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  • What yoga reveals

    Yoga reveals what is already there. So I was told by Helen Barker when I mentioned to her that I experienced heart burn after practising the sequences she taught on a Yoga Therapy IST day.

    The heart burn after yoga was a new experience for me. I was more aware of myself since practising yoga, it was one of the changes I noticed not long after starting.

    Yoga does reveal what is within you already, if you are perceptive enough to notice. Unfortunately not everyone is ready for this experience and the body and mind can use distractions to help us avoid seeing or feeling what is revealed.

    For example, someone new came to one of my classes. Several people had recommended they try yoga. Part way through the class they felt 'spacey', which I found completely normal. That seemed a pleasant feeling to get from yoga, but it wasn't for them and they did not return. I realised only later that the 'spaceyness' may have been a distraction, an avoidance strategy by their mind. They were not ready. Integrating the breath, body and mind would reveal too much at this moment in time. I have had similar experiences on the Meditation Module, zoning out and my body trying to sleep when I wanted to focus on the practice. Yogic practices reveal things about ourselves and the mind and body uses unconscious responses to protect us or the unconscious from being known. These things unfold with time, when they are ready, they cannot be forced. Some people may never experience the awareness that yoga can give them, but they are happy enough to carry on practising. Not many people do reveal what they become aware of in yoga.

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  • In memory of Fred Lock

    Fred was not the first yoga teacher I met, nor the last but, he made the most impression on me and my own style of teaching.

    I was introduced to the class that Fred taught at Beaufort school for Gloscat in the evenings. My mother had attended his class previously and wanted to return when the classes we had attended together changed.

    Those were the days when people often brought sleeping bags to lie on instead of yoga mats. My mother and I had blankets. I do believe Fred had a mat and he tried to encourage people to buy blocks or to roll up the ends of their mats to help them to keep an upright posture when sitting.

    Being young, and thinking I didn't need any help I didn't take these tips on board but I have a greater understanding now and do the same for the students who come to my classes.

    I didn't realise at first that Fred was involved in teaching other yoga teachers, it was only when a new training course was about to start that he mentioned that it was possible to train to teach yoga. That one piece of information was to stay in my mind, until, some years later, I decided that the time was right for me to find out about training to teach yoga. Probably because the Gloscat provision of yoga at Beaufort eventually came to an end and I found it difficult to find out about yoga classes which were held at a time or place, or cost, to suit me.

    I do remember returning to Gloucester, pregnant, and desperate to find a class. I called Fred and he said I could join his class at Upton St Leonards, which I did, for a term. I intended to return once my baby was born but I didn't realise how difficult that would be. When I finally did I was thinking of training myself and Fred encouraged me to try other people's classes.

    There are many things I remember about Fred himself. He had his own uniform of a white polo shirt with a navy tracksuit, that never changed. He explored lots of different methods. He was the first to stop us rolling our necks or exaggerating back bends in cat pose. This was obviously because he had to be up to date with new safety recommendations as a DCT (Diploma Course Tutor). He also introduced us to practises which were not necessarily yoga, Chinese style self massage for hands and feet, Tibetan massage techniques for the face.

    Aside from Fred's appearance and his vast knowledge was the way in which he embodied so much of the yogic philosophy. He was perfectly calm and even tempered when we arrived to find the furniture needed to be moved or the heating wasn't working. He was kind and gentle, never forcing his own opinion or making unwelcome adjustments. His style allowed you to find your own way in understanding. Occasionally I would become so engrossed in a practice to be unaware everyone else had finished and I I did not feel uncomfortable about that in his class. He was accepting and patient, always putting the safety of students first. In this way I for one felt complete trust because he would not say anything which was unnecessary, he meant what he said and believed in what he taught.

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  • The theory and the truth

    With the experience this week of being asked to teach a ready formed class in a venue I did not know, I was reminded of my very first training experiences.

    We were asked to think of and describe what was required from the setting we chose for a class. We had a lot of ideals then. Carpet, warmth parking and good location were probably the most important. But, as you go out into the world you have to change and adapt your ideals. Just because your venue is in the middle of a well-populated area does not mean that the class members will come from that area.

    Someone who lives close to one of my evening classes chooses to come to the day time class which is several miles away.

    Cost didn't enter our heads when we first thought of planning classes. Sometimes the most comfortable venues are the most expensive and, when you do not have guaranteed numbers of people paying you it is hard to commit to renting them.

    When I taught a class for the local college the room they gave me had carpet, it was rather too warm, in a good location with parking but, it had no windows, as soon as the bright, overhead lights were switched off it was pitch black. I solved this issue by procuring lamps but, by the time the college had checked they were suitable and returned them to me it was the last lesson and nobody showed up.

    I was approached by someone who wanted a yoga class in their area and they had a suitable venue which, I do believe, another yoga teacher accepted after I decided not to. The room was fine but the lighting was completely controlled by motion sensors which could not be by-passed. I do have a light like that in one of the venues I do use, but it is just by the entrance the rest of the lights are controlled by switches so, as it flickers on and off it does not disturb anyone.

    Lighting may be a small detail but it can have a huge impact on some people. this is why yoga teachers carry so much stuff, spare mats for students who do not have them, or to block out drafts. Candles and incense to mask the smells left by food, perfume, petrol. Lamps and torches to give sufficient but not obtrusive lighting. behind the scenes I also clamber onto pool tables to reach hard to find light switches.

    After all the places I have seen and used, the room I used at school this week was lovely but I have yet to discover if there is heating in it as it wasn't needed this week.

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  • Yoga is a practice

    On starting the British Wheel of Yoga Meditation Module recently I was told that meditation is a practice. Whilst a one-off session might have benefits a regular practice where it becomes a habit in your life will give you much more.

    I must admit I have struggled with this, I can find moments of meditation in my daily life but not, as yet, a regular set slot as I have for yoga. I am sure there is an explanation for why it is so hard to find fifteen munutes a day to meditate when it is so easy to spend more than that time online browsing for nothing in particular.

    Some people do not see yoga as something which needs to be practiced. One person approached me for an individual session and expected one session to fix the issue that they struggled with. Yoga is not like that, it is not a procedure, more of a process, the effects of which take time to manifest themselves.

    When I started practicing yoga, or, at least, attending a regular class, I did notice a benefit each time. Being young, I didn't notice much difficulty from not practicing inbetween classes. As I progressed I did begin to find it more difficult to practice after a long break like the summer holidays. These days I notice the difference in my body if I change my practice. Occasionally people in class notice the differences they have discovered from regular yoga practice. These improvements can be seen in those who document their progress in Yoga Selfies, if they compare pictures of themselves in the same pose over time.

    So, yoga might produce a positive change after one session, but, like any improvement it needs to be maintained. Our bodies change, develop, practice can be built on, new habits formed, but without practice we will soon return to our previous state, or habits, or deteriorate further. Sometimes that is what keeps people practicing yoga, because they have found it to be useful in preventing further decline.

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  • Learning from you

    I have some students in my class that have reached me via another teacher. Recently, when I revealed that the teacher had learnt a lot from them they expressed surprise. But it is true, every teacher who is open to learning learns from their students.

    For example, I learnt from one that if I want crispy bacon I should try dry-cured bacon. Obviously, as a yogi I feel I should follow the Yamas and practice Ahimsa ( non-violence) and be vegetarian but I find that being completely vegetarian does not suit my body.

    Apart from discussions about bacon after class there are many other things that a teacher can learn from the class. There are the difficult lessons that are learnt when no one comes to the class. There are the lessons that we learn about ourselves when we negotiate fees with students and the rent we pay for the rooms we use.

    We learn from the students that praise us highly but never return. The students that look like they will never return but become regulars. The students that you wish as a teacher had not set foot in your class, and the ones that you wish would come to every class.

    And then there are the bodies they bring, stiff in places you are not. Students that are more flexible or strong than the teacher. Students who are over protective of their bodies and those who are not careful enough, and ignore every warning you give.

    Coming to yoga at a young age most of my students are older than me and I learn about the process and effects of aging on them. About the effect of illnesses and diseases I may never experience, Parkinsons, cancer, arthitis, heart disease. All of these experiences are brought into the class and to the teacher, not always openly.

    Plus there are the aspects of people that others, outside of the class, may never see, tattoos that peek out of sleeves, above trouser tops and below trouser bottoms, they all tell a story.

    So yes, all students are teaching the teacher in a yoga class by their words, their movements, and just by being there, or not.

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