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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

Truth & Unity: Lessons from Yoga & Travel

Yoga is the tool I use to clarify who I really am. Illusion, delusion and in-authenticity melt away in the fiery physical, mental and spiritual work, and I am left with an honest expression of myself. With continued practice, I cultivate sensitivity around this honesty and find contentment in who I really am. Living yoga unifies the seemingly fragmented pieces of myself, such as mind and body, which soothes cognitive turmoil about who I am and who I want to be. I welcome these realizations because as difficult, constant and often painful self-realization work may be, it leaves me cleansed, whole and vibrant.

Living yoga may have its painful aspects – it is painful to vulnerably admit that an idea or belief we hold is not true. Whether it be damaging self-talk, delusions about ourselves, or external stories we’ve woven into the fabric of our lives, living yoga uncovers these falsehoods. For me, it is not always easy or painless to admit I was wrong and need to work harder at staying in alignment with my passions and purpose.

Travel is the tool I use to uncover the truth about the world and my relationship with others. Prejudices, falsehoods and cultural stereotypes dissolve in the authentic experience of mindful travel. Adventurous travel challenges me to open-up to new experiences with equanimity and endless occasions to expand my boundaries.

Just as yoga has the potential to uncover truth and unify our inner world, travel has the potential to uncover truth about humanity and unify us with the rest of the world.

I believe that travel is more important now than ever to connect with people, cultures and stories. Just as yoga can be a tool to uncover truth and unify ourselves, travel is vital for challenging unquestioned beliefs and shattering the lines of separation between us and the world. If we can be vulnerable, step outside of our comfort zones and connect with people, we open ourselves up to expand our preconceptions and will experience a deeper connection with humanity. Suddenly, the folks that seemed so different on TV are right in front of us – there are no screens or walls to separate us from them – and our assumptions or prejudices are directly challenged. We might discover that we share the same longing for love, expression and freedom just as they do. We may uncover similarities in our fears and misunderstandings about each other. The divisive designations of “us” and “them” begin to dissolve when we connect to each other through our shared passions.

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Similarly, with yoga, the gifts of truth and unity are abundant in travel. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to disperse confusion and fear around a culture and religion that was not understood by many, including myself. Misunderstanding and assumption created fear and before long, the divide was a gaping hole of separation and judgment. At a time when it seemed standard to fear Muslims, I had a choice to either continue my inexperienced assumptions or to uncover truth for myself.

So, off I went to study Islam for several weeks in Morocco.

What I discovered as a single woman traveling solo through a Muslim country was that in fact, Muslims are human beings going about their daily lives and businesses with similar concerns, passions and motivations as myself, my peers and every other human being I’ve ever met. I shared tea and smiles with an old shop keeper in Rabat over humorous silence because neither of us spoke a common language. This man was curious, kind and gentle toward me – qualities I work to embody in myself. Next, I learned about the progress of women’s rights over dinner with a sophisticated, educated woman in Marrakesh. She was divorced, shared custody of her children and held a government position. We talked about gender roles in Morocco and women’s increasing opportunities. Then I visited a mud-brick school that tantalized my false preconceptions about education in countries outside of the States, but the school yard was filled with smiling elementary students proudly exclaiming that they spoke 3 or more (sometimes upwards to 6) languages while I humbly spoke my one. Lastly, I met a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara Desert and purchased a handmade scarf from them. Their tradition of weaving scarves was an expression of cultural passion, creatively embodied by proud people, even while living in a nomadic tent.

When I returned from Morocco, I was more connected to myself and the world around me. I had uncovered truth, dispersed assumptions and shattered boundaries in my own mind. I discarded the fear, prejudice and confusion that weighed me down and clouded my perspective of reality. The work I put into uncovering truth through travel rewarded me with a freedom from separation and a new perspective to share with everyone. My adventure in Morocco was the first important travel I did – I say important because it was not about resorts, shopping or nightlife. The purpose of that mindful travel was to uncover truth within myself and unify me with the world around me. It taught me how rewarding and fulfilling it is to explore the world and experience other cultures.

It is how we apply these lessons from yoga and travel that enriches our lives. Sharing our experiences and connecting to more people is how we unify. It is through living yoga and mindful travel that we shatter our preconceptions about ourselves and the world around us and open ourselves up to a more meaningful, authentic life.

 

 

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Sarah is the October – December Yoga Trade Travel Representative! Sarah loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel – constantly challenging herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

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