July 1st I will celebrate 8 years of the blessing of being a yoga instructor.
8 years of slowly unfolding day by day, class by class.
8 years of practicing, allowing, praying and at times pleading for the wisdom of this sacred practice to come through me.
8 years of observing the grace that comes when I choose to stand with myself and with you, to connect, honor, appreciate, and love the beings that have chosen to be in my class.
8 years of gratitude for the teacher who believed in me enough to encourage me to teach when it was the last thing I wanted to do.
In my second teacher training the incredible Suzanne Sterling was there teaching a module on connecting with and using our voices. At one point we had to go around in a circle and talk about our journey in becoming a yoga instructor. I had been teaching for 2.5 years at this point, but when it was my time to speak my voice shook and I literally couldn’t get the words out. I had to keep gasping for breath.
My path to becoming an instructor did not have to do with any dream that I had about sharing the practice that I had loved for 8.5 years before I took my first training. It had to do with a teacher and a studio owner believing in me enough to keep hounding me until I applied for a training. I believed in that teacher and I prayed about it and despite my absolute dread about standing up in front of anyone (never mind a group of people) there was something about it that felt right. While I was trying to share this with Suzanne, she said, “The world needs more reluctant leaders.”
I think about this a lot.
When I first started practicing with Helena Berg in Maui it was because she was in my massage class and I admired her. I didn’t know anything about yoga, but in her crowded living room with all of the furniture pushed aside, I found something: it was another way to discover consciousness and pray using my entire body. When I moved to Boulder I studied with Nataraja Kallio who taught me how to connect the studies and practices I had learned at the Vaishnava temple I attended with the physical yoga practice. It seems funny now, but I didn’t realize that my physical practice with Helena and the practices the Guru taught me were actually related.
Since I came back to NJ 9 years ago I have practiced with many wonderful teachers. I am a devotional person. The search for Truth and Love and a desire for connection with the Divine are behind everything I do. With that comes what I call an “Are You My Mother?” approach when taking a yoga class with a teacher. “Are You My Mother?” is a Dr. Seuss book that my mom read to me when I was little, and basically involves this little bird walking around and asking various creatures and objects if they are his mom. Much like the little bird, I have walked a long way and asked a lot of questions.
There is a saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” Over the years I have ached about not having a direct line. I agonize over the awkwardness of having a teacher training program, but not having one teacher. This has weighed on me even more since I became a studio owner last December.
I went to Wanderlust this past weekend as a gift to myself and as a way to take some time to reflect on all that has happened over the past few months and to consider all that I am planning for the next year. I needed to realign. What happened is that I found my teacher. The funny thing is that I have practiced with Maty Ezraty before. She is the founder of YogaWorks where I completed my 200 and 300 hour teacher training- the same training that the teacher who encouraged me to teach (Stuart Corn) suggested and even wrote my recommendation letter for. While at Wanderlust I took 4 classes with Maty and on Saturday morning looked at her teaching schedule online to see when she would be on the East coast again. It turns out that she was leading a 100 hour training in NYC beginning the following Monday (2 days later).
Many of you know that I am blessed with a full schedule. Somehow, because of the help of many people(and a TON of grace, I’m sure) I am now able to be in Soho 6 days a week for 3 weeks to learn from my teacher. Literally everyone I reached out to for help in order to see if the training was a possibility said, “Yes.” I can still teach most of my classes and the way cleared in front of me.
Maty has students all over the world. In my teacher training alone there are people who have traveled from many countries to study with her. She has an Ashtanga and Iyengar background as in she studied with Patabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar. She has the same straight forward approach that I appreciated from my first two teachers, the Guru, and my meditation teacher at Naropa. She sheds light in a very practical and skillful way. The funny thing is that since 2007 I have been studying and admiring her teaching all along. I guess I just wasn’t ready to see.
I am on the slow boat. I have been practicing yoga for 16 years and still the practice is new. I hope I am always this way. Being a student is my most comfortable place. I love to be in the back soaking everything in like a sponge. I may be a reluctant leader, but I am honored to be in this place and recognize the blessing and grace found when I dare to go up against my biggest fears. Reluctance and the willingness to do it anyway has given me this life which I love.