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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: 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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  • 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...

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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?
    ...

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  • Teaching Yoga: It’s a Two-Way Street

    Teaching Yoga is All About Listening
    “Listen to your body” has become a widely disseminated instruction in the yoga world. It’s an important one, a skill that reaches out into life off the mat. But when we tell students to listen to their bodies, we teachers need to remember to listen to our students too. When we listen we create an environment where students feel respected and safe, and we also might learn something in the process.

    About 25 years ago I attended a workshop with a well-known yoga teacher. We were working up to Urdva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow...

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  • Healthy Yoga Practice - Don’t Stretch Your Joints!

    Some Ligaments of the Hip Joint

    Healthy Yoga Practice:  Don’t Stretch Your Joints!
    For the past few years, I've been on the faculty of the teacher training program at Avenues Yoga Studio in Salt Lake City. Early in the 2013 training, one student who had been teaching in a fitness studio asked a very important question. She explained that one of her female students became unusually flexible prior to ovulation, probably because of the presence of “relaxin,” a hormone that relaxes the ligaments that hold together the various joints in the pelvis—hip joints, sacroiliac joints and...

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  • Why Bendy People Might Not Make the Best Yoga Teachers

    Trikonasana

    How the Struggle Teaches Yoga Teachers How to Teach
    Years ago, I heard a famous quote embellished in the film, Annie Hall. In the film Woody Allen said, “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.” (Allen’s embellishment is the second sentence.) It was meant to diss teachers, especially gym teachers I guess, but in my three decades of yoga practice and teaching, I’ve come to understand this quote in a completely different way.

    I was born with a very loose-knit body. My dad was a gymnast, and I inherited his...

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  • Advanced Yoga — with Yoga Props

    How Using Yoga Props Deepens Practice
    Not too long ago, yoga made it into The Wall Street Journal. The article, titled “In Yoga, Blocks and Straps Get More Respect,” plugs yoga props as a way for anyone, including experienced practitioners, to deepen their practice while maintaining integrity. While acknowledging the mainstream misconception that many yogis see props as “crutches” to use until you can do the poses without them, the author debunks the notion by giving examples of ways experienced yogis use them move more deeply into practice.

    To this, I say, “Amen.”

    Some of my students have...

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  • The Mixed-Level Class Conundrum

    How to Keep Everyone Safe and Happy in a Mixed-Level Class
    (Hint: There’s no easy answer.)
    Last weekend began the first segment of a teacher training I’ve been coteaching for the past three years. It’s always fun to meet the new trainees and to hear inspiring stories about how Yoga practice has changed their lives.

    During the last class of the weekend, we asked them to share with us what they consider to be essential qualities for a teacher. We also invited them to share their experiences with various teachers and tell us about what has worked and what...

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  • Teacher, Know Yourself

    Meditation:


    Teacher, Know Yourself
    It is wisdom to know others; it is enlightenment to know oneself. ~ Lao Tzu

    I’ve been fortunate to learn from so many knowledgeable yoga teachers over the past 32 years. My first teachers, Olivia Cita Mason and David Riley, as a physical therapist and doctor, planted a seed of curiosity about anatomy in me, and introduced me to the Iyengar system. The late Mary Dunn inspired through her knowledge and enthusiasm. Judith Hanson Lasater has, among many other things, shown me how to...

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  • Where Is My Body? How Yoga Practice Answers That Question

    How


    Where is My Body? How Yoga Practice Answers That Question
    When I started doing yoga, I was confused a lot. Always having a hard time remembering left and right, and also being somewhat disembodied after years of residing in my frontal lobe, I had trouble following direction. In Warrior II, when the teacher said to turn my back foot in one way, I would often turn it the other way. Sometimes I would bend forward instead of sideways. Even how, over 10 years of yoga practice, when my yoga...

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