Why can’t I be my own yoga teacher?

There is all this talk in my yoga world about the importance of having a relationship with a teacher who can guide you in your yoga practice to a place of balance and growth.  The pervasive drop-in yoga class format and this old idea of mine that with my own will I can take myself most anywhere, means it’s been a bit of a journey to get to a place where I really consider a teacher my teacher.  I got there with Jenn Wooten. I’ll be honest, she had me at first om.  She has been such a very important voice in helping me to bring balance and strength into my practice.  She’s a woman and a mama and her perspective has helped me to integrate living in a spiritual way while very much being in my body and the world.  I made a commitment to practice with her once a week and I’ve been a dedicated student for the last year.  It only took me a year-and-a-half to figure out that I was going to do it, but I got there.

I practice and learn and study with Jenn, but I still have a very independent streak when it comes to my home practice.  I decide what asana I do.  I pick the work and direction of my pranayama practices.  I have chosen my objects of meditation for quite some time now. There’s a practical piece to this—it’s fun.  I get to cultivate curiosity as I delve into my practice.  Practice time is like walking into a human laboratory that I get to experiment and play in every day.  Too, this work of yoga is coming to know yourself, right? It’s important to be able to listen to that inner voice and trust that when you hear it, you can follow it.  But does this rogue-yogini work lead me to balance and growth?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

When we humans are going in one direction and at a certain speed, we tend to try to maintain the state that we are currently in—kind of like Newton’s law of motion.  AND there is this thing of doing something so much or so easily or acting from this place that is just so darn familiar that it doesn’t even come into our conscious awareness and we can’t actually know that we need to stop it because we don’t even know what it is that we are doing that might not be that good for us.  Do you know what I mean?

So this weekend, I was in a workshop with Chase Bossart.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll recognize his name.  I think he’s absolutely wonderful at bringing the yogic texts INTO my life in such a meaningful and useful way.  As a result, I’ve gotten so excited about the Bhagavad Gita that I think of Arjuna and his conversation with Krishna as if i had been listening from the sidelines of the battlefield.  I check in with Patanjali and his Yoga Sutras all the time to help me stay present and connected in my relatioships with myself and others.   This weekend Mr. Bossart presented the second part of a series on the Yoga Sutras. It was great.  I’m jazzed up about chanting and Sanskrit and meditation and that incredible sage, Patanjali, who wrote about the human experience and what to do to bring ourselves into a state of balance (spoiler alert: it involves a lot of yoga). I’ve considered him my teacher for the last couple of years or so, though the format in which I have learned from him has been the workshop.  Very meaningful, but not super individual, right?

Tonight was our last night of the workshop and I think this is probably the 50th time I’ve heard him say this, but it sunk in for the first time this time…. He said how important it is to have a relationship with a teacher to help you choose your object of meditation because meditation is such a powerful practice.  In this lineage, meditation isn’t a “clearing the mind of all thoughts” but a chance to create an experience of conscious-linking so that you can have the experience of connecting to an object that has qualities that will help to bring you into a state of balance.  BAL-ANCE.  Remember that thing that happens to some of us?  That tendency to want to maintain whatever state we are in?  Here’s where that relates to me choosing my own object and how, perhaps, I didn’t choose perfectly for myself.

There was a time when there was great upheaval and upset in my life.  I split with my husband and my girls and I were moving and I was really unsettled so you know what I wanted? …To feel grounded and settled in a big way.  In the meditation experiences that I was choosing for myself, I picked a mountain to be my focus.  Mountains are big, solid, dense, very difficult to move and quite grounded.  This felt like such an appropriate object to me that I stayed with this object for a long while—like 2 months.  Everyday, Mountain… I am the mountain… I am near the mountain… I am packing the mountain into my abdomen… I am bringing the mountain onto my legs and my hips and my body.  Every once and a while, I’d have an experience with the top of the mountain—some perspective, some contact with the sky, right?  But mostly it was dirt and base of mountain business. Serious grounding.

I eventually moved on to other objects of meditation.  Big, deeply rooted trees.  Rocks. I had a river in there for a while but usually, I was sitting on a rock near the water.  I really liked that, but then I was back to mountain, dirt and grounded elements.   What has been the effect of linking to these sorts of objects?  There have been some good ones, for sure.  I have indeed been more grounded and stable in my mind and activities which is important as a mama and as a yoga teacher.   But there may have been some unintended side effects and it didn’t occur to me until TONIGHT.  In the last two years, there has been a strange shift in my travel-tendencies.  I pretty much haven’t left Austin in the last 2 years.  I can think of 3 trips that I willingly took and one I took very reluctantly.  I missed a best-friend’s wedding, a cousin’s wedding, I haven’t been to see another best friend since she moved across the country, I haven’t been back to Seattle to see so many people that I LOVE.  Four trips. That’s it. And if you look at my travel record of previous years, you’ll see that this no-travel thing is very, very unusual for me.  It struck me that this might have something to do with all my mountain-linking AND THEN it occurred to me that grounding is something that might already be a pretty big part of my constitution.  I’m not a mountain in physique or even mental activity.  I stay pretty active in those areas, but personality?  I’ve got a bit of stubbornness.  Get up and moving on a new idea? It can take some serious umph to get that kind of thing going.  So maybe choosing to meditate on something heavy and with a big physical presence was actually my way of not letting go, maintaining my state or preventing a lightness and openness from coming into my life. Perhaps finding balance might look like open sky or a flowing river or a starry night.  Point is, outside guidance could be of use.

So I’ll meet with Mr. Bossart this week and see what he thinks.  It’s only taken me 2 years to ask him to teach me directly and non-workshop style.  I have a meditation teacher and I bet that after this week, I won’t be packing a mountain in my meditation bag of tricks. Get ready soaring eagle or archer or starry night… I have a feeling we are going to get to know each other really well.

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9 thoughts on “Why can’t I be my own yoga teacher?

  1. This is so important for all yoga teachers to read. We need a mentor in order to share this precious gift. Congratulations on your work with Chase Bossart! He is an incredible teacher.

  2. Congratulations Amanda and beautifully written. I personally cannot explain why it has been so easy for me to accept the idea of a mentor and student/teacher relationship. For this reason I am often stumped to as to how to explain this very important concept. Ultimately for me I think it has been a part of slow process of moving away from compulsive self-reliance that no longer serves me.

    1. aaahhhh yes. compulsive self-reliance. Vicki, I’d say that’s a big part of my resistance, too. Intellectually I can understand that something isn’t good for me or needs to change but it takes A LOT longer for the rest of me to get on board. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  3. I am so happy to have found your site. You are truly a gift! I enjoyed all you shared in the workshop this weekend, and am truly happy Mr. Bossart gave the shout out about your site. Thank you for sharing your gifts in such a beautifully written way.

  4. This is an eternal question that each seeker has to answer for themselves. I convinced myself by taking the Guru as my map on the spiritual path. Traveling the path without a Guru is like going to an unknown destination without a map. Eventually, we do arrive, but what trouble we have getting there.

    1. Agniflower, you have such a beautiful way of describing the student-teacher relationship. The map helps us get there, but we still have to do the walking. Thank you

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