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Tips for Teachers

Teaching yoga is a complicated, inspiring calling that brings to bear all our talents, knowledge and empathy. Read about the honor of teaching from some of the most experienced teachers around
  • Teaching Yoga: Replenishing Your Energy

    In the past two weeks the pile of unopened mail in my kitchen has grown taller and more unruly. Every so often I try to neaten its edges but I have done nothing to reduce its size. It’s not that I don’t want to; it just hasn’t risen high enough on my list to do anything about it. I’ve pulled out all the bills, but the extracurricular literature—magazines I hope to read sooner or later—remains neglected.

    The current mountain is an accumulated backlog resulting from my taking a weekend off to attend a music festival in San Francisco. The lofty heap...

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  • Yoga Teaching: The Wisdom of Not Knowing

    This morning a student asked me what should have been a simple question: What should I be feeling in this position?

    A minute or so later, I’d given her the best non-answer I could. Why a non-answer? First, I’m not inside her body. I can’t know what she’s feeling. Second, there are many, many variations on what she could be feeling depending upon where the resistance is in her body. Finally, we are all put together differently, and we’ve all cultivated different habits in our bodies over the decades. No one’s asana practice will ever be exactly like another’s. For that...

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  • Teaching Yoga: Lifting the Veils

    How Teaching Yoga Uncovers Your True Self
    As a lifelong teacher, whether it be science, health or yoga, I love and appreciate the trust that people give me in my teaching. I take that very seriously. Patanjali tells us in the very first Yoga Sutra-1.1 अथ योगनुससनुं atha yoganusasanum that when we begin the study of yoga, both teacher and student commit to the practice, the teachings and to each other. More than an intention, it is a sacred vow that both are to honor.

    Through this commitment I get to experience the change my students have over time and they get...

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  • How Do You Find a Yoga Mentor?

    What is a Yoga Mentor?
    A few weeks ago I got to revisit the retreat center that became my spiritual home in 1986. I don’t remember how many retreats I’ve attended there, but I do remember there were some 10-day, a 21-day and four 30-day silent retreats. In addition I’ve sat a five-day and at least three seven-day retreats. I’ve also spent up to a dozen weekends there in retreat.

    You’ve probably never heard of the place. It’s called The Last Resort, and is nestled in the mountains east of Cedar City, Utah. If you haven’t heard of it, it has nothing...

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  • Free Your Breath with a Yoga Block

    Prasarita Padottanasana with a Big Blue Block

    Practice Prasarita Padottanasana with a Yoga Block
    Prasarita Padottanasana is one of yoga’s most balancing standing poses. Its symmetrical shape keeps your pelvis, sacroiliac joint and spine neutral and quiet, while the active rooting of your feet and legs allows your upper body to be soft and receptive. I like to settle into Prasarita in between standing poses to allow my body to ground and integrate.

    Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana confers many benefits. It strengthens and stretches the inner legs, hamstrings and spine; tones the abdominal organs; and calms the brain. It’s said...

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  • Parsvakonasana: Finding Continuity

    Parsvakonasana

    Parsvakonasana: Finding Continuity
    Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose) is a pillar among standing poses. It combines strong grounding with expansion and spinal rotation. It looks like a lateral stretch, and may even feel somewhat like one, but it’s not. In a true lateral stretch, your pelvis is not moving in the same direction as your spine (think Parighasana or Gate Latch Pose). In Side Angle Pose, your legs, pelvis, spine and head are all on a continuum. Finding that continuum is the art of the asana.

    Utthita Parsvakonasana is one of the poses that felt good for me...

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  • Yoga and Respect: Nothing is Trivial

    Yoga and Respect: It’s the Little Things
    I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1990. During that year Aadil Palkhivala frequented the Big Island to teach workshops. I was fortunate to get to work with him a number of times and very much appreciated the depth of his practice and teachings, even way back then.

    One of his workshops was held in a venue that usually accommodated tumbling and wrestling, so the floor was covered with gym mats. Aadil took the opportunity to have us all practice jumping across the floor in Chaturanga Dandasana. If we crashed, we’d be falling...

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  • Teaching Yoga: On Hip Joints and Humility

    Eka Pada Rajakapotasana—A Pose from the Distant Past

    Teaching Yoga: The Wisdom of Humility
    For the past two years I’ve had the privilege of attending retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center led by Joseph Goldstein. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Goldstein has written or co-written—with the likes of the Dalai Lama, among others—11 classic books on mindfulness practice.

    His voice has been a constant in my three decades of mindfulness practice. On silent vipassana retreats with my mentors, Pujari and Abhilasha Keays, we listened to Goldstein every day. This adds up to 200-plus hours of listening time for...

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  • Feeling Sick? To Teach or Not to Teach Yoga

    How to Know Whether to Teach Yoga When You’re Not Well
    Yesterday morning I woke up with a sensation that’s all too familiar, a little scratchiness at the back of my throat. That’s how a cold/flu/sinus infection always starts for me. I’ve been throwing some herbal defenses its way and it doesn’t seem to be getting worse, but it’s not getting better either—yet.

    By far the most stressful part of being ill—besides the misery of the illness itself—is making sure my yoga classes are covered, especially when it comes on suddenly. I’ve always been a “trooper:” If I can stand up, I...

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  • Why Listening to Your Body Might Not Be Enough

    Listening to Your Body is Important, But So is An Experienced Teacher
    If you practice yoga, you’ve probably heard the entreaty, “Listen to your body.” It’s good, sound advice.

    When you embark on any physical practice, it’s important to know and respect your body’s limits. Those limits can change over time, of course, but tuning in and listening to your body and what it’s trying to communicate to you each time you practice is essential not only to your body’s health, but to the growth of your practice. How else can you really know the effects of an asana?

    As teachers, we can’t...

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