This yoga teacher is done with going through the motions of asana practice.
Asana practice alone is not enough. As a yoga teacher, I want to offer more than a flowing choreography and a good stretch. Why are we doing what we do in a yoga posture? How does it relate to our life away from the mat? Yoga can change life for the better right? Yoga is not just a band-aid for stress, and aches and pains, although it can be applied that way and that’s not so bad is it?
Yoga classes can be glorified stretching classes – just another way for the achievers to strive towards those fitness, body image and health goals just out of reach – and is this what Yoga is? To me, Yoga is attunement to mind and body. Should it not be an opportunity for us to be in union and attuned to ourselves?
When I tell my class what to do, how to be and what to think, they are right there with me – in union. And they are listening to me! Rarely are they listening to themselves. As a yoga student, you may like that I tell you to relax; that I tell you to love your body; that I tell you to be grateful; that I tell you to let go into the moment. But how long do you follow my telling once you leave my class?
What I want, as a yoga teacher, is to support my students finding union with themselves – not with me. I want them to feel empowered to be with themselves and their bodies from an inner source of knowing. This means I can no longer just go through the motions of asana practice.
I’d been going through the moves for almost 10 years. And in order to gain experience in hands-on assists for these moves, I found myself at a Phoenix Rising Level 1 Training. The pictures in the advertisements were promising and showed examples of what it was I wanted to learn. However, what I discovered about Phoenix Rising Yoga (and myself) were surprisingly different from my expectations and more rewarding than I could have hoped.
Fit and strong, I attended my first Phoenix Rising Therapeutic Yoga Class as part of training. Instead of just being told where to put and how to hold every detail of my body, I was asked to take rather simple positions and then, coached verbally how to pay attention to my body’s experience and its wisdom.
As I held my arms overhead, I was asked to notice what my body was feeling at that moment. EXHAUSTION! WHAT?! Holding arms up was something I did everyday and for much longer than what I was experiencing in that moment. I was devastated to experience complete overwhelming exhaustion in my arms and shoulders. I felt disappointed in myself. How could I be so out of shape, weak and tired?
I was a yoga teacher with ten years of experience and now I felt humiliated. How could I have missed this exhaustion in my body?
The experience was so significant that it was to change my life. With further coaching, I saw how this experience was a metaphor in how I was living my life. I saw my body overworked and under cared for in my daily schedule. Chores, physical career, working out, and adventure recreation, demanded constant performance from my body. Yet, in return, my body typically received disappointing returns or feedback. It could never live up to my expectations or the demands I made of it: Olympic Alpine Ski Champion, 6-pack abs, and cover-model beauty model.
Regardless of going through the motions of asana practice for ten years, I had failed to be truly present with my body or myself. My ego and expectations created a denial of my body’s experience, intelligence and wisdom. It was the scapegoat for every fault and weakness. And now here in one moment of great awareness coaching, I saw the truth – how my mental conditioning convinced me that my body was the enemy and prone to dysfunction. That I needed to ignore its signals and messages for glorified ideas in my head. I saw the truth: My body and I needed to form a much better relationship.
Now I have become a yoga educator. I am very aware that by offering the Phoenix Rising approach to the client or student’s experience of yoga, I’m offering them opportunities to be attuned to themselves, tapping in to their body’s wisdom, and eventually becoming more authentically empowered in their lives. Yoga with awareness is practicing embodied presence – a way of being with the body where we can consciously receive much more from yoga than a good stretch. I want to help those I serve to focus at that level of awareness so that it provides the opening for a potential life changing experience like mine. Now, in my yoga classes, students experience what, in Phoenix Rising Yoga, is known as Dual Process – movement and awareness coaching for self inquiry – so they too can learn to listen to their bodies, gaining greater opportunities to enhance their lives away from the mat when they leave my class.
Sarah Kaczor is now a member of the Phoenix Rising Faculty and will be co-leading the next Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training: Dual Process Basics with Founder, Michael Lee in Bristol VT this March. For more information on this 6 day course and logisitics, email firstname.lastname@example.org