Grace's Blog

Today’s yoga class left me feeling angry and frustrated

That’s so not yogi is it? To be angry after a yoga class is almost criminal!

Usually I’d feel refreshed and revitalised after a yoga class.

Not this time.

Since moving to Melbourne, I’m trying to find a regular yoga class where I can practice away from home and the kids.

I have been yoga class shopping for something local and I am blown away at how difficult it is to find a yoga class that I actually love.

Most classes these days can resemble very little of the yogic tradition.

This particular yoga class lacked any sort of spirituality to it. Not a single chant of the sound OM to acknowledge the sacredness of the practice.

The flow of the class didn’t cater for the varying levels of students in the class and so I found myself craving more.

The sequences had things like bicycle legs and stomach crunches.

Excuse me, did I pay for a yoga or a pilates class? Or a fusion of some other cool thing the teacher has picked up? Les Mills Body balance style perhaps? There is nothing wrong with any of these styles, however the timetable read “Yoga” so that’s why I turned up.

My expectations were not met and I guess that’s what made me angry and frustrated.

If I had signed up for a pilates class and then got a yoga class, that too what frustrate me no doubt.

The thing that I’m discovering more and more is that the authenticity of yoga seems to be getting lost. And I find myself feeling a sense of loss and sadness about it.

Classes are becoming more watered down.

The standard of the yoga teacher qualification has changed.

When I started practicing Ashtanga yoga 14 years ago, I revered my teachers in a unique way (and I still do).

These teachers dedicated their lives to yoga. Their commitment was reflected in their own personal practice and the knowledge they passed on.

This knowledge was given to them by their teacher in a close and intimate way.

The teachings of yoga were handed down one on one from teacher to student.

The best yoga teachers I have seen are those who have gone through this rich and personal mentoring process.

I’m not saying that there is no merit in teacher training courses. I’m just simply pointing out that something is getting lost in this process.

And we have way too many classes that are offered as yoga but personally I think they should be called something else.

Yoga has a deep and rich tradition. It is physical and spiritual. A yoga class led by a teacher I believe should encompass these elements:

* a chant to open and close the class to show respect to the lineage of yoga and the teachers before us. Or at a minimum, chant the sacred sound of OM
* some yoga philosophy woven into the class – doesn’t have to be much. Just some food for thought that connects the asana (postures) practice to the spiritual and emotional side of the students.
* a thought out series of postures (regardless of the style) that caters for the varied levels in the class.
* clear instructions on alignment and technique
* hands on adjustments that intend to help shift the body deeper into the practice in a mindful way
* pranayama (breathing exercises) woven into the class
* a connection/reference to the bandhas (energetic locks)
* meditation
* Savasna (relaxation)

So this class that made me angry… well it had very little of the above.

Yes, the teacher was lovely. She had a nice manner, a nice flowing class and clear instructions.

But I was left feeling empty.

And it just didn’t feel good coming out of a yoga class feeling this way.

So instead of letting that anger grow, I wrote this blog to help me acknowledge what it was that frustrated me.

Finding a good yoga teacher is absolutely essential to your growth as a yoga student.

I’ve been so blessed with a handful of exceptional teachers who I’ve had consistently guide me over the last 14 years.

I’m truly grateful, more than ever for the wisdom and experience they have passed onto me.

I love practicing and teaching yoga. To me, it’s just part of who I am.

My advice to new students of yoga – find a teacher who you connect with. Whose classes you really enjoy and feel helps you progress as a yoga student and student of life and stick to them like glue!

A good teacher can inspire you, challenge you (spiritually and physically) and they walk the journey of yoga alongside you.

Have you found your yoga teacher(s) yet?

Grace's Blog

Who is your Guru?

In the month of July, it is tradition to acknowledge our gurus.  The word ‘guru’ is the Sanskrit term for “teacher”.  ‘Gu’ means darkness, ignorance, that which obscures beauty and truth.  ‘Ru’ means ‘that which removes’.  So guru is interpreted as one who removes ignorance or darkness. 

 In the West, the concept of guru can seem mysterious and difficult to accept.  You may be asking, “How do I find my guru?”.  A guru is a teacher who imparts insights and revelations to you about Yoga.  A guru may also help one to come to know truth.  We are each other’s gurus and you can be your own guru! Traditionally (and still present today), yoga is a tradition that is passed on from guru to student.  In the West we have established teacher training courses and in just a couple months, one can be certified as a yoga teacher! Tradition however saw a much closer relationship between guru and student whereby the student develops a respect and love for the teacher with the same respect and love they have for the Divine.  In this tradition, knowledge is passed on over many many years and it is only after years of dedicated and loyal practice as a student that a guru may bestow the honour of ‘teacher’ to their student. 

 Yoga teachers must uphold the moral and ethical principles of yoga.  Three necessary criteria for a good teacher are:

Lineage: the teacher should have had direct transmission of knowledge from his or her own teachers.  The teacher also should have been blessed to teach by his or her teachers. Practice: the teacher must have a regular daily practice.
the teacher must love the students so much that he or she is willing to sacrifice anything to serve them.

I often think of my best teachers as being demanding, yet gentle where the asana (posture) practice becomes a mere structure for the real work, which is transformation.  

In my case, I feel blessed to have had extraordinary teachers over the years of my yoga practice and especially blessed for my guru of 9 years, Eileen.    You continue to ‘remove the darkness’ even though my body is far away from you.  I pay homage and respect to all the extraordinary teachers I am blessed to have had and continue to have and I bow in devotion to them and my teachers’ teachers and their teachers… This is my lineage.  To the late Patthabi Jois, Guruji.  You are our Ashtanga father and are greatly missed.  Namaste. 

 “The guru said to the disciple:
You have three jobs.  Your first job is to find me.  Your second is to love me.  Your third is to leave me”  ~Indian Proverb