What makes a great yoga teacher?

 

I often get this question from students at our teacher training. It’s a very good question because it has so many variables within the same topic and I find myself discovering more nuances every time I am reminded of how important is the role of a yoga teacher or any teacher by that matter. Your first few yoga classes can determine the future of your practice, they can inspire you to find further knowledge and work harder on creating a better body/mind or they can frustrate you to the point you never come back to the mat. In all these years of teaching I heard many stories, lovely ones and horrible ones, stories of great experiences and big lessons, stories of connection and some of major disconnection between teacher and student.

 

So, what makes a good yoga teacher? For some it might be the one who is insightful, for others the teacher needs to be energetic and fun. Some people like the famous yoga teachers and others prefer the ones who look and act like them. The diversity in taste is as vast as we can imagine and as teachers we have to allow our true personality to shine in class in a mindful and loving way. There are many studies that show we all learn differently and as a teacher we have to understand each student’s body, personality and way of learning. By dedicating all of our attention to the students, we learn how to connect to each one of them creating the fundamental trust so they can open up to our teachings and offerings. Through acceptance and love they engage in a healthy yoga practice that will take them deep into the path of self love, knowledge of self and unity.

 

In my humble opinion, a good yoga teacher is not the one who has the most advanced class – it is actually very easy to teach those who have experience and confidence in their practice. A good yoga teacher is the one who can bring together all levels, bodies, looks and personalities and create an unforgettable experience to all of them. A good yoga teacher is the one that understands how scary it can be to take a first class or to try an arm balance for the first time and because of that she will kindly show how confident she is that the student can achieve new milestones. A good yoga teacher is the one who’s always doing her best to live her yoga, to be the greatest example to her own students even if that means showing her own weaknesses. She’s kind, loving, compassionate, friendly and humble. She makes people have fun when they fall and encourages them to try again. The one who enhances people’s lives through love and connection.

 

What do you think? In your opinion, what makes a great yoga teacher? Message me your answer and other questions. Let’s talk!

 

Much love,

Paty

 

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What is the importance and purpose of savasana?

 

 

Savasana is one of the most delicious yoga poses in my personal practice. It is the dessert of your asana practice, the warm cafezito in the afternoon, the best way to end a yoga class. Often despised by the ultra fast paced type A yogi and also misunderstood by many, savasana is a very important asana as it helps us realize how integrated mind and body are after pranayama and asana. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind.” The relevance of non doing in our constant busy lives is extremely important since everything in nature thrives on the balance between action and relaxation. Laying flat on the ground after a stressful situation, after a strong yoga practice or after a full day will help you quiet the mind, reset the body and connect them both so you can once again feel whole.

 

Here are some of the main benefits of savasana:  

 

“Quiets the mind”

“Relieves fatigue”

“Decreases blood pressure”

“Helps relieve headache”

“Reduces symptoms of depression”

“Improves the way we react to stress”

“Helps us focus on the present”

“Decreases metabolic rate”

“Increases focus and concentration”

“Reduces frequency of panic attacks”

 

In savasana, we learn to surrender, allowing life to flow through as we observe in pure relaxation and without any judgement. From savasana we learn to take a step back before making decisions, we learn the importance of resting muscles and mind, we take the time to tone down what is happening on our surroundings so we can dive deep within and really observe all that is happening to ourselves, body and mind. During the time we are laying still, we can also learn to accept what is, to accept our bodies, to be at peace with ourselves, to be grateful for the heartbeat we can feel in our chest.

 

As much as we see savasana as an easy pose from the outside – since we are not balancing on our thumbs or holding our feet behind our ears – from Iyengar to my own teacher Surendran Pandaran and many more people in between, myself included, there’s an agreement on how difficult this pose truly is. It takes practice and ability to find the perfect placement for the body. It takes practice and patience to achieve full mental relaxation. It takes understanding and self love to be able to surrender, to let go, to just be.

 

But when we do, when we learn how to relax in awareness, we create the most beautiful tool that shows us so much about ourselves and our surroundings. A tool that is free, with no side effects and it can be used on any given day by any and every body. When the body finds no resistance and the mind finds silence, the heart can take flight.

 

Much love,

Paty

 

Originally written for Today’s Yoga Magazine

About that guru

Originally written for Today’s Yoga Magazine – March 2017

 

We hear a lot of yoga teachers talking about gurus from India. What is the role of a guru? And how do we know we found one?

By Hannah M.

 

The Guru Gita (verse 17)  describes the guru as “dispeller of darkness” (from gu, “darkness” and ru, “that which dispels”). Merriam-Webster defines a guru as a religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism. : a teacher or guide that you trust,  a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject.

 

In my point of view, a guru can be anyone who is teaching you a lesson at the moment. My children teach me something everyday, my dog has taught me to be more playful, my students teach me about anatomy and heart. I don’t see a guru as a special human being with super powers or someone who needs to be treated any differently and if you have been watching the news, you know yoga gurus can get quite famous, demanding and even get in trouble for treating their students improperly.

 

According to many scholars, the term guru in India is used to define a spiritual or religious leader. Someone that has achieved a higher level of consciousness and is now at service by teaching others to do the same. In that country, they are treated with utmost respect and adoration, followed by many and idolized by all. India has many famous gurus that have written books, preached all around the world and taught incredible lessons to its disciples.

 

However, in the world of modern yoga, a well known teacher can be considered a guru and also idolized by many which conflicts with the teachings of aparigaha – non attachment and satya – truthfulness, since an enlightened person is supposed to not accept a special position or special treatment considering that such place could be based on an inflated sense of self. After all, how do we know who is enlightened and who’s not? What is the line that defines someone normal and a guru? And if we do find the guru, how do we know how to treat him/her?

 

To make things less complicated, more flexible and pure – as yoga should be – I believe a guru is a teacher, someone that brings you the light and that teacher can be found on a child’s smile, on someone’s perseverance, on a kind student, on a sweet grandparent, on nature and much more. If yoga is a way of living, my guru is life and everything in it. The good and the bad people, the sweet and the bitter moments and everything that surrounds me plus everything that is within me. We don’t need to idolize someone in order to find the light. We don’t even need to look for it as the light lies within each one of us. The guru is, and it has always been, you. Your heart. Your openness to love.

 

Keep sending me questions, comments and more!

 

Much love,

Paty

 

 

Can yoga improve your sex life?

Originally written for Today’s Yoga Magazine

 

It is common to hear that yoga can fix from a headache to high blood pressure, from anxiety to just crankiness and more. For the people that have been practicing and studying all aspects of yoga, for those who have gone deep into understanding how beautiful such practice is, yoga is capable of helping with world peace. And if yoga can be such a powerful tool for body and mind, it is only obvious that it could help improve our sex life.

Sex is a big part of our lives and it is often misunderstood as something purely physical based on the need to reproduce and guarantee the survival of the human race. Although it can be just that, sex can also be a spectacular experience for your body, mind and soul where you find the light of all creation, including your own. So here’s how yoga can help on both cases:

 

  • Flexibility

 

This is an obvious one. The more loose and flexible your body is, the better it moves, the healthier it feels and the happier it is. And when your body feels amazing, sex feels amazing too.

 

  • Confidence and self love

 

A constant yoga practice creates a sense of acceptance of self, increasing self love and confidence. When you are on the mat, observing and appreciating your body, you find value for what is, for the body that you have right now, regardless of the changes you might want to make to it. You understand that only by loving yourself fully, you can then work on improvement. We all know that sex is not about the way your body looks. It is all about how confident you are, how comfortable you are with yourself and how much you love yourself. Easy math on this one, no?

 

  • Moola Bandha

 

Yoga requires you to use a whole lot of muscles, all the time. It is a complete workout that engages muscles, organs and gland, benefiting them all. And as we become more aware of our body and all the parts being used and benefited, we start applying moola bandha (root lock) to help us lift energy and create a strong and energetic body. As much as moola bandha gets mixed up with kegel exercises, it really requires some extra muscles on the pelvic floor and perineum area to be engaged in order to be done correctly. As we become more comfortable with the whole area, we improve our sensations by having more muscle control and awareness of our sexual organs, which helps to improve not only the orgasms but all the sensations preceding to it,

 

  • Awareness

All of the mindful practices, such as yoga and meditation, can be considered important tools on developing awareness. The knowledge of the self combined with gratitude and appreciation learned from such practices can definitely take your sexual life to a higher level. Compassion, gratitude and care can transform sex into an incredible spiritual practice where not only the body is being shared and touched, but where the soul feels at home too. The connection created through awareness during sex will feel as a transcendental experience of oneness and peace.

 

Agree? Disagree? Will try? What are your experiences? Let me know and keep on asking cool questions!

 

Much love,

Paty

Yoga Teacher Training Q&A

Quickies from our Aananda School of Yoga Teacher Training

 

When I teach Posture Clinics, I get all sorts of really cool questions and yoga stories from our future teachers. I figured since we all go through those questions at some point, we can exchange answers and ideas. Here are mine:

 

What to do when you sub a class and the students are not friendly to you?

Nothing. Take a breath, teach your best class, be your usual super nice and maybe, at the end of class, talk about non attachment and flexibility of the mind. Those are great attributes of a good yogi.

 

What to do when a 7 month pregnant woman that has never done yoga wants to join the class?

It is in your right to either accommodate – and by that I mean teach two classes in one, while making sure the pregnant woman is safe and your other students are being taken care of – or to kindly say “This is not the best class for this time as your body is going through a lot of changes and the asanas would be completely different”. If you don’t feel secure, don’t do it.

 

What to do when your class is filled with people from every level, from the first timer to the super advanced?

These are my favorite kind of classes. It is super easy to teach an advanced class since the students will know what they are doing. The challenge of teaching a multi level class is on knowing each asana so well that you can create 5 different levels within the same pose and allow everyone to work at their level. Know your asana!

 

What to do when someone decides to take the spot right at the front only to do their own thing during the entire class, distracting everyone?

I had that happen once. I used warrior as a transition and moved everyone to face the back of the room, so the person ended up behind everyone else. No struggle, no fight, smooth.

 

What to do with the person that always goes to the most advanced level of a pose when he clearly can’t do it and it is all over the place with his alignment?

If the person can get hurt, I will go close to them and instruct them to realign within their level as I practice by their side. If the person does not want to listen, I get everyone out of the pose and bring them to child’s pose and I kindly remind them of ahimsa towards their own body. If they still don’t listen, I let them be and make sure to repeat the alignment and safety cues a thousand times, for my own safety.

 

What to do when a student farts in class?

Nothing. We all fart. We are not middle school students. Get over it. Continue class as usual. If people laugh, start walking through the class as you normally teach and draw the attention to you. We don’t want to make anyone feel bad for doing something that is natural and expected in yoga.

 

There are so many more of these! Keep them coming.

 

Much love,

Paty