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Meditation As A Lifesaver

It was the day before my birthday (May 21st, 2019) and I decided to celebrate at Shipwreck Beach on Kaua’i. I didn’t expect to go cliff diving that day, but it ended up happening and meditation practices saved me. I remember looking at the cliff and saying to myself, “That shit is way too high, I’m not jumping off of that.” About five seconds after my thought, two guys walked by and were talking about jumping. So I went ahead and followed them. Before I got to the cliff, I read a warning sign:  Diving or Jumping May Lead to Serious Injury or Death. The first guy jumped and his friend looked at me and nervously chuckled as he said, “Well, I had to make sure he made it before I jump.”  He then jumped in, then I followed landing perfectly in the sea.

All was well, until I swam back to the surface and realized that both my contacts flew out of my eyes due to the impact. At that point I was blind. I could, however, make out a slight blur of the two guys swimming like torpedo dolphins for a split second before they were out of my sight. I began to swim back to what I believed was the shore. I swam like a turtle, because that’s how I swim. I began to notice that the strong waves and current were pulling me toward the cliff’s gigantic rocks. I wasn’t making any distance from the cliff. I then realized I was going into a panic. I was over exhausting my mind with fear. This was causing me to use an excessive amount of energy.

I knew I had to find a way back to a calmer state of mind, so I started focusing on my breath. I began to find myself in a meditative state of being fully present. I couldn’t see the beach, but I could feel the current of the waves pushing me toward the shore. I knew the currents were too strong to fight head-on. So, instead I swam sideways, parallel to the current. I thought to myself, “This is how people die and, if I’m going to die. I’m going to die in gratitude enjoying every moment I have left.” This time I swam like a dignified turtle. With every stroke, I started to use a simple breathing mantra I do when meditating – “Inhale Thank, Exhale You.” I began observing my thoughts changing. I would not allow myself to die here! I thought to myself, “I won’t die here! I will live to heal others.” My strokes became graceful and strong. I then began to see the beach. I made it back to land and felt a deep gratitude for being alive!

Shortly after the experience, I came up with the vision of guiding a 200hr Meditation & Yoga Teacher Training + Peruvian Shamanic Ceremony in Peru, January 4th-24th, 2020. I am inviting anyone who wants to take yoga beyond the mat and into the sea of life to come. The way I teach my students is based on the core philosophy of yoga, bringing the practice back to its roots. Yoga for me is not solely about the asanas, but the remaining seven limbs of the practice as well. The eight limbs of yoga will be discussed and practiced during this teacher training.

The first limb of yoga is Yama, which signifies the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The five yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non stealing), Brahmacharya (continence), and Aparigraha (noncovetousness). The second limb of yoga is Niyama, which emphasizes self- discipline. The five niyamas are Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas
(spiritual austerities), Svadhyaya (study of one’s self), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering to the source of creation).

The third limb of yoga is the most commonly known in Western society, Asana. Asanas are the physical postures of yoga. Yogic philosophy believes that the body is the temple, so taking care of the physical body is essential. Asanas, however, do not only assist with physical well-being, but they assist with developing concentration and discipline which is used in meditation. The fourth limb of yoga is one of my personal favorites, Pranayama. Pranayama is commonly known as “breath work”. These specific breathing techniques enable us to send prana or “life force” throughout the body. I am trained in many different breath work techniques and I enjoy sharing them with others.

The fifth limb is Pratyahara, meaning withdrawal or transcending the senses. Practicing Pratyahara allows us to see life from a larger perspective – to transcend beyond our emotional and mental stimulus. Each limb of yoga prepares us for the latter, therefore the next limb is Dharana. Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga and it means concentration. Pratyahara helps set us up for this deep concentration that Dharana teaches us. Dharana is used when we heal a specific energy center in the body, by giving all of our attention and awareness to it. When we are deeply concentrated on a particular mental object or energy, we can listen to the messages that it is trying to communicate with us. This brings us to our seventh limb of yoga – Dhyana, which is meditation. So, using Dharana, we are able to access Dhyana and a deep state of contemplation. Dhyana is more immersed in the everythingness and nothingness at the same time. It does not take much focus but more immersion and letting go. This is where you can see deeper aspects of the self, and your relationship to all. Last but not least, the eighth limb of yoga is Samadhi, meaning ecstasy or some people call it “nirvana”. The purpose of all of these practices encompassed as an ultimate state of bliss. The overall journey of yoga is to reach a state of divine peace.

After practicing yoga for over a decade, I have fallen in love with sharing this unique practice with the world. The reservoir of unlimited peace is within all of us, and it would be an honor to guide you into finding this peace within yourself. Yoga teacher trainings are great for anyone, regardless if you plan to teach yoga in the future or not. They help develop a consistent practice of yoga in all aspects of life, beyond the mat. I am looking forward to this teacher training in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Aloha and Namaste. 

 

 

 

 

Wolf Kinsmen, the founder of HĀ Yoga, has over a decade of experience in yoga & meditation. He has taught and trained all over the world. In addition to his yoga training, he has studied Shamanic practices while in the Amazon of Peru and received the name ‘Smiling Wolf’ from Don Howard. He completed the Wim Hof Method Advanced Instructor Training and was told by Wim Hof that he is a ‘healer’. He considers himself a lifelong student of nature! He learns from teaching others. He does this through being himself and giving a genuine experience wherever he happens to be.

Connect:

https://hayogallc.com/

IG: @hayogallc

 

Scott Nanamura: Diamond Heart Yoga

I first met Scott Nanamura in 2006 in South Lake Tahoe, California when I started going to his yoga classes at what at that time was ‘Mountain Yoga’. His intelligently sequenced classes both physically and mentally challenged me (in a good way) and were filled with intriguing philosophical insights. He captured my attention as a teacher. His teachings have definitely been pivotal for me on the path of yoga. In 2015, my beloved friends and Yoga Trade partners Pat and Christie visited Tahoe during a road trip. It was then they mentioned that they wanted to host a Yoga Teacher Training at the sustainable living center in Costa Rica they manage, and were looking for a teacher that would be a good fit. It just so happened that Scott was staying in his RV / mobile acupuncture office in the driveway at the house I was living in at the time! It was that summer that Pat & Christie met Scott and a synergistic relationship began. The following year Scott traveled to Central America to facilitate his first international Teacher Training and has been on a roll ever since! If you are looking to practice with a wise, grounded, focused, extremely knowledgeable yoga teacher with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, check out Scott and his offerings around the world! Here, we catch up with him to learn more of his story. Thank you for sharing the teachings and your light Scott! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I actually took my first yoga class 44 years ago, in a small college town in a college course. I didn’t stick with it at the time, but it planted a seed of curiosity. A year and a half later when I moved to Lake Tahoe, I met a yoga teacher and started studying with him, his name was Doug Swenson. At the time, he had written one of the earlier books in English on yoga, and he was a very well know Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.

My yoga path continued and it waxed and waned for many years taking classes from many teachers, many different styles, until I took a class with some friends of mine, and they taught a style called Tibetan Heart Yoga. THY (Tibetan Heart Yoga) very strongly brought back the component of the wisdom teachings and subtle body teachings with the asana practice. All of the previous classes I had taken hadn’t done that. It was all a separate component. The Tibetan Heart Yoga really connected with my heart in a deep way and it spurred me onto really wanting to study its system and style much deeper. For the next 5 years I dove into more of the TBY system, studied Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and deepened my knowledge of Hatha Yoga at the same time.

What allowed you to take the leap of faith and start an international yoga teacher school?

I had been teaching yoga for 10 years and I also had a private acupuncture practice. All the while teaching Tai Chi and buddhist philosophy at a local college, and I wanted to combine all these methodologies ,so I could teach these all in one place at one time. This is when I had the thought of combining modalities into a Teacher Training. I gravitated towards the teachings of Buddhism and used it in the yogic philosophy, because of the way Buddhism explains the ideas and concepts, it made it easier to understand the yoga teachings. I also had a lot of teachers come up to me in the past asking for week retreats, intensives & workshops to go deeper into the subjects that were lacking in their trainings, which is what inspired me to start Diamond Heart Yoga.

In a sometimes saturated yoga world, what makes your trainings stand out from the rest?

In these trainings and retreats I draw from a deep experience of extensive training from a masters degree in TCM, Traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. With my many years of training in TCM, Tai Chi and yoga, comes a rich background in Anatomy and Functional Anatomy. Over the years of taking classes, teaching classes & leading teacher trainings all over the world, I’ve noticed that the Anatomy, Functional Anatomy & philosophy is a missing component in many trainings, and these components are key to further a teacher’s knowledge to be able to inspire their students to have a richer & transformative experience in class.

What have you learned from your travels over the last few years?

I think everyone should travel in their lifetime, it allows you to see how other people live around the world. When you live in an industrialized country, it’s easy to forget how grateful to be for everything you have. Many of the people around the world don’t have those things. So everywhere I travel, it allows me to be grateful for everything we have and to stop complaining about the little things.

What are some of the challenges you face as a yoga teacher trainer?

I think one of the biggest challenges is having students coming into the trainings with a full cup. These are the ones that learn the least and come in with the biggest egos. I guide them to become good students again by emptying their cup and becoming a sponge as they learn away of thinking that comes from a completely different culture that’s been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years.

Where does the name ‘Diamond Heart’ come from?

The Diamond in your heart center represents wisdom, combined with the idea of the lotus that represents compassion. Wisdom and compassion are like 2 wings of a bird. They go hand in hand together, which understands the ultimate truth to purify any negative energy that may arise. Allowing us to create the kind of world we want to see in the future, by dedicating our lives to serving others.

What upcoming trainings are you most excited about?

We are very excited to reconnect with the Balinese culture and lifestyle in July & August, but all the other venues we have chosen are also magical locations around the world. After Bali, we have Morocco, Spain, Sri Lanka and then back to Bali to end 2019. On the calendar for 2020, we have Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and more to announce. Every location has its own kind of magic and we are excited for each and every one, but in the end, the students are the ones that make the trainings!

How do you see modern day yoga evolving over the next 10 years?

I would like to see more of the lifestyle and philosophy components return to the forefront in the studios & trainings. As a teacher trainer that travels the world doing trainings, I have seen the monetization of this ancient practice morph into the business of making money as a yoga teacher. Over the next 10 years I see this process growing, where the business of yoga will grow just as any other business, It has become a form of commerce. For some people, yoga studios have become something sacred to them, and it has become their church and as more people learn about the philosophy, more people will turn to this ancient form of wisdom.

Who have been some of your greatest teachers?

Some of my greatest teachers are Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Sumati Marut, Lama David Fishman, Lama Brandy Davis, Doug Swenson and all of my students including my son Aki’o.

Do you have a favorite mantra to live by?

I have a few…
Om Thank You Ah Hung
Om It’s like this now Ah Hung

Anything else you’d like to share?

Using the wisdom from Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we can start to identify our limited belief system and move towards a more conscious belief system that opens your heart to connect with others, leading a more selfless altruistic lifestyle, creating the ultimate happiness that everyone yearns for deep inside their heart.

 

 

Scott Nanamura: My background includes a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes, Acupuncture, Herbology, Nutrition, Exercise Therapy (Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong), and Remedial Therapy (massage, Tui Na). I have additionally completed Tibetan Buddhism courses, been practicing yoga for 40 years and teaching for 15. I have worked to cultivate the unique ability to bring ancient teachings into a modern setting, to touch the human heart. I work to inspire students to practice with awareness and intention on the mat, and to use the teachings off the mat in everyday life situations. My goal when teaching is to converge compassion and wisdom, art and yoga.

Connect:

diamondheart.yoga

FB: @diamondheartyoga

IG: @diamondheartyoga

 

Factors to Consider Before Becoming a Yoga Teacher

So you have decided to become a yoga teacher and are considering enrolling in a yoga teacher training program. Great Vision! But amidst this excitement, have you done detailed research about being a yoga teacher or joining a yoga teacher training program? It is important to take some time contemplating your journey so you can be better prepared for it. Here are some crucial factors to consider before starting on the path.

Why Yoga Teacher Training?

Teacher training programs are open to all yoga aspirants. Yoga teacher training programs give you a deeper knowledge of yoga, both theoretical and practical. With a detailed knowledge of the practices, you will be best prepared for the real world of yoga teaching.

Consider The Place Of Origin

Yoga teacher training programs are available at various beautiful locations across the globe. But nothing is better than getting trained from the land of its origin. So considering India for a Yoga Teacher Training is highly recommended. Nothing is better than getting rejuvenated in the lap of nature and yogic enlightenment.

Setting the Goal Is The First Step

Before entering a teacher training program, it is important to know what you need. Teacher training programs are a great way to grow your practice, which you can use for the self or to become a yoga teacher. It is important to know what kind of training you want and set your goal accordingly. It is very important to have a vision which helps you to remain dedicated.

What Kind Of Yoga Style Do You Want To Master?

Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, the list of yoga styles is very long. Follow your heart and practice the style you feel most connected with. This will also benefit your future students because the most wonderful experiences of yoga come from yoga teachers who love what they are teaching. Choosing a yoga style is important. Starting with a 200 hour yoga teacher training is best. If you have more time (two months), then you can directly opt for a 500 hour yoga teacher training.

Not A Regular Job If You Are Planning To Pursue It Professionally

Becoming a yoga teacher is not the regular, conventional job. Even though it is not the regular 9 to 5 thing, there is a demand for discipline and commitment. You can have versatile schedules, but when your teaching sessions come into form, you might have to extend your teaching hours. It can be difficult for those leaving their regular jobs to become full-time yoga teachers.

Travel, Teach, And Practice

Yoga and traveling is a perfect combination. As a yoga teacher, you can travel and teach students of different countries. It is not compulsory for all yoga teachers to travel and teach. You can also open up a yoga studio or teach private home sessions. You can teach and take classes in countries around the world including; India, Nepal, Bali, Thailand, etc. These locations provide the ideal escape for transformative experiences.

Consider the Investment

If you are planning to become a full-time yoga teacher, it would be great to get trained from a Yoga Alliance Certified School. But registered training programs can be costly, so it is important for you to set a budget and consider the investments. The cost also varies from certification duration – starting from 200 hour yoga teacher training, 300 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings. Once you complete your training you can register yourself with a yoga governing organization, such as Yoga Alliance.

It is important to take time to research these various factors before taking up yoga teaching. Ask a lot of questions and make sure it feels right before becoming a yoga teacher .

As Rod Stryker said, “There is no doubt that the foundation of being a great yoga teacher is being a great yoga student.”

 

Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He provides yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature, and the Himalayas.

Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

p1030097Anna Suil is a true master of how to live a vibrant, joyful and balanced life. I began training with her for purposes of personal-development, but have since found great value in integrating the tools of Life Coaching into my work as a Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader.

I’ll be the first to admit, that the idea of a Life Coach is one I shied away from at first, and certainly never a title I sought for myself. It was the inspiring story of my teacher Suil that gave me an entirely new perspective.

As a young adult, Suil committed herself to the path of yoga & meditation, studying under an impressive list of spiritual teachers including Baba Ram Das, Goenka, and Buddhist masters in India, Nepal, Japan and Korea. She continued her formal education with a degree in Psychology, which enabled her to effectively spread the teachings of the East to a Western audience. Among the many hats she has worn in her lifetime, Suil is now a Life Coaching Trainer with an expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a technique which trains the brain to rewire itself towards positive thought patterns and behaviors in order to maximize our human potential.

In the last year, Suil’s audience has made a drastic shift from the leading corporate CEOs in Asia to a community of health and wellness practitioners at Yandara Yoga Institute, a humble training center in the desert of Mexico. Needless to say, she means it when she says that Life Coaching is a valuable tool for everyone. As Suil makes the shift into retirement, her teachings are being carried forth across a wide spectrum for personal and professional development.

So what is Life Coaching all about?

Here are a few FAQs boiled down specifically for the Yoga Trade community!

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Life Coaching is a tool to access your highest potential – those hidden jewels within each and every one of us just waiting to be uncovered!

Who needs a Life Coach?

Short answer: everyone. Because of its holistic approach to well-being, the tools can be applied uniquely to each individual encompassing work, leisure time, romantic relationships, family & friends, and so forth. Having someone shed light on areas that may have been hiding in the subconscious can lead to a better understanding of how to maximize fulfillment in every moment.

How does it work?

A coach supports a client in achieving their goals by first identifying what they are and then exploring options unique to their situation in order to set a clear path moving forward. Rather than offering direct advice, clients are challenged to find solutions within themselves, thus gaining the skills to be more efficient in reaching future goals.

Why does it work?

We are multi-dimensional beings, and as our lives become more and more fragmented between work, play and relationships, the perspective of a skilled coach helps keep clients on track and most importantly, stay accountable!

Where to begin?

Coaching can take place in person, online or even involve travel experiences and retreats which facilitate the process by taking clients outside of their normal surroundings to help spark creative solutions.

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If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Mary Tilson at info@marytilsonyoga.com

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

“I had never thought of consulting a life coach before but was presented the opportunity at a training program I was attending and feel very lucky to have had the chance. Mary helped me realize that there are tangible steps we can take in order to live the life we want. She helped coach me into identifying what these steps were for me in a way that made me feel very comfortable as I had a big part in identifying what I was comfortable with and what I thought was possible. I loved the fact that I left the meeting with an actual list of things to do daily to help me reach my goals. It wasn’t just talking fluff. It was actually creating a realistic plan to help me achieve what I want. Mary was professional, nonjudgmental and understanding. I would recommend her life coaching services with the highest praises.”

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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Mary Tilson is a world traveling Yoga Teacher, Retreat Leader, and one of Anna Suil’s certified Life Coaches. She is currently the Yoga & Wellness Director of Nihiwatu, Travel+Leisure’s “No1 Hotel in the World” on Sumba Island, Indonesia.

Let’s Start A Yoga Revolution

ALL REVOLUTIONS BEGIN AS EVOLUTIONS.

I have worked for years trying to meet the mainstream examples of an adept yogi. I stretched my body beyond it’s limits, I filled my mind with teachings and directions. I approached my mat like a surgeon, ready to cut and repair my practice into perfection. yoga-revolution-2Until one day I stopped practicing and started listening, and it was revolutionary. Though not quite in my 40th year, I feel my body resisting the rigid structure of effort and achievement that I’d been striving to obtain for two decades. I witness that when I threw caution to the wind and ALLOW my body to explore sensation, movement, and breath, the experience of Yoga, rather than the practice of it, is the result. I am mystified and terrified, but also excited. Even though I’ve been teaching for years, it feels daunting to offer this new approach to my students. For now, my teaching is evolving into a dialogue of trust and discovery rather than a demand to perpetuate the status quo.

Maybe this makes me a renegade or some sort of nuisance. It definitely makes my classes an acquired taste. The mainstream idea that yoga is about bikini clad arm balances is not the Yoga I want to be teaching. Though the asana I teach is full of opportunities to be stronger, it is not a fast-paced, fitness driven kind of strength. Instead, we explore an innate strength that arises from within; an unshakeable trust in yourself. That’s what I want to be teaching: THE FULL POSSIBILITY OF WHAT YOGA CAN BE. I continue to stand on a strong foundation of Millennia old teachings, and trust that the forms of asanas shape and move our energy in ways that enhance our vitality. And I will continue to study with amazing teachers. Am I infalible? Hell NO! I have blind spots. I have places within me that I have hidden or locked away that need a teacher or a teaching to crack open. But I no longer want to be solely dependent on the authority of others to guide my experience.

In this revolution, we will know that we don’t have to master a picture-perfect handstand in order to be a yogi. We don’t have to twist ourselves into complex shapes or harden our core to be successful. We don’t have to disregard the messages of safety that come from FIRST-AIDour brains and our cells. When our Yoga becomes our revolution it evolves to embody the unique essence of beauty and perfection that exists inside of each of us.

The most challenging part of evolution is trust. We can’t get behind a revolution without it. How do we quiet the voices of doubt and fear and criticism (both inside and out) that say that this approach isn’t yoga? How do we allow the experience of yoga to rise up from within, rather than feeling like it is perpetually something we have create on the outside? WHAT WOULD OUR YOGA LOOK LIKE IF WE REALLY TRUSTED OURSELVES? What if we were the ultimate authority of what was best for us? Here’s where the real revolution begins.

We are returning to our innate guidance. Regardless of opinion, we are pursuing the possibility that Yoga is something that is sourced from inside of us and not something to achieve or attain. As we mature our understanding, our practice transforms, and if we are lucky, we get to share that with others.

THIS IS THE NEW REVOLUTION OF YOGA, AND WE ARE ON THE FRONT LINES. ARE YOU READY TO JOIN US?


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Kelly Golden has studied and practiced for over 20 years in the lineage of Sri Vidya Tantra. She is the Director of Vira Bhava Yoga School, leading 200/300 hour teacher trainings in Northern California. Connect and find out more info about the trainings HERE

Beyond the Mat

I recently became a RYT through Hollywood Market Yoga, a local studio in my town. This studio is magical, and serves as a second home for me. It provides a safe space where I can forget about my to-ellie2do list, forget about difficult times I am working through and just be myself. Every inhale I take on my mat fills my body with fresh energy, and every exhale relieves me of the energy that isn’t serving me. Throughout my teacher training, I was able to meet some incredible people who were on a similar path, in search of clarity in life. We connected beautifully and I felt so incredibly blessed to have stumbled into such a safe and loving space.

When training came to a close and I became certified, I was so thankful and excited to share my light and love with the world through the yoga practice. It was bittersweet to realize that these amazing people who had become family to me wouldn’t be seeing each other all the time anymore at the studio, but I think the biggest challenge I face is reminding myself to keep my yogic energy strong when I leave the studio as well; keep the love and light shining when I walk out of the door and face the external world. I’ve put together a list of mantras to carry with me off of the mat.

1. I am love

I do not need to be told that I am loved every day, because I can tell myself not only that I am loved, but that I am love. I have the power to love others and offer my energy to the universe. If I approach each situation with love in my heart and my intentions, I will know that I did my best. I was the best version of myself.

2. The universe knows, trust the universe

When things feel messy in my head, when the world doesn’t seem to make sense, when things no longer feel harmonious, take a step back and trust. The universe knows. It has a plan for me, and the “coincidences” in my life are there for a reason. If I trust that the universe will provide, I will no longer live in fear.

3. Let go of what no longer serves you

It is okay to be me, to have expectations, to have goals and dreams and thoughts that are unique to me. When something or somebody leads me to change who I am and I begin to feel a disconnect from myself, that life force is no longer serving me. Let go. Utilize the ellie1energy spent changing who I am to reroot in my own unique existence and know that all things happen for a reason.

4. Listen and Observe

In this world of chatter, taking a moment to listen or observe can open my mind and heart to the world. I am able to see the intention behind actions, see the pain or passion in someone’s eyes and gain a deeper understanding of the people and space around me. I don’t always need to fill empty space with words, thoughts and opinions. I can find serenity in the silence.

5. Finally, don’t let the world bruise you

People will doubt me, people will make assumptions, draw conclusions or develop impressions that I did not intend but I cannot let it cloud my vision of the beauty in this world. I will not be battered, I will not be bruised, I will remain true to myself and let my light shine, even through the dark.

These are my mantras that I am beginning to develop off the mat. I think that everyone has unique practices and beliefs that help them, but if you don’t, encourage a search ellie3within, to find the challenges you face, and remind yourself that you are worthy of love. I believe that we can radiate the positive emotions we create on our yoga mats and truly make this world a more kind and safe place for everyone.

 

Yogalu (Ellie Morgan) is a yoga teacher from Boise, Idaho who strives to offer healthy and happy energy through her yoga practice, writing, and photography.

Ten Lessons Learned My First Year Teaching Yoga

This past year has been a whirlwind: I quit my bartending job in Florida, my boyfriend and I moved to Puerto Rico, and I started my career teaching yoga. I was always told that the first year as a yoga teacher would be the most challenging year, but that it would also be a pivotal: it was to be a time of coming into your own, a time for learning, growing, and developing your unique style of teaching. As I reflect on this past year’s worth of classes I realize that yes, at times it was definitely challenging, but I also realized how far I’ve come since that very first, slightly awkward, class. After a year of teaching I’ve become more comfortable with the position of “teacher,” I’ve begun to settle into a style of my own, and I’ve gained more than I can retain. With thousands of lessons learned throughout this first year, I managed to whittle them down to the top ten. Here they are:

1. Confidence is key. The second you start doubting yourself it shows, and when you start doubting yourself the whole energy of the class will change. Avoid the awkwardness, please! The second you walk into thesalutepaka classroom own and hold your space as the teacher. Know that YOU know what you are doing.

2. Always be open to feedback. And not just from other teachers, but also from your students. Even if it may be a suggestion you don’t whole-heartedly agree with take it in, with a smile, and move on. Do not look at this feedback as criticism – look at it as an opportunity to learn and as a way to develop and strengthen your own personal style of teaching.

3. Be unmessable! This phrase has stuck with me ever since my 200-hour TT. Sometimes people are going to do their own thing during your class. Sometimes there might be a person that doesn’t like your class. Sometimes no one shows up to your class. Instead of beating yourself up or allowing the negative thoughts to take over, look at it, once again, as a learning experience. Gurus are not made overnight. Be patient and stay positive.

4. If, or when, no one shows up use that time wisely. Practice alone or with another teacher. Meditate. Do some handstands. Get outdoors and play. Don’t let the no-shows get into your head. Don’t let the external situations – that are totally out of our control – dim your light (remember, we are unmessable now!).

5. Teach, teach, and teach some more! Your first year as a teacher you learn A TON! You are like a new sponge waiting to absorb everything you can. But, the only way to learn a ton is to teach a ton. Sub classes whenever you can. Start teaching a free or donation-based Community Class. Get your friends together and practice-teach in your backyard. Like anything – the more you do it the more comfortable you become with it.

6. Don’t let your personal practice slip. Take a lot of yoga classes and establish a strong home-practice as well. I think it’s really important for a teacher to find a balance between practicing by yourself and practicing under different teachers (and practicing different styles of yoga). Take ideas and concepts from your own personal, at-home practice and let that be the guide for your next class. Find little things you like from the teachers you look up to and start to incorporate that into your sequences. Draw inspiration from your journey through yoga to share with your students, but don’t forget that you, too, will ALWAYS be a student.

7. Don’t rely on your plan. As a new teacher you never know who is going to show up to your class. Until you get a solid group of regulars, you can expect almost anyone to walk through the front door. It always seemed like the days I planned to have a kick-butt, high-powered class, an older student with a shoulder injury would be the only person to show. Instead of letting it throw me off, I would look at it as an opportunity to practice teaching a slower flowing, Restorative-style class. I’ve gotten to where now I don’t even plan my classes at all!

8. Know your limits as a new teacher. Don’t try to get students into poses that you don’t feel comfortable teaching or don’t have practice teaching. If there are students with certain injuries or situations that you don’t feel comfortable teaching to, be honest. If you don’t know an answer to a student’s question, be honest. Don’t try to be the teacher that you aren’t (yet!). Admit to being new — it’s totally OK! Not knowing is way better than risking an injury.

9. Stay on top of your game. It’s important to invest in yourself as a teacher: take workshops, online courses, or different teacher trainings. Pick up and read your old TT manuals, anatomy books, and journals to stay sharp. Personally, I’ve committed myself to do at least one new training a year.

10. Have fun with it! Don’t go into teaching expecting to make a lot of money right off the bat, because honestly, that’s not going to happen. And maybe it’ll never happen, but that shouldn’t matter! Realize how lucky you are that you get to share this gift of yoga with others. Set standards for yourself as a teacher and always hold yourself accountable, but never take yourself, your classes, or your teaching too seriously. Be able Headshot-WebRes1to laugh at yourself when you mess up. Stay humble. Always be happy to see your students and always try your hardest to remember their names. Like Maya Angelou said, “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Caitlin Lawson is a yoga practicing, wave sliding, positive vibe warrior based out of Rincon, Puerto Rico. Caitlin is a RYT-200, WPA Level 1 Certified, and SUP Yoga Certified. She is the founder of Sunburnt & Salty Yoga Company – sunburntandsalty.com

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