Only occasionally do I write about yoga here, and when I do, there is always a small flood of correspondence with readers that follows. Often people are looking for DVD or book recommendations, a place for them to start developing their own practice. I'm happy to offer ideas - generally suggesting one of Rodney Yee's DVDs (ethically, people tend to have mixed feelings about him), I find his teaching to be a clear, accurate, and intelligent source to begin yoga at home. I also love to recommend Judith Lasater's book, 30 Essential Yoga Poses. In addition to giving excellent instruction to 30 poses, she also includes notes for the student and an "Especially for Teacher" section with each pose. By reading through the notes for teacher, the student gets a little glimpse into the abilities and awareness of a yoga instructor, which is wonderful insight to have when it comes time to leave your home and find a teacher to practice with at a studio. An idea that brings me to the point of this post. For me, and I think for most, the teacher/student experience is essential for truly discovering yoga. Benefits can absolutely be gained from utilizing yoga videos - increased flexibility and strength, peace of mind and relaxation, these can all be found in your living room. But if it is the deeper, transformational gifts of yoga that you seek, you would be most fulfilled connecting with a teacher, or a few different teachers.
I didn't learn yoga from a video. To be honest, I don't know anyone that truly has. That isn't to say I didn't try to, because I certainly did. For two years I tried to learn yoga from videos. Countless times I rolled out my mat on the living room floor and moved through poses as the two dimensional instructor on the screen told me to. (I practiced dolphin pose with the top of my head on the floor because that's how it appeared from my angle and no one was there to tell me otherwise.) I tried to breathe as suggested, even though true instruction of pranyama (breath work) was never a focus of the videos I owned... it was more of a condiment than a side dish, never mind the main course.
Eventually, I connected with two different teachers outside of my home. One taught a particularly gentle class, an 8 week series. I was the youngest student in the room by decades (I was 28 or 29 at the time). The Kripalu certified teacher seemed very qualified and mindful, and I enjoyed some quiet, 'me' time each Tuesday morning after I dropped Emily off at kindergarten. But there was just no way around the class being geared toward older bodies. The second teacher I connected with provided a nice experience too, she had a fitness/aerobic background and came into teaching yoga in her late 40's. It was a simple, genuine experience which I valued, yet offered only a small place of growth in my (still very basic) practice.
There had to be more.
Both teachers did give me an experience beyond what any DVD could have. They placed their hands on me, adjusting and assisting as needed, opening me up to something new. This support alone brought me further in a few weeks than months of standing in front of a TV screen. They rolled back my shoulders, rotated my hips, elongated my spine, and so on. Breath work was taught, although as in the videos, it was not a focus.
I was onto something, but the practice still did not fully land for me. I knew there was more to this yoga thing and I desperately wanted to experience it. All of it.
I felt so frustrated because I could taste the transformational power of yoga and yet I could not grasp it. Who could teach me the parts of yoga that I knew existed but couldn't find on my own?
Who could teach me the yoga that would deliver me back to myself?
I eventually did find it, two-fold. As it turned out, I connected with a studio that was about 30 minutes from my home and enrolled in their Yoga Teacher Training program. The studio owners, Anne, and her husband Matthew, taught the program over the course of ten months. Not only did I essentially get to go on a yoga retreat once a month for 10 months, but because it was relatively close to home, I would practice at the studio 3-6 times each week. This is where every bit of the yoga I had been searching for was taught, and where the most authentic parts of myself were discovered. That year, I came home.
Nothing has been the same since.
Going into the weekend I thought it would be nice to share something with you. Pour yourself something frosty and gift yourself about 45 minutes of listening time. Seeing as many readers do check in with me about yoga and how they might go about finding their own practice, I'd like to share a special radio interview that aired this week on our local NPR station featuring both of my yoga teachers, Anne and Matthew Falkowski, as well as another teacher from their studio, Rebecca Willman.There are phone calls taken throughout the show, including a lengthy and interesting chat with Robert Love. Anne, Matthew and Rebecca are on for the entire show.
Yoga is a lineage that has been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years. I am honored to be able to share with you the voices and wisdom of my teachers, Anne and Matthew, please listen here. I hope it adds a spark of inspiration to your weekend. The person conducting the interview, Colin McEnroe, has a background in yoga so his questions and topics meet Anne, Matthew and Rebecca at a really nice place. A great listen all around. One more thing, the title of this post... like a much needed hug those words are don't you think? You'll hear Anne share similar words during the interview.