This is an exciting time to be a yoga teacher. Yoga is expanding beyond something that only flexible white girls do. And in keeping with fostering my knowledge of how to help people help themselves, I know that I will have to continue my studies. I’ll have to get trained, and certified, and get stamps on pieces of paper in the ways that the modern world wants me to, so that they know I’m qualified to be this thing called a yoga teacher.
As a relatively new yoga teacher of 1.5 yrs, but a practitioner of a dozen years exploring Anusara, Ashtanga, and several other offshoots of classical and tantric styles of yoga…. Well, I feel like I’m starting to know enough about this stuff to call bullshit.
You know when someone starts giving you advice on something, and you realize that they are more interested in telling a fact than understanding it? Or worse, they’re actually miserable in their life and decisions, while they impart all their “wisdom” onto you? Stick with this, it relates:
As a person- as a part of my community and the director of my life- I am interested in having experiences. And I’m interested in having them from a place of balance, where I am aware that I’m having experiences. There is stress, there is hurt, there is laughter, there is love, and loneliness, and excitement, and responsibility, and patience, and losing patience… and these are all part of the game. It’s not about only having one side of the experience wheel. Its actually not just about making money, and being impressive, and knowing things, and having things, and being viewed as a success.
It’s about all of it. And experiencing it fully, so that you can then leave it, and experience the next thing fully.
This is one of the many reasons why I practice yoga. This is what I have always looked for in yoga teachers. This is what I hope to impart as I have begun to teach yoga. As an ongoing practitioner, I’ve refined my ideas about what is really yoga for me. I now look for teachers who can guide my thinking around the way I experience.
Like most who come to yoga, I was looking to “fix” something. Since I was a child I struggled with mental focus (call it ADD, anxiety, depression… or just call it living in the modern world – who isn’t struggling with one of these in 2015?). After horrible allergies to plants and dust that started at age twenty-three, and lasted for years on end, leaving me something like a carrying vessel for mucous, and a direct supplier to my allergy specialist’s annual salary… After trying cleanse after cleanse, an all-organic diet, a gluten-free diet, soy-free, corn-free, dairy-free, all kinds of herbs… After being a sick person looking for something to fix me… After years of observing that indeed when my mind was in the tank, my body followed… After finding a diet that seemed to stabilize me (gluten free, easy on the uncultured dairy) and after believing that I had to blindly follow the teachings of some untouchable yoga guru in order to get closer to this nebulous idea of enlightenment or even something as simple as happiness…
After all that, frankly, I’m done with that bullshit. Yes, those are experiences. And the bad is part of what we have to deal with in this life, as much as the good. But did you notice something about that paragraph? It’s all focusing on getting somewhere. Its all focusing on getting rid of something. If you’re always going toward, or getting away from, you’re never just… THERE.
There’s a lot of yoga today that focuses on these things. We are a culture that ignores our bodies until we can’t, and then we pay all kinds of attention to sickness. And I feel like after twelve years of practice, and searching, and piecing together clues about diet, and emotions, and reactions, and treatments… I have done my fair share of looking ahead and behind for myself, my body, and my life.
Now I focus on what I have. I focus on what I enjoy, and what feels good. Its a relatively new way of thinking for me – only about a year if I’m to be honest. (And why NOT be honest?) But the change in my body is visible. The change in my persona is like a breath of fresh air. The change in my outlook of my options, my life, my advantages and disadvantages, the love I’ve had and lost, and my capacity to try… its all changed, and it feels fucking fantastic. And it feels much more simple because I allow it to be.
What do I have? (Not what do I want, or what don’t I have.)
Of course, knowing a thing and using it are different. Now that I know this way of approaching my breath, and stiffness, and soreness, and challenging poses, and challenging life moments… one moment at a time, I can redirect my thinking to what I have. What is here, and working. How do I augment that so that I can make the next thing work? My yoga mat is my 2-foot by 6-foot space to practice these skills. And that’s the way I want to continue to practice. And that’s why I practice at YOGA Garden Minneapolis.
LAUREL VAN MATRE, YOU A BADDASS YOGI.