances! In my flow classes we open and build up to more complex poses while I encourage and adjust them as necessary. We take breaks after difficult poses because I want them to regain the deep breathing if they lost it; I want them to visualize themselves strong, confident, and joyful in the pose again; I want them to check in with their body’s to see if they are pushing themselves too far, or not far enough. I have my students take a moment or two to recover because in life we do that each and every night we go to sleep. Our muscles (including our brain!) cannot repair, rebuild, or grow stronger if we do not take a break. Most people I come across don’t have a problem barreling and pushing through poses or asanas or even life for that matter and comparing themselves with their neighbor in a “I want to keep up with the Joneses” sort of way. Most people need to actually stop comparing and listen to what the Creator is whispering to them through their body, their mind, and their spirit. I create and allow space for this in my yoga classes. I allow time to reflect, in a safe and peaceful place, as I encourage my students into trying new things that deep down they may not believe they can actually accomplish. Most people I come across don’t believe in themselves and feel quite hopeless in one area or another. It is my passion to change that and I get to every time I teach a yoga class.

How do I do this? For starters, I have had to work on believing in myself, believing in a powerful, loving, and joyful God that wants to see all people live full and happy lives, trusting that I have what it takes, and stepping out, over and over again, even if I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. In my classes, I do this through the encouragement of smiles in hard poses, deep breathes in twists and holds, and steady but soft gazes in balance asanas. I allow time for my students to visualize themselves in poses that they want to master, imagining what they smell, how they feel, what their body is doing, what the mat or SUP board feels like under their feet, hands, belly, etc. I am a teacher and as such it is my responsibility to create an atmosphere of practical application of principles that most of us have heard for years. My yoga classes are where you can put theory into practice and have some fun doing it!

Thankfully time and time again I hear my students say that this is what they receive. It’s encouraging to me that I am making a difference through something that some would say is inconsequential: a yoga or SUP yoga class. I hope you can experience this for yourself too, whether it be in one of my classes or not: a peaceful strength as you courageously live this life fully alive, joyful, present, strong. May my life be a challenge and example of what is possible to those who believe and may the world never be the same because of it, practically through your life, your neighbor’s, and mine.

Namaste!