Lately, I have been asked a lot about yoga teachers... finding a yoga teacher, finding a yoga training, how to find a good one, etc. When I went to Sedona a couple weekends ago, I went with Maria, who is my teacher. I did my training with her, and even though I don't live close to her anymore, nor do I see her all the time, she is and always will be my teacher. For a long time, I wasn't aware of this. I would go take her classes every Monday and Wednesday evening. I did this consistently for about a year. Why did I like going there so much? What was it about her classes that seemed different from all the other wonderful teachers I had taken from? I was thinking about this yesterday... Maria never held onto me. Even though I am her student, she never claimed me. She never made me feel like I had to be anything. I would come on my mat every Monday/Wednesday night and I, for the first time in my life felt free. There were no demands on me, no expectations. I didn't have to go. She didn't get upset with me when I went a month without going, she allowed me to move freely and this was something that perhaps I had never experienced before. In a relationship and in my life, I for whatever reason, always felt like I was trapped-- with people, work, every aspect of my life, there were times when I felt like I simply couldn't move. But, every night, I would go to my mat. I would move, I would give her a smile at the end of class, say thank you and leave. She never took praise. You could feel it from her. She wasn't asking us to approve of her in any way. She was there for us, truly, for us. I think other teachers I took from I felt like I needed to give something to them as well, but with Maria, I could just be. Never asking anything from me, she allowed me breathing room. Space to let go, to connect to my own self, my own heart, my own voice... Every class I dug deeper. I could feel the practice working on me, as if it was shedding all the things I had placed on myself over the years. It was like I was handing things back. The wooden floor held me up and my mat became a safe place, with a voice that guided me, not only through a series of poses, but back to myself. As we would go into savasana (the lying down pose at the end), she would remind us that there is nothing left to do. I would close my eyes, feeling my body become heavy, sinking into the floor, I let my thoughts go as my mind became quiet, and in those moments, I touched complete freedom. Rolling over to my side, "starting fresh," she would say, we would then chant OM and have oranges after class. There is nothing like a slice of orange after a hot, sweaty yoga class. With my face red, hair a mess, I would smile, say thank you and leave.
Months would roll by, and I started to linger around the studio. It began to feel like home for me. My apartment certainly didn't feel like home and I was living in Houston where I knew about two people. The studio, without me even knowing it slowly became the place where I spent most of my time. When I applied to Maria's teacher training, I am not sure what came over me. I had never thought about becoming a yoga teacher before, but all of the sudden I didn't wait two seconds after I glanced at the application to start filling it out. We were asked a lot of questions... questions about our life.
The training was more than anything I ever could have hoped for or would have even dreamed it to be. When I came to Maria and began talking to her about moving and starting my own studio, this is a moment I never expected. She didn't talk me out of it. She didn't say I should wait, that I needed more experience as a teacher. She simply held space for me to feel my way through it. She was with me through the entire process. When I left, she wrote to me, she told me this is not the end, but only the beginning. Holding me with open hands, I felt endlessly supported by her and still do. She didn't try to take anything away from me, instead she gave me the greatest gift. The ability to believe in myself, to dig deep and know that I have everything I need, she gave me permission to go. She didn't slap my hand or become angry at me for leaving. She let me go, and she let me stay, all at the same time. I was free. I am free.
So when asked about finding a yoga teacher, a teacher training, even being in a relationship... I will say this... find the one that sets you free.
To Maria, thank you.