Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Do You Teach?

Over the next couple of months my blogging will be focused on the topic of “Teaching Yoga” and is especially geared towards Yoga Teachers. However, any person interested in self-growth and/or a regular student of yoga should not hesitate to read further. Looking through the lens of a teacher (of any subject) can be illuminating and enlightening. Enjoy!

All summaries and/or excerpts to follow are from one of my forthcoming books: Teaching Yoga—A Definitive Guide.

When I first began teaching I was exuberant about it. I had no trepidation about sharing my experience and everything I knew about Yoga with others. I can equate this original feeling to standing at the foot of Mount Everest. Not yet having climbed to the peaks, but feeling as if I had by way of pictures I’d seen and books I had read.

And then, I took my first step and experienced the great feat that stood before my very eyes. I felt myself gasp for breath as I climbed higher, struggle for sure footing over rocky terrain, and feign having energy as I slept less and less due to altitude sickness. I lost touch with any belief in myself I once thought I had that “I could do this”. But in doing so, I paved a way back to something essential and potent that rested latent within.

The yogic journey, or any self-evolving practice, returns us to our essential self, that which is happy, peaceful, illuminated, radiant, and true. Because I teach yoga, and often teach specifically to yoga teachers, I have mapped out my journey thus far in detail and I take great joy in sharing this map with you.

In the beginning. . .

In Buddhist traditions there is a reference to having a “beginner’s mind”. When we choose to become a yoga teacher this is guaranteed. You’re traversing new terrain. No matter how well you have studied the map your first steps are sure to surprise you. You may even get knocked off any high horse you may be riding. My original yoga teacher training was at Mount Madonna in California. There motto, which has stuck firmly in my mind, is “teach to learn”. In this vein, I can say everything I share is an articulation to myself; a synthesis of my experience of life. Students who attend my classes are, in a way, a sounding board; an audience that efficiently educes my wisdom, often times, before I have fully become aware of it myself.

Why do you teach?

The first question I would like to propose to anyone already teaching yoga or to those who desire the occupation of teaching yoga is, “Why?” And then, I would ask, “Why?” again. Sometimes we are called to do something because of our ego attachments. We may identify with the role of being a teacher, a healer, a person with knowledge (specifically spiritual knowledge), or we may feel safe or comfortable with being in a position of power. This list could go on and on. If you give yourself permission to ask “why?” and openly allow for any answer to come you will have a useful piece of information to propel you forward on your self-growth journey. No answer is wrong or bad. It is simply information to gather about yourself or the persona you identify with. In yoga this is called Svadhaya or self-study.

Let your answer be a foundational seed that you will tenderly nourish throughout your lifetime. Watch how it grows and changes. Notice how your practice carves out more space for the light to shine down within. Realize how illumination only increases truth and your connection to the truth. In your teaching let yourself receive the great gift of being taught. See what happens when you approach your role as teacher with this attitude.

As you embrace the big picture of why you want to or already are teaching, relax. Begin to build your skill set, find your niche, be grateful for the opportunity to teach and practice, eagerly receive the teachings, and most importantly have fun.

So....Why do you teach? I look forward to reading your comments!

To assist you in building your skill set the next several blogs will outline the key aspects of teaching yoga successfully.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Therapeutic Yoga for Emotional Health

Therapeutic Yoga for Emotional Health

This Saturday, August 8th, 1-3pm

The Yoga Center of Minneapolis
Preregistration required

Emotions, often defined as energy moving, express on a biological, psychological, and energetic level. They inform you about your reality. More specifically, they inform you about what you believe.

In essence your Emotions are a tool that you've been gifted with. However, few people learn how to effectively utilize them. Yet, if you consider yourself a seeker, in search of your true self, the emotional plane must be traversed.

In Yoga philosophy the self is described as being composed of six different sheaths or koshas. They are:
1. Physical Body (annamaya kosha, awareness of sensations)
2. Energy Body (pranamaya kosha, awareness of breath and energy)
3. Emotional Body (manomaya kosha, awareness of feelings and emotions)
4. Intellectual Body (vijnanamaya kosha, awareness of thoughts, beliefs, images)
5. Joy Body (anandamaya kosha, awareness of desire, pleasure, and joy)
6. Ego Body (asmitamaya kosha, awareness of the witness or ego sense of “I”)

These six sheaths act like veils that cover up your Essential state of being which is unchanging and eternally present.

As you gain awareness of these sheaths your attachment to them lessens. This often occurs naturally as you engage in a regular practice of yoga. However, when you are identified with your emotional body (manomaya kosha) you become whatever it is you are feeling. If you feel happy, you are happy. If you feel angry, you are angry. This would not be such a bad thing if you always felt happy. But, most people experience “negative” emotions that make them feel bad.

To stop feeling your emotions (or at least the ones you don’t like) is not the answer (although many people attempt to do this with drugs, alcohol, TV, excessive business, falsified enlightenment/detachment, etc.).

To just stop identifying with your emotions is easier said than done.

So, what is the answer? How do you shift your relationship with your emotions so they can serve in your best interest and help you navigate earth in an informed way?

Here are some suggestions to explore:
1. Gain tools to help you center yourself in the midst of emotionality. Several yoga practices will be explored in my workshop this Saturday that effectively anchor you in your center where objectivity can be accessed. Such proven tools include meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), and asana (postures).

2. Create a dialogue with your emotional body. Your emotions are responses to what you believe. What you believe is a result of your conditioning. In Yoga all of your conditioning is referred to as Samskaras or imprints of experience. Samskaras organize and create vibrational patterns that crystallize into belief systems, veils and illusions that keep you from seeing the truth, unhealthy behaviors you have learned, habits you've developed, skewed perspectives that you perceive with, etc. All of your samskaras together structure your body-mind complex or ego identity. Here are steps for dialoguing with your emotional body:


If you believe your emotions or a particular emotion is bad you will have a hard time hearing what it is trying to tell you. You are in a state of resistance. Try asking yourself, “what if my anxiety (or fill in the blank) wasn’t bad?” “What is it actually trying to tell me?” When we accept what is we connect with the flow of life and the flow of life is ever-changing. Sometimes the mere acceptance of what it is you are truly feeling allows that emotion to liberate you from the confines of your mind. Rather than remaining powerless to what it is you are feeling it begins to serve you in a positive way by informing you about your reality.

Once you’ve accepted your emotional body, invite yourself to feel it physically. Emotions (energy moving) are meant to flow. However, when we resist them or numb out to them they get lodged in our being and create health issues.

As you feel your emotions, name them. “I am sad, angry, anxious, etc.” See if you can describe how it feels in your body and mind: “my heart is racing”, “I want to run away”, “I feel paralyzed with fear”, “my body is trembling”, “I feel like I’m going crazy”, “my hands are sweating”.

Emotions express physiologically through our body. The neuro-endocrine system releases hormones that are distributed via the blood stream to every cell in the body which creates feeling states on the physical plane. Sometimes it can be beneficial to support the metabolization of these hormones via movement. For example, a really angry person may find relief and a more receptive state after a kick-boxing class. A sad person may feel lighter after a good cry.

The intention is not to eliminate your emotional body, but rather have it serve you and your unfolding life. Your emotions are the result of what you believe. To gain freedom from chronic emotional upset you must begin to examine your belief systems and your samskaras or past conditioning. Often the life you live is based on belief systems that you do not actually believe in! There are limitless approaches available to explore the deeper meaning behind your emotions. Here is one simple practice to begin with: (from Traveling Free by Mandy Evans).

1. Choose a belief to explore: “I believe_______________________.”

2. Ask yourself: (all answers are correct)
a. Do I believe that?
b. Why do I believe that?
c. Is that true?

3. Now ask yourself: “What would happen if I didn’t believe that?”

4. Then ask: “Would that be ok?”

Another approach that I have been utilizing for many years is UTUE Clearing. UTUE stands for Universal Truth, Ultimate Education. This system eliminates negative emotions as well as the underlying beliefs, rules, illusions, behaviors, etc that limit us. It works! Feel free to contact me directly if you’d like more information about this approach or visit UTUE online www.utue.org to learn more.

To explore these ideas and learn more about how Yoga can support your emotional health sign up to attend my workshop this Saturday, August 8th, 1-3pm, at The Yoga Center of Minneapolis, Pre-registration required.

I hope to see you there!