Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted — in body, mind, and heart — and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow — or we begin to flow more in our lives. ~ Cybele Tomlinson
My first experience of Yoga as a student will forever be etched into my being, and indeed has guided me along my path of life in a way nothing else before it has. My experience was much like everyone else's - go check out a class or two to reduce stress, restore mobility, get some "exercise" and expect nothing more. But like most people who take the time to step onto the mat on a regular basis, my experience went far beyond mere exercise. That experience, that feeling, that transcendent connection inward that permeated the space beyond everything I thought I was... It was palpable, it was real, but it was hard to intellectualize and verbalize. I'm far from the only one who has felt it, and knows it to be real. And so Yoga will continue to grow in popularity because this feeling is universal and always exists within - Yoga on the mat is simply a way to access that inner, all-pervasive reality that is true connection. It has informed (and improved) absolutely everything I think, say, and do. The impact off the mat has been profound.
I've always been one to delve deeply into subjects that intrigue me, and Yoga is no exception. It seemed a natural progression for me to become a Yoga Teacher, as it was a great way to learn more and first and foremost become a better student. And I've continued to be a student, formally through Teacher Trainings and Workshops, and most importantly informally through observing how my own practice has evolved on and off the mat. And I can tell you the most interesting thing I've observed is the interplay between mind intellect and body knowing. When one studies the science, philosophy, and history of Yoga, mental intellect has to be engaged fully in order to truly grasp the concepts and facts enough to be able to teach them intelligibly. And that's where all hell broke loose for me.
As soon as I started intellectualizing the practice, I immediately noticed that the beautiful, transcendent feeling I got from my practice became severely compromised. There was what can only be characterized as a war going on within me, between my mind and my heart. What was going on in my mind was clearly restricting the energy flow throughout my being. I felt almost completely out of the flow at times. I struggled with it during my first Teacher Training, but was assured by one of my teachers that the feeling could and would come back. It did to a certain degree, but only during my own home practice. I sometimes felt like a fraud as both a teacher and a student in other people's classes, finding it difficult to drop into a truly expansive, non-judgemental embodied and relational process of mind. When I did my Yoga Therapy Teacher Training, it really came to a head (pun intended) when I had to sit through 2 1/2 days of exams, writing down with my right hand, connected to my left brain hemisphere, intellectual explanations of what was always for me a right-brain, heart-centred practice. I felt physically sick for weeks afterward.
And in the time I've spent teaching since then, the battle has continued. But I'm happy to report, my heart is winning. In these last few months, I've made some very deliberate changes in my relationships and the way I live my life, and have also been blessed with some extraordinary inspiration and support from many, both near and far. The net result is a renewed understanding and appreciation of the physical practice of Yoga as not just something that prepares one for the experience of transcendence, of Yoga. It is the experience of Yoga .
I credit Darren Rhodes and his Yogahour Teacher Training to a large degree for my renewed appreciation and enthusiasm for my own physical practice, and the importance of bringing that practice to others in a way that emphasizes precision, challenge, efficiency and measurable progress. And perhaps even more importantly, it has provided me with the realization that I can talk a whole lot less when I teach. I have more respect for the power of the physical practice now. Just teach the shapes and trust the practice - every student has an internal wisdom that will automatically connect the dots beyond the intellect. When we open up the physical, everything else follows - every physical blockage has a mental and emotional correlate.
I've now felt this unmistakeable flow as both a student and a teacher. I've had several experiences now where I've technically taught the class, but it really felt like "I" wasn't teaching. I was merely prepared enough through showing up over the last several years and doing the work, intellectually and otherwise. And then I was in the right place at the right time to have the teachings run through me and out to my fellow students in the room. It's hard to verbalize, it may even be impossible to explain. And that's how I know it's real, and it's Yoga.
And so I will continue to show up and do the work when necessary, and also continue to let go of the work when comes time to "teach." It's frightening to let go, but it's the true work of a warrior when motivated by kindness.
I once had a cat deliver a hummingbird to me completely unharmed. I'm beginning to understand that event now, and I'm happily learning the lesson.