Step #1: Be Inquisitive & Expand Your Options
Mainstream yoga focuses on the postures.
However, the potential scope of yoga is far more encompassing.
I suggest expanding your options and be open to learning about other yogic modalities. Personally, I feel drawn to yoga practice that is rooted in tradition and I offer my students a full scope of methodologies.
After some exploration into the deeper, often ignored world of yoga, you might realize that what you really want is to be an ayurvedic practitioner and help people with nutrition and lifestyle rather than teach asana classes. You may find that you really resonate with bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), or want to emphasize meditation in your personal practice. Yoga has so much more to offer beyond the poses.
There are many possible ways you could ‘do yoga’ in the world.
Step #2: Find and Learn From a Teacher You Resonate With
Not all teachers are equally knowledgeable or emphasize the same points. Some teachers will be much more impactful for you than others. An adept teacher will help you to see yourself in ways that you probably don’t perceive presently. You may begin to recognize when you become reactive, finally see the underlying emotions, and now have the tools to address the deeper issues. A knowledgeable teacher can save you years of trial, error, and guesswork.
Yoga can be powerfully transformational. This process of transformation comes from both the student’s efforts, the depth of the teachings and the guidance they receive from their teachers. A student-teacher relationship is built upon mutual trust and respect.
A teacher is not necessarily a personal friend though they can be friendly. Their job is to hold space for yoga.
A teacher has positive regard for the student and guides them with patience and understanding. The sincere teacher does not try to convince the student, or make them “believers”. They are there to provide support, give direction when needed, and instruct by example.
They point out the territory, they show the student(s) how to recognize and overcome troublesome friction in their lives and how to live more fully. They offer practices to aid in the process.
In my view, teachers are ineffective when they operate out of self-interest, do not maintain their own practice or have insight into the things that they are teaching. When the teacher relies on giving platitudes to the students that they read in a book or offhandedly heard from somebody else, the presentation will lack potency, substance, and compassion.
I sometimes see teachers insincerely praise students. From my perspective, a teacher is there to help students discover their own capabilities rather than to artificially laud upon them. On their best days, the teacher is an embodiment of and an empty conduit for transmitting yoga. They translate and present complex, even bewildering teachings, in a way that the student can understand and grow into.
The student then gets to apply the methods and reflect on the teachings.
“In the beginning an aspirant seeks some support from outside.
That support comes from a teacher.
When the aspirant starts meditating honestly,
then their own Self is revealed in the form of a guru or teacher.”
Step #3: Be A Dedicated Student
We believe that effective teaching is rooted in being a dedicated student. Teaching then becomes an organic extension of your committed practice.
To say it another way: if you aren’t a dedicated student you have no chance of becoming a teacher with depth. Your personal practice is the foundation for the house of your teaching.
Of course this same line of thought also pertains to your personal relationship with yoga. If you practice on a daily basis your mind and body will seamlessly adapt to a more complete version of yourself. It will happen naturally.
Regularity is the key. Practicing a little each day, or on a regularly scheduled occasion is more effective than “stop and go.” Consistent practice builds momentum over time and eventually takes on a life of its own. Developing a personal practice is a little bit like growing a tree, at first you have to be very diligent to make sure it gets enough water, nutrients and sunlight. You may also have to put some kind of barrier around it to prevent it from getting stepped on or eaten by insects. Eventually the tree comes into its own, is able to fend for itself, provides shade, fruit and intrinsic beauty.
Being a dedicated yoga student entails both regular practice and natural curiosity. As you learn and apply new methods and self reflect on their effect, you discover how to shape your experience of life towards one of less fear and towards more joy.
I suggest that students build a dedicated practice and find delight in it also.
Step #4: Create a Strong, Deep, Personal Practice
Dedication is an attitude. Your personal practice is the laboratory in which to apply the attitude.
Like any craft, the more time you spend with it the further you progress. If you want to master the violin, you need to practice. If you want to get better at painting, then practice. The same applies to yoga. The only way to receive the benefit is by regular practice.