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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
  • Protect Your Wrists in Chaturanga

    I remember the first time I was able to hold myself up in Chaturanga Dandasana. After spending a year struggling with lifting my body off the floor, it was truly thrilling. Later on, I can remember being amazed that I could make it through 108 jump-through sun salutations without crashing and burning.

    Now, 30-some years later, I still practice it, but I’m much more focused on quality than quantity.

    The thrill of Chaturanga does not come without possible pitfalls. Chronic wrist pain has emerged as a common yoga-related injury. Chaturanga requires that our wrists support a significant percentage...

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  • Teaching Yoga—30 Years of Gratitude

    Friends who knew me in grade school and high school would probably never have pegged me as a person who’d end up teaching yoga. I was painfully shy. If students had been graded on participation back in my high school days, my GPA surely would have suffered. Knowing I had to give a talk in speech class kept me awake at night. I trembled uncontrollably while performing solo on piano and oboe—not a pleasant situation, especially on a wind instrument.

    And yet, when I first became enamored with yoga and was made aware of a teacher training course back...

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  • 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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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  • Parsvakonasana: Finding Continuity


    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...

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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...

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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...

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