Combating Myths: Not A Perfect Yoga Teacher

You may heard about the perfect yoga teacher delivering her eight children without pain, follow her vegan diet of moral perfectionism on Instagram or maybe you met her last week in Hell. The last part is a joke, of course, because last week she was glamping in the woods with orphans, monks and the stars of Wanderlust.

The truth is the idea of the flawless yoga guru/yoga teacher serves no one. It is in our flaws that we are most human and yoga is a way of meeting ourselves so we can get through life’s hiccups: not pretend they don’t exist at all.

You don’t have to look far to see the astonishing history of gurus sexually and financially exploiting yoga practitioners to realize how the idea of the perfect teacher actually is a block to finding your own truths and yoga’s ability to help seek them.

JP Sears hilarious video on becoming an expert yoga teacher shows the human side of teaching yoga and helps take teachers off the pedestal our image-driven culture helps ascribe to them. Rachel Myer’s beautiful tribute to the late yoga teacher Michael Stone raises excellent points about the dangers of yoga’s cult of positivity and how our tendency to seek out the perfect teacher hurts everyone especially when there is a stigma to a yoga teacher recognizing and therefore covering their own struggles.

So, next time you see your yoga teacher in class realize we are one in the same. There is a popular Hindu mantra in yoga, Soham, that translates into ‘I am That.’ When you find yourself needing more compassion it can be helpful to repeat it when you see marvel, or, when finding yourself messing up in a pose look to your teacher, smile, and repeat in your head: I am That.

Thank you for reading my post. I hope you have a marvelously imperfect day.

Namaste,

Victoria

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Dispelling Myths: The Yoga Body

If you picked up the latest copy of Yoga Journal and didn’t know better you might think yoga as merely a means of advertising high-end clothes for skinny women. While most of us go to yoga to move inward and let go of physical/material constraints the business of yoga is very different than the historical origins and why most practitioners turn to the mat.

The danger in seeing one type of body as the ‘yoga body type’ is that it limits who sees themselves as yogis, causes unnecessary judgement/suffering and brings even more attention to the physical form vs. allowing that energy to help transform us from within.

However, modern yogis like Jessamyn Stanley are beautifully expanding what it means to represent, love and practice yoga. By bolding showing herself in her magnificent curves, Jessamyn Stanley helps all yoga practitioners and teachers feel a little more comfortable in ourselves.

How do you define the relationship between loving your body and practicing yoga? Is the physical practice your end goal or do you turn to yoga for other intentions?

jessamyn+squarespace+3

Even mainstream publications like The Atlantic are questioning the materialistic hold brands like Lululemon have over the psychology of what it means to practice and love this ancient art and the idea that wearing certain workout clothes actually results in working out better or doing so with more consistency.

When we use yoga as a means of knowing ourselves and accepting who we are in the moment it makes leaving preconceptions about what we are supposed to be or look like behind.

“Self-compassion is like a muscle. The more we practice flexing it, especially when life doesn’t go exactly according to plan (a frequent scenario for most of us), the stronger and more resilient our compassion muscle becomes.”
― Sharon Salzberg

Thank you for reading my post, and have a great day.

Namaste,

Victoria

How to Start your Personal Yoga Practice

Everyone can do yoga, and you don’t need to pay for yoga each time you practice. While you may want to read about the classic asanas to develop your vocabulary of yoga, yoga is essentially an exploration of movement coordinating each breath with motion.

“Asana variations are not just for people with specific physical problems. They can help all yoga practitioners remain open to discovery.” T.K.V. Desikachar

To develop your own yoga program at home, consider these basic guidelines.

Set your intention. Decide what is bringing you to the mat, and whether your goal is to de-stress, improve your mobility, or perhaps become more aware of your own internal sensations in a fast-paced, external-driven world. If you can condense that intention into one phrase or word. Each time before you practice, repeat your intention to yourself while in a passive, restful place or stretch.

Respect your body’s limits. Yoga is not a competitive sport nor is every pose suitable for every body. When you feel pain, back off. Move slowly, especially if you are new to yoga and choose a short sequence created for beginners. If you find yourself focused on ‘being better’ at a pose ditch the sequence and pick a series of postures you find easier to attain: consider taking the poses less literally more as a roadmap of motion with the ultimate goal to stretch your body in a kind way.

Pick a simple sequence using counterposes. By picking a simple range of sequences that you can repeat several times you can focus your attention on mindfully coordinating each movement with your inhale or exhale. Don’t pick complicated or advanced poses you haven’t practiced before instead opting for simple movements. Ideally, each pose you practice should be paired with an opposing movement. Counterposes enable one to fully experience the range of movement, and the body to feel the full expansion between two polar motions.

Consider Pranayama in place of a peak or apex pose. Traditional yoga classes generally work up their students to a particularly challenging pose known as an apex or peak pose which is generally positioned 3/4th into the class right before meditation. Practicing a challenging pose can give one a sense of accomplishment or make a workout feel harder. However, if you are creating your own practice consider placing an exercise in this slot that challenges your breath control.

The most scientific benefits of yoga are actually in the meditation and Pranayama (breath control). I personally enjoy teaching students variations of alternative nostril breathing in Hero’s Pose because it enables practitioners to benefit from the compression of the pose, the straightening of the spine and the simple movement of coordinating fingers with breath gives them something to focus on when initially just focusing on the breath may seem daunting in its simplicity.

 

Smile, breathe and go slowly. -Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Thank you for reading my post. I hope it inspires you to practice, and enjoy the abundant benefits of yoga.

Enjoy your day!

Victoria Kamerzell