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Authenticity in Yoga Teaching

Before starting to talk about authenticity in teaching yoga, let’s look first at what is personal authenticity? Authentic, that is something genuine… Authenticity; being real, being true to yourself…

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  ~Oscar Wilde

The root of the word “authenticity” in Latin language is “author”, so being “authentic” is mostly about being the “author” of your own personality.

Referring to Art (we all humans are a work of art eventually, no?), Tate Gallery shares that; ”Authenticity is a term used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.”

Which is, no room for copying…

To put it in an another way, authenticity is living your life in such a way that every one of your actions is aligned with your real purpose. Not changing things according to other people’s beliefs, or not wearing any other people’s authenticity on you. And it is not a question of whether you have it or not. We all do, we are all authentic. As I said, we are all already a piece of art. But it is a matter of how you practice your authenticity and how much of it you want to have. No one can be you, and you cannot be anyone. That is for sure. But how much are your actions aligned with ”your” purpose, not anyone else’s?

In Bhagavad Gita Verse 3.35, Krishna says that; ”It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous” (Bhagavad -gita As It Is, Swami Prabhupada).

We cannot separate yoga from life.

Actually, it is not really necessary to make a difference between being an authentic person and an authentic yoga teacher. We cannot separate the practice of teaching from the practice of being human, but we can at least try to narrow down the scope, special to yoga teachers.

I like to approach authenticity in teaching yoga in two different ways. First one is sticking to ”being yourself”, not stepping back from it and the second one is not trying to be ”anybody else”, or in another way, not using any other person’s voice. They may sound the same but let me explain.

How to define an authentic yoga teacher?

If we look back to the definition of authenticity, it says ”living a life in such a way that every one of the actions are aligned with one’s real purpose”. It brings us to the point of living a life with yogic understanding, and here, I do not mean a yogic life with only practicing yoga poses. Basically, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga into life.

And when you live in this way, it will make you a passionate, balanced and present yoga teacher, who is being her / himself and not trying to make everyone happy, with the risk of losing authenticity.
What is this ”voice”?

Let’s take a look at authenticity from the other perspective, from the perspective of having a ”voice”.

Finding your own voice as a yoga teacher is not easy, it takes years of teaching and this ”voice” is also something that is changing and evolving over time. And it is not something that you can bring from outside, it needs to arise from within you.
But yes for inspiration…

Let’s put first things first: None of the teachings belong to one yoga teacher and we are all just servers, to the goodness and happiness of all beings. We just transmit the teachings that we learn from our teachers. When we think like this, none of us are authentic, right?
But are we not really?

The key here is, being yourself, being authentic, while creating your own voice, with the same teachings we all share.

It is all in our mind-set. For example when we learn or hear something new, first of all we need to think about: Does it really make sense to me? Can I really feel that expression, that cue? Or do we just want to use it exactly as it is because it sounds nice…

So what about first fully understanding, feeling and digesting the new things and after expressing them with our own words and authentic voice? You can use it in such a way in your flow of teaching that it can be ”yours”. And then you will let it go and another authentic teacher will take it from you and express it with his or her own style. Beautiful, isn’t it? We are all students and teachers, at the same time.

 

 

 

Derya’s passion for lifelong learning and her curiosity about different cultures, different bodies and energy work brought her to Southeast Asia 3 years ago. She started her yoga and Thai yoga massage journey in Turkey and has been sharing her love for these two abroad in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Once she found “home” within herself, all countries became her home. Derya’s passion is movement and her goal is to show the strength, gracefulness and beauty of being in a body when it is aligned inwardly and supported by a steady breath. She wants to inspire her students with the possibility of waking up every morning with an enthusiasm and thirst for learning new things.

Connect:

IG: @deryadenizyoga

Facebook: Derya Deniz Yoga

Nama-Stay Yourself: 5 Tips to Teaching Yoga with Authenticity

I didn’t expect that teaching yoga would in turn teach me so many lessons.

Teaching with authenticity came as an unexpected challenge as a new teacher.

Without knowing what was going on in the bodies and minds of my students, I felt unable to stand strong in my own feet and in my own voice. I naturally began to defend my vulnerabilities by creating a separation between the students and myself. Teaching became a performance where I felt like I was on a stage with an audience.

I have learned that if we want our students to feel comfortable, secure and connected we must strip off our masks and face our students as we are- allowing them to be exactly as they are.

“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious.”– Rumi

 

1) Practice, then Preach

Teach only what you know. Self-practice will give you the deepest understanding of yoga that you can then share with others. You are only able to share your experience with your students. It is not possible to teach something that you have not yet experienced for yourself. This would be like teaching a language that you cannot yet understand. Anyone can repeat the words of someone else but to teach effectively you must be able to express what it is you have learned. Share your practice.

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2) Yoga is Connection

Make direct contact with your students. Through speech, sight and touch you have all the tools to connect with every student. Ask questions – create a safe environment for people to interact with you. Make eye contact – let people know that you are seeing them. Always first assess what the students are comfortable with, but people generally like to be hands – on adjusted. Safely assisting and supporting your students can immediately create a connection. You are not a YouTube video – take advantage of being in real time!

 

3) Teach People, Not Poses

Respond to your students. If you are not cultivating awareness of your students while teaching them – how can you expect them to be aware of what you are teaching? Teaching is never one – way but a reciprocal process. You are teaching unique individuals. Stay tuned into how the class is receiving and responding to what you are saying. Approach the students with a sense of curiosity and respond according to their needs. Each moment is a mystery and so is each class – each student brings something new that you can learn from – stay present.

 

4) To be Sacred does not mean to be Serious

Enjoy yourself. Trust me that if you are not enjoying teaching – no one else will be IMG_0235enjoying your teaching either. You are creating a space for people to explore themselves as living human beings – dropping into the excitement and aliveness that exists in each moment. Teach what you feel passionate about so you are able to share this joy. Remember not to take yourself too seriously, as it’s not really about you anyways!

 

5) Live Yoga

As a teacher, it is your responsibility to maintain the practice outside of the class and into the world around you. This does not mean you should attempt to be who you think is the “perfect yoga instructor” but to live your truth – making conscious choices of how you interact with life. It’s not about having anything – the perfect practice, the perfect diet or even a smile always on your face – but about cultivating awareness to your relationship with yourself and the world around you – in every possible moment. You have the opportunity to share the reasons why you practice and teach yoga that stretch far beyond the mat and into the world – share this.

May everything we do benefit all beings.

 

 

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Sacha is a Yoga Trade Travel Representative – living nomadically all over the globe as a student and teacher of yoga. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga as a way of living in connection with oneself and the living world around us.

Yoga Work Exchange in Panama

How Did I Get Here? The Unexpected Fruits I Found After Giving Up the Reins

A Yoga Work Exchange Story

It was my last night at Palmar Tent Lodge and the sky was painted with an array of burnt oranges, pinks, and deep blues. I stood close enough to the water so I could feel it on my toes, and as I watched the sun set I felt my heart so full of love and happiness that it seemed like it would overflow. I inhaled a deep, salty-aired breath and tried not to think about saying goodbye to a place that was now home. A place that felt like I’d forever be returning to in my mind.

I looked over at Palmar’s sleepy little lodge a few yards away and watched as the guests Screen-Shot-2015-09-01-at-3.15.19-PMbegan to trickle in for cocktails and cheap rum shots. So many late nights had been spent there in the past three months. The booze, the laughter, the celebration of new friends, life, and the thrill of travel, all the memories I tried to run through one by one so I could hold on to them tight. After a few moments my boyfriend walked out from behind the bar and made his way down the beach to join me. We stood there together, silently watching the waves, the island, and the setting sun, and I felt completely whole. My life was different. I was different.


My expectations for what I would find on Bastimentos Island were hilariously square. When I got news that I had been hired as the resident yoga teacher at Palmar Tent Lodge in Panama, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of how my trip was going to go. To ensure this, I immediately told myself the stipulations and expectations of my journey. Six weeks. Work. Live. Make friends. NO BOYS. Practice every day. Meditate. Relax. Be a model teacher. And when it was all over, go home. It would be a well-deserved graduation gift to myself before beginning my next chapter into adulthood.


The trip, however, had its own plans. Apart from only doing a few of the aforementioned things, my six-week-turned-three-month journey became a long strange trip, weaving itself into an experience that was something much greater than I could’ve conceived. While at first I fought to fit my experience into the box I thought it should be in, I slowly began to do something I wasn’t fully comfortable with and just let go.


I pushed myself to do away with how I thought I should and shouldn’t act in my role as “the yoga teacher” and the things I should and shouldn’t do to get the most out of my travel time. Rather, I just tried to be. Much to my surprise, the more I let go of the reins, the more the good stuff began to flow.


Allowing myself the freedom to explore and let go of my parameters helped my quirks IMG_4775and offbeat humor shine through my day to day life at Palmar no matter if I was teaching, serving tables, or having a friendly conversation with someone on the beach. By letting go of some of these deep-seated perceptions of what defines me and what I need to be happy I began to experience deeper and more fulfilling connections with others and myself. I fell in love. I made lifelong friends. I taught good classes and bad. I partied, practiced, cried, skinny-dipped, stayed up all night and slept in too late. I ate horrible junk food and ridiculously fresh fish. I celebrated birthdays, the arrival of friends, the departure of friends, and everything in between.


Many nights I’d wake up with a spider scurrying across my skin or a bat hanging above my head in the bathroom. The bug bites were out of this world and at times the heat could be unbearably stifling. And none of it really seemed to matter because I can say, without the slightest bit of hesitation, that it was the time of my life.


Before I knew it three months had gone by. I was laying in bed at the volunteer house, watching a small boa constrictor moving its way about the rafters, and it hit me; this was me living that weird, crazy, and exotic life that I had always read about cooler, more Instagram/blog savvy yoga teachers doing. This was the life that I was wholeheartedly seeking but was too afraid to let go, be myself, and receive.


Now, stateside for a solid five months, I wake up every day and think about traveling again. My old life and my old self don’t quite fit anymore. I feel like the world has opened my door and is constantly beckoning me to come outside and play.


Next up is Southeast Asia and I’m trying to not set such rigid guidelines for myself or the journey like I did before. All I know is this: my best friend (the boy from the beach) will be by my side, I’ll be carrying my life in a backpack, and I will be holding on to the unbridled belief that something amazing is out there waiting for me to let go and welcome it in.

 

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Bren is a is a lighthearted, happy-go-lucky yogini that has reaped the many joys of teaching abroad and at home for the past four years. A sort of “jane of all trades,” she can be found twirling fire, cooking, or hula hooping at any given moment.

http://www.brenharperyoga.com

IG: @br3nnnn