Learning From My Teachers

31st July 2011 – 8:00pm

“Did my practice today with TC, who is one of my favourite teachers. She always has very interesting anecdotes that she would tell us at the start of our classes, which would tie in with our practice.

Today, she told us about the time she attended an advanced class and found it so difficult she never attended another. She had been putting off going back because of her fear of failure, but she recently decided to bite the bullet and gave it another shot. It turned out much better than she thought it would. So her little lesson for us today was that we should act and not react; just get what we want to do done, with no drama, and not react by thinking about the permutations of negative possibilities… It has no value and we only affect ourselves negatively.

Her “homework” assignment to us?

Attend a class we’ve been putting off, and tell her how it went. The class I’ve been putting off is the Core class, which focuses on abdominals. Urrrrrrrgghhhh. I suck at all the asanas that focus on abs………….

But I am going to do it, just to see how bad it is.

Maybe it’ll be okay.”

In my few years of practicing yoga at different studios, I have attended classes conducted by teachers of varying ages, ethnicities, nationalities, shapes and sizes. Some never made the slightest impression, while others’ faces and voices will remain imprinted in my mind forever. As I come to the end of my Yoga Teacher Training course and am starting to figure out what kind of teacher I want to be, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the teachers who molded me into the practitioner I am today and what I loved about their classes.

Life Lessons On The Mat

TC, who is mentioned in my blog post from 2011 is one of the teachers who made a great impact on me in the early days of my yoga journey. She would teach us little lessons during each class, not unlike the one above, that were short and sweet, bits of wisdom that were easy to digest and take away with us at the end of each class. Another thing she used to say that I can still remember after all these years is, how we do our practice on the mat, e.g. how we handle the challenges we face when we do asanas, is practice for the world off our mat. I am not a philosophical person, but I hope that I too can one day be confident enough to share little life lessons with my future students.   

The Hands That Mold

Another teacher that I remember vividly from when I first started practicing yoga is CL. She has a strong following and I remember going to her Mysore class feeling intimidated. Through her, I got my first taste of learning Ashtanga yoga the traditional way and receiving hands-on adjustments; I remember walking out of her class marveling at how much deeper into the poses I went and how amazing it felt. At that moment, I understood the importance of hands-on adjustments and I knew I would improve more quickly in her class than if I went to a class where the teacher did minimal to no adjustments at all. After I graduate, I hope that I will be able to get more practice adjusting students till one day students will come to my class because they feel that my adjustments are making a difference to their practice!    

That Special Feeling

One of the teachers I recently learned from is AH, and her classes were always packed full of students. It was easy to see why.  

Names: She made it a point to remember her students’ faces and names; during class she would call out encouragements, compliments and verbal adjustments to students by name, which is impressive when you have a class of twenty – and not all of them regulars!

Hands-on adjustments: She would physically adjust different students throughout the class with steady, strong movements, and held students’ legs up in more challenging asanas like sirsasana. If a student wanted to go up, she would assist them in going up.

Aromatic touch: During savasana at the end of each class, she would dab a bit of sweet orange essential oil on students’ anterior deltoids as she pushed them firmly into the mat with her hands. This ritual has made such an impression on me that I now think of her every time I smell sweet orange essential oil.    

Charisma: She emanated zen vibes with her voice and her style of teaching. Even when her classes were challenging, I left them feeling energised and relaxed.

While there is plenty to learn from AH, the most important takeaway for me is the student-centric way in which AH conducted her classes. Her students were given a unique experience that they came back for week after week. Taking a leaf out of her book, I hope that I will be able to develop a unique experience that I can offer my students in the future. I am excited to see what it will be!  

The Circus of Dreams

Lastly, is MS, my current teacher. He is pretty unorthodox in comparison to all the other teachers whose classes I have attended. For one, watching his demonstrations is like watching circus acts, and most of the time the poses he demonstrates are poses that I would only be able to do in my dreams! Or at least I think I would only be able to do them in my dreams till one day I am suddenly able to do them in his class. MS does not believe in limiting his students, which is why he shows us intermediate to advanced poses and sequences. Everything is possible, “easy” and “a piece of cake”. Of course, for everything to be possible we have to put in the work, and his sequences include strength training and grueling core workouts that have entire classes of students crying out from exhaustion. But he inspires us, and we come back to class every week because he inspires us to try till the day we finally get it. When I become a teacher myself I hope to inspire students to work towards poses by breaking them down step by step, and working on the muscle groups that would enable them to do the poses they want to do.

Next weekend our Yoga Teacher Training course will come to an end and I will begin my teaching journey. In the words of Robert Heinlein, “When one teaches, two learn”; I hope that I can create an impact in my future students’ practices the way my teachers have for mine, and learn more about the yogic path while I am at it.  


Rachel, March 2018 Weekend YTT