What inspired you to teach yoga?
When I first took a yoga teacher training in 2002, I did not have any intention of teaching. I was merely curious as to what was there besides what I was being taught in a group class. It was as if there was something mysterious I was not shown, but I knew was there. After I took the training, I kept delving deeper, studying and learning the perhaps more “secret” or less revealed teachings. When you start reading texts on Ayurveda, Yoga Tantra, and so on, you begin to realize very quickly that this world of yoga is massive. After a few years of pretty intense asana practice, I met my first teacher Rod Stryker. He taught me the science of mantra, vidya (clarity), meditation, and Yoga Nidra. From there the world of yoga kept expanding.
How do you stay a student in your practice?
In yoga, it is absolutely essential to continue being a student. To stop at the physical part of the practice will create many limitations for teachers and ultimately lead to leaving the “practice.” I think the most important aspect of being a teacher is having a living teacher. There needs to be some sort of guiding force in your life, some kind of mentor who you can trust and knows what teachings need to be revealed at what time.
What inspires you about teaching?
There are so many aspects of teaching that inspire me. For the past 10 years, it has been Ayurveda. There have been many great teachers that have shown me the depth of this science and the importance of the practice. Currently my main teacher in yoga and Ayurveda is David Frawley and Yogini Shambhavi. The fullness of their teachings have inspired me so greatly that when there are times where I feel frustrated or even giving up, their guiding force continues to illuminate the path. There seems to be many walls and boundaries we reach in yoga. Sometimes it seems that there’s a great gap between what the sages are saying is possible in yoga, and what we as students are experiencing. For instance, what is this moksha (liberation)? How DO I find freedom in the world? The answer is usually, “Keep practicing.” Yes, over and over and over. But perhaps this makes sense because where we fail, we are meant to practice.
That leads to even more questions: Are the practices we are doing the right ones? Do the practices support us not just on a physical level but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? How do we know we are on the “right” path? This is where once again we need the guidance of a teacher. Of course we have our own innate intelligence within as well, called the dhi, which means “to know.” That sense of knowing comes out of sadhana, or personal practice.
I’m sure most yoga teachers will agree the primary practice is that of meditation. Meditation did not come easily for me in any sense. Either my knees were going to explode at any moment, or my mind was going to combust. I knew from the texts and teachings that it was really the only way to deal with all the unwanted, intense parts of myself. Asana (physical practice) will give you a supple, flexible, healthy body, but mediation gives that to your mind and beyond.
It’s interesting to think about why I choose to teach, as there are times when I want to retreat and just practice on my own. But then, what? I have to remind myself that the beauty of our practice is in the connection we have with the world around us, and the desire for everyone to experience themselves beyond the changing states of mind. For example, how amazing is it, that as a class ends, no one wants to leave? The room is filled with the deepest stillness, we are resting in that space, and everyone wants to preserve that moment.
What area of yoga do you connect to the most?
One of the definitions of tantra is technique, or book. There are so many techniques that we have to teach that really do not require any flexibility of the body, but instead requires a focused, relaxed mind. One of my favorite techniques is using mantra in the asana. Mantra becomes one of the most effective tools in shaping prana shakti, or “vital energy.” Bandha (internal locks) is another tool that enables us to hold the prana. Visualization and meditation help to guide the prana as well. When we are willing to let go of the yoga practice as just another physical fitness modality, the esoteric teachings then have a chance to show themselves to us. After all, yoga is somewhat of a mysterious practice; it’s not just a physical practice. In fact, the point is to forget the body!
I continue to study, and am always inspired by a variety of texts, teachings and teachers. I am so grateful that I chose to stay on this path, to be able to fall on my face, make mistakes, and ultimately connect with the world.
My most current study is on karma (duty, deeds) and Jyotish (philosophy, Vedic astrology). Now if that doesn’t expand your mind, I don’t know what will!