By Laura Mills
I dedicate today’s post to you, the person reading this. Thank you so much! Whether you are a first-time reader or someone who has followed for a while, know that I greatly appreciate your attention. I have always felt that the words I write flow so much more easily than the words I speak; just as my yoga mat is the place I best physically express myself, the page (or screen) is the place I best verbally express myself. You honor me by spending time reading this expression.
Over the years I have written a great deal, in journal after journal, that was for my eyes only. I have also written much that has yet to be read by more than a few: articles, essays, and short stories, as well as two books, all currently unpublished. Compared to the amount of writing I’ve done, the amount of writing that has been widely read is very small. But still, knowing that someone somewhere has spent time reading each particular piece—each expression of myself—humbles me. And even though I will never know exactly how many people read what I write, I believe that each set of eyes brings a positive vibe. I can only hope that my words return the blessing.
In yoga classes we frequently discuss gratitude. As I try to keep up with my day-to-day life, though, I forget…sometimes I don’t remember until I lay down to sleep, and then it’s usually just one big “thank you” to God. But when I sit down to write this blog, I always remember to be grateful—for my yoga, for my writing, for the opportunity to combine the two, and for the people who read my words. I wish for you the same that I wish for my students on the mat: that something from the experience will make you smile, ease your pain, comfort you, or otherwise help you find what you seek and bring you to a more positive place. Namaste.
IN THE WORDS OF A TEACHER TRAINEE JULIA JONSON COHN TELLS ALL HUMILITY, OPENNESS, GRATITUDE
Humility, Openness, Gratitude
By Julia Jonson Cohn
April 8, 2011. Teacher training is over. On our final day together I thought the room would be filled with tears… but instead there was a calm happiness. A knowing that even though this leg of the journey had come to an end, we were about to experience another new beginning. When I signed up for this program, I thought my biggest lessons would be learning the best ways to teach alignment in poses and then putting them together in really smart sequences. I did learn all about that, but there was so much more. I’ve always understood that yoga balances energy in the body/mind… but now I am directly in touch with my spirit as a result of this experience.
The three qualities that I feel now embody my personal mission statement for teaching are these:
1. Humility. I consider it the highest honor to be one who shares the wisdom of this ancient practice of yoga. I am aware that the participants who step into any class I might be conducting are going to be my greatest teachers. And they already have! I also know that being a non-judging observer of life will not only help me to deepen my own practice, but will help me connect more deeply with those who seek me out for class.
2. Openness. The world seems much less complicated and things more clear now that I have connected with the essence of who I am. I have gained the ability to be much more empathetic with all people… even those who I used to view as the biggest obstacles to my own happiness. Now I know my happiness and peacefulness only depends on me… and not losing my connection to my Self. I pledge to convey this awareness to others and share my personal experiences with students.
3. Gratitude. Being grateful for everything that happens is far from an easy practice. I really do view every tough time and every good time as an opportunity for growth because I am thankful for my life. I used to walk around with a “why me” attitude, but now I think why not me… Every hardship has helped me grow in leaps and bounds. I’m not to the point of saying “bring it on.” However, embracing the dark and the light the ups and downs has certainly gotten easier.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my teachers Silvia and Rachel. You probably don’t even know the scope of how you have changed my life (and certainly many others) forever. Thank you to my fellow students. It was no coincidence the Universe brought us together. This is not the end. I love you all.
MYSTERIOUS REMEDY, POWERFUL ROLE BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
Mysterious Remedy, Powerful Role By Laura Mills
Too many times I’ve attended a yoga class and exited feeling I received just what I needed. Yes, when in the mood for a yogic “butt kicking” I’ve purposely chosen a class that would especially challenge me, or when craving an easeful flow I’ve found a restorative or beginners’ class. But even when I’ve gone to a class without any idea of what I needed, most of the time I’ve still left with humility and gratitude, feeling as if the teacher had tailored the class to me.
When training to teach yoga, short of paying attention to weather, time of year, and events in the news, or else asking students before class, I didn’t learn any mystical secret for determining students’ practice needs. Yet after nearly every class—regardless of day, time or level—at least one student tells me, “That was great, just what I needed today,” or something like that. My amazement never fails; somehow, whatever I plan for a particular class finds at least one person in the right place at the right time. I don’t understand and can’t explain how it happens, but the fact that it does happen assures me I don’t need to understand something in order to experience positivity in it.
And, it humbles me to know I help make such positivity possible for others.
Oh, I knew of yoga’s ability to humble long before I started teaching. Time and again I’ve struggled in my own practice, tiring long before the ends of classes, sweating through head- and handstand preparations and other—to me—scary asana work, struggling through a hamstring injury. The further my practice developed the more help I realized I needed. I asked more questions, accepted more instruction, and with my teachers’ guidance eventually discovered a yoga practice all my own.
But now, as a teacher myself, my humility exists in a whole new dimension. When I look out into the studio before class I see students whom I know are working through physical pain or emotional turmoil or both, and many of whom are daily building deeper practices and incorporating yoga further into their lives. I can’t help but feel tremendous respect for my students, choosing yoga as their means of healing and enrichment, putting their trust into something so powerful and mysterious. And I can’t help but feel small and even a bit scared by the knowledge that, if my own experience as a student indicates anything, as their practices deepen students look to me more and more as their guide. Yes, I’ve trained 200+ hours to teach yoga, but I’m still a student myself, still feel I need yoga for my own ongoing healing and enrichment, still haven’t approached understanding what yoga is and can be in my life’s big picture. Yet in the classes I teach, when I see a student close his or her eyes during meditation, smile during Surya Namaskar, or cry in Savasana, I realize that somehow what I’ve planned for that day is doing just what it’s supposed to do….
No yoga teacher should underestimate his or her impact on students. We consciously write classes to the best of our ability, but somehow a deeper guidance takes place that leads individual, unique students into individual, unique practices where they find whatever they need at a particular moment. This is why all of us have chosen yoga, I think; we can’t explain exactly how it works, but it works, and this ultimately brings comfort and peace to teachers and students alike because it confirms our membership in something greater than ourselves. The contentment I see when I look out into the studio during Savasana confirms this for me, every class…and reaffirms what a tremendous privilege, what an incredible experience, what an utter joy it is to teach.
THIS PLACE OF MINE BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
October 12, 2010 This Place of Mine.... (Thoughts of a Beginning Yoga Teacher) By Laura Mills
The need to put things in their place is what initially drew me to yoga. After some difficult years during which my life's flow drastically changed course, yoga proved itself a paddle with which I continued sailing forward. Yoga felt right; it made ME feel right, or at least more right than before...which made pursuing my teaching credentials feel especially right, so I could ultimately help others do the same.
And so, eager to teach others about re-establishing life's peace--about putting things in their place--I immersed myself in a teacher training program. And then, sooner than expected, a teaching opportunity arose, and into my first class I jumped. I'm glad it all happened quickly; if I had had more time to think before I accepted the commitment, I likely would have talked myself out of it. And true to my nature, after I accepted I struggled daily with the thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" Terrified, I wrote my first class, then practiced it at least once a day for an entire week. I mentally rehearsed it again and again. I even took the class plan to bed with me.
Was this what "right" should feel like?
The morning of the class I woke up sick-to-my-stomach nervous, and throughout the early hours I forced myself to stay busy at the risk of otherwise panicking. In fact, up to the moment the class began I focused so intently on NOT panicking that I can't explain too much else of what happened that day--all I know is that after the class I felt a surge of relief. And exhilaration, for it had gone well...which surprised me, because again true to my nature I had expected something to go wrong. Still, even with my initial happiness, afterwards I mentally replayed the class: did I cue everything correctly? Did I make eye contact? Did I speak clearly? Was my music too loud? What's landscape vision again? Was this really the right course for my life?
As my second, third, fourth and subsequent classes passed with the same anxieties and the same questions, something else emerged: a new dimension to the respect I held for my own yoga teachers. The effort in sequencing a class, the thought in developing a theme, the creativity in compiling a playlist...the amount of work involved, which I now undertook myself, revealed my teachers' love of and dedication to the practice. The thought of all they had done for me as their student humbled me. But even more than that, my realization of their faith inspired me anew...faith that, at some point, a teacher just has to let go of each class and trust that she or he has prepared enough and the rest will somehow come together.
The anxieties and the questions began to diminish...a little.
And then, a bit further along, an old feeling arose within me--a really, really good feeling that felt stronger with each class. I hadn't felt it in a long time, but here it was, back again. I recognized it when I realized I felt more excitement than nervousness before class; I recognized it when I realized I greatly looked forward to interacting with my students, many of whom I now knew by name. I recognized it when I realized I wasn't just another yoga teacher working with just another group of students, but part of a unique and beautiful yoga studio family.
And, I recognized it when I realized I was totally overwhelmed with blessings. With my attention lately so focused on yoga, my yoga-related blessings in particular were in mind.... My yoga teachers who enriched my practice and inspired me; my fellow trainees who shared so many of their gifts; my students who put their faith in me to guide them through each practice, each class; my husband who supported me in every possible way on my yoga journey. And God, the Universe, the Divine Being, who made certain that yoga and yoga teaching found me, and thus put me in my place...which is, in light of all this I am growing more certain, the right one.
Wishing you peace in recognizing your place, Laura