Say a yoga teacher walks into class wearing a Bernie Sanders T-shirt. She is making a statement. Is this appropriate for a yoga teacher? On one hand, making a political or any personal statement is not fundamentally wrong. Her quality as a teacher is not based on her political stance. … Continue reading Should a yoga teacher “make a statement”?
In my everyday life in Vancouver, yoga plays a major role in my identity. People know me as yoga classmate, colleague, teacher, and blogger. People whom I’ve never met know me as YogaSpy; my blog is our connection. In contrast, my closest family members rarely mention my blog! They’re positive about it, but it’s not our main point of connection. Even my yoga teaching, which looms large in my Vancouver life, seems to fade away. Visiting my parents at home, I do wear my yoga teacher with my dad, to improve his flexibility and posture (whether he likes it or not!). But my mini sessions with him … Continue reading Back to yoga teaching and blogging
Visiting San Francisco last summer, I took a few classes at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, within walking distance from my friend’s house. “Have you done Iyengar yoga before?” a front-desk staffer asked me when I arrived. “Yes,” I nodded and smiled, but said … Continue reading Going “undercover” as a yoga student
For four weeks last spring, I taught Iyengar yoga to 40 teenagers. All were academically gifted students enrolled in an early-admission university program. While a couple had done yoga in elementary school or with Wii Fit, most had never attended a single yoga class. Thank goodness they were split into two groups of 20. Teens, no matter how advanced academically, behave nothing like adults in class! While I taught a particular subset of teenagers, here are my observation on teaching teens versus adults: Teens can’t stop talking I mistakenly assumed that because these kids were stellar students, they would immediately shut their traps and listen silently (as do adult students). No way! They … Continue reading On teaching teens
“I couldn’t stop crying in Savasana,” my friend Elaine once told me. She was struggling through a bad time and finally, in yoga class, she felt at ease. It was such a relief that she broke down. Yoga can catalyze emotions in people. I’ve witnessed spontaneous crying, during or after asana, most likely at all-day workshops. The hours and hours of yoga, the divergence from routine, somehow trigger emotional release. I myself can’t recall ever crying in class. For me, yoga has the opposite benefit. Asana (even a strenuous session) calms my mood swings. If I’m on the verge of losing it, yoga steers me to a … Continue reading Have you ever cried in yoga class?
The other day, teaching at a community centre, I did an elevated Chatushpadasana (Bridge pose), feet on chair. Props are minimal, but include thick mats, foam blocks, and straps. I resorted to supporting my shoulders with a folded-up mat. During my demo, I immediately realized that one mat was inadequate, but nevertheless worked the pose. After exiting, I directed students to use more height. That afternoon, my upper trapezius was aching. Did I hyperflex my cervical spine?! I regretting holding my demo at the expense of my body. My fault, I know. Ironically, I escaped whiplash when rear-ended at a stoplight … Continue reading Making money from yoga teaching
“Do you still take classes?” a student asked, upon hearing that I’d be attending a weekend workshop. For a moment I was speechless. I can’t imagine ever not taking classes. I explained that most Iyengar yoga teachers continue taking classes and workshops (and, if possible, trips to RIMYI in India)–for life. That weekend workshop was taught by Mahyar Raz, a Junior Advanced II level teacher based in Toronto and Tehran. Attendees ranged from decades-long practitioners to keen novices. Many, including myself, were unfamiliar with Mahyar, who delved deeply, with drama and with humor, into the fundamentals. Click here for a few … Continue reading The humility to learn
Describing a yoga workshop is daunting. Do I stick to objective reportage or do I share my subjective gut feelings? I won’t even try to describe Mahyar Raz‘s workshop, but I’ll let her words (and she is not shy about sweeping pronouncements) speak for themselves: “You must feel the pose, in your muscles, in your body. Before, Guruji taught simply by having students do and experience. Later came note taking and books.” “Every injury actually happened one year before.” (In response to a student’s question on injury prevention, she emphasized awareness, moment to moment.) “You cannot learn quickly. It’s not McDonald’s. No … Continue reading A few quotes by Mahyar Raz
If a yoga teacher refers to your psoas, do you know what she’s talking about? The Iyengar method of teaching yoga is precise and detailed. Instructions are conveyed visually (through demos) and verbally (through words). Teachers sometimes discuss whether specific anatomical terms should be used. Is it better to say “hamstrings” or “back thighs”? Can students identify “psoas,” “sacrum,” and even “big-toe mound”? The common wisdom is that teachers should not bombard beginners with overly specific terminology (which the average layperson would need to look up in an anatomy textbook). Having practiced law for a nanosecond myself, I can relate … Continue reading Where’s your psoas? Your sacrum? Your big-toe mound?
When I took my first yoga class in 1997, I had no idea who the “major” teachers were. I didn’t know what “Iyengar” meant and had to ask my first teacher, Sandy Blaine, to spell it. I met Sandy fortuitously since she then taught at UC Berkeley’s rec center (free classes for members!). But I got lucky. Sandy was an excellent teacher. Despite my total ignorance about yoga, that much was clear. Now, 15 years in, I recognize many names in the Iyengar world and beyond. Most teachers/studios have attractive websites with detailed bios elaborating training, mentors, level of certification, … Continue reading Knowing “who’s who” among yoga teachers
Did you watch Felix Baumgartner’s 24 mile, four minute, 834 mph jump from a helium balloon 128,100 feet above Earth? Wow. My first reaction was vicarious terror. This guy is insane! This video shows him preparing to jump, guided by Joe Kittinger, age 84, a retired Air Force colonel who set the longest/highest/fastest skydive record in 1960. My second reaction was vicarious reassurance—thanks to Kittinger’s steady voice. Kittinger guided Baumgartner through a 40-item checklist, which the video catches from “item 26.” Surely he already knew the sequence, which includes simple steps such as “slide the seat forward” and “release seat … Continue reading Mission control
A few months ago, I had a little falling-out with my massage therapist. While temporary and amicable, it made me consider the meaning of professionalism. I met “Jane” in early 2010, when I decided to treat myself to massage (among my favorite splurges). She had her quirks, but I appreciated her long experience, unpretentious personality, and reasonable rates. To me she was like a well-meaning, goofy aunt, whose idiosyncrasies I let slide. For example, she’s routinely late. Not 10 or 15 minutes, but up to 45 minutes or more. She drives to Vancouver from Port Moody and something always delays her: … Continue reading What professionalism means to me