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Teaching yoga from the heart

Teaching yoga from the heart

I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. When I woke up this morning I read a message on my phone that upset me and made me pissed off and angry. Upset yes, but I don’t think I’ve been angry in the last two years. I made a cup of tea and the label of the Yogi Tea said: ‘You will always live happy if you follow your heart’. I opened my email and found a testimonial of PURE gym, spa, yoga that made me cry. In a good way. I set back on the bed and thought of all those people who are enrolling in a yoga teacher training nowadays and wondered: will they be teaching yoga from the heart or from the book?

When I was twelve, thirteen years old I had some big drama happening in my life. I don’t like to go in detail in a public blog, but it made a big scar that me and my sister have to carry around for the rest of our lives. It didn’t only made a big scare, but influenced us deeply and played a big roll in how we grew up and how we looked at lives as kids. It was that big that it would still play a roll today if it wasn’t for yoga. See, I tried to get rid of it in a lot of ways. Nothing worked. Until I stepped on my mat and started doing yoga.

Turning a drama into a gift

For those who know me, I love asanas, but I’m not that interested in them. I hardly know any names in Sanskrit and don’t know all the names in English or Dutch either. I do know how to get people into them and I do know how to use them to heal your body. I don’t care about the names, because for me the key to happiness is the yoga philosophy. Studying yoga and reading books about shamanism (Don Miguel Ruiz is my favorite writer) has changed my life. My scar will always be there, but yoga had turned a big drama in a big gift. 

Why? Because this big scar and all the little ones I had before the big drama and the bigger and little ones I got after made me into the teacher I am today. That and especially the way yoga has health these wounds. And if I can heal them with yoga, so can you. Now I know my path is my path. But I can use the experiences of my path to help others.

Play, Pray, Love

When I went to India the first time to book and film Eat, Pray, Love was hot. If you adjust it a little bit in Play, Pray, Love you have my ingredients for life. As a yoga teacher that’s what I’m trying to teach: play, pray and study and live from your heart. I know I can’t solve your scars. That’s something you have to do for yourself, but I might be able to guide you from my experience. That’s my reason for teaching. A perfect triangle pose (Trikonasana: I do know that one) won’t help you heal your wounds. It may bring some old pain to the surface, but it won’t heal it. Having it coming to the surface is a good thing, but only if you understand the yoga philosophy and the working of your mind you can heal it. That’s why I always put some philosophy in my classes. 

Before I started my yoga school in the Netherlands I looked at how yoga used to be taught, before it was this big ‘fitness thing’ with people in expensive Lulumon pants practicing asanas in clean, air-conditioned or artificial heated rooms. In the old days a guru would choose his student. Somebody he or she regarded to be ready to set the last step in life to enlightenment. The guru would make a tailor made program for this student, to give this student the best chances to reach this goal. That practice would always be a combination of asana, pranayama and meditation. Tailor made. Not something taken from a book or invented by somebody else. If we teach from our heart, if we listen to our heart we can do this as well.

Old, trapped emotions

My yoga school had a reputation to be different. We didn’t only had a yoga shala, but also a tea room. After every class I would pour some tea and those who wanted would come and sit in a circle. Chitchatting, sharing ideas, stories. For those who needed the teachers were there to talk to. We were no psychologists, but we were yoga teachers, formed by life. And all teachers were massage therapists (who have coaching skills in the Netherlands) or had a similar background. See: stiffness in the body are old, trapped emotions. If we teach asana we open up people. Emotions will come to the surface. As a teacher we have to keep this in mind. If we teach yoga, I think we should be there for our students as well. Listening to them, if they want to talk to us. It’s their journey, we can’t solve their problems, but just hearing their story can be a very big, first step.

So as a teacher I like to teach from the heart (love), I like to teach philosophy (pray) in my classes to plant some seeds in my students to help them grow; when they are ready for it. The last thing that’s important for me is play. I like to have fun in my class. Again: I’m a rebel, I don’t believe in dogmas, I study other peoples work, but mixed it with my own experiences. Play works for me. As long as you have fun, you will keep doing what you do. As soon as things are forced down your throat you will start resisting. Look at all the fanatic, religious people who kill and try to force their religion on others. It’s not working. I like to keep things loose and fun. Would you love somebody who puts a knife on your throat of would you love somebody who puts his arm around you, makes you laugh with a joke and listens to you when you need it?

Making a difference

I came across a lot of yoga teachers on my journey. The ones that made a difference in my life, the ones I remember where the warm, open, kind and lovely ones. Not the dictators who just shouted out poses and walked out of a class room as soon as the class ended. I remembered the ones that sit down with me, giving me advise in poses, not the ones that followed a book. If you are thinking of becoming a yoga teacher, think about what kind of teacher you want to be. Are you going to teach what others have invented or are you going to use your own journey in life? Will you be teaching from the book or will you be teaching yoga from the heart?

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