I am an expert; I am also a beginner…
And yes it is possible to be both.
In Buddhism the concept of a “beginner’s mind” is taught. This encourages the individual to engage deeper with their environment and experiences. A “beginner’s mind” is one which has a playful curiosity about the world around them. It allows the mind to see the wonder of the world anew: the dew on a leaf, the aroma of a flower, the warmth of the sun. It is to recapture the toddler’s fascination of seeing a ladybird for the first time. I use this approach to keep me humble in my yoga teaching and open minded to the possibilities in adapting yoga for the individual.
I first started teaching yoga over twelve years ago when I qualified to teach baby yoga classes. I went on to train as a Dru yoga teacher (2008) and a yoga therapist (2016). Each of these trainings was a big commitment both in time, energy and effort. There were case studies, assignments, exams and mentoring sessions – all to support the learning journey. I completed over 500 hours study over a two year period on just the yoga therapy course alone.
I could not teach for as long as I have without having my own personal yoga practice. I know that my daily 30 minutes of yoga gives me the energy to give to my students and clients. It also gives me a playground to try out and master new techniques and delve deeper into familiar ones – all so that I can bring this knowledge to you. Everything I teach I have personally worked with. I have taken time to connect with each practice so that I know how it works and what the effects of the practice will be. Of course it doesn’t stop there, my yoga practice isn’t restricted to just time “on the mat” I use it throughout the day in my thoughts and actions. I practice gratitude, compassion, abundance, and letting go. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes this is challenging. I endeavour to live my yoga as fully as possible as this in turn enables me to teach and share from a place of truth and authenticity.
Along the way I have learnt new and unexpected skills such as how to mirror when I teach, how to learn the names of my students and how to laugh at myself when I invariably get it wrong (both with names and directions!). I have learnt how to calm a room full of anxious people, how to give people the confidence to move, and how to listen to my body’s wisdom so that I in turn can teach you how to listen to yours.
I have read many, many books about yoga. If you would like any recommendations just ask – I have a bookcase full. I regularly listen to podcasts and participate in webinars on a wide range of topics; from the philosophy of the yoga sutras, to anatomy and physiology, to meditation and ayurveda. I do this to broaden my own knowledge and to be able to distil that knowledge down to you.
There is a common idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. I am not sure I have achieved that yet but with my trainings, personal practice, teaching experience and independent study I am I definitely a long way towards it.
Yet I also feel that I am a beginner still. Why is that?
You know that feeling when you try to learn something new: you start with enthusiasm, frequently get confused and lost along the way, become frustrated that you cannot get the results that you want as quickly as you want them and then eventually it all clicks into place. When I learn any new yoga technique, be it movement, breath work or meditation, I go through this same learning curve. I am a beginner again. I still can set unrealistic expectations for my daily practice. I lose my balance. I get distracted. I forget to practice. I stop working with a technique and I return back. Eventually I settle into a new habit and a new understanding. So when I suggest that you practice something (anything!) outside the class I know exactly what I am asking of you. I know how challenging it can be. I also know how rewarding and beneficial it can be too (even if you only remember to do it very occasionally).
While I recognise that I am the expert on my body and my mind; I also start each day as a beginner as I listen to today’s responses from my body and mind to my practice. As the seasons of my body change and my life experiences grow, I need to be open to alter and adjust what I do in order to serve my needs most effectively. What was right for me yesterday, last week, last year might not be what I need in this moment today.
You see what I know about yoga and its application is just a small part of what there is to learn. I accept that I do not have all the answers nor can yoga always provide all the answers.
So in the end I feel it comes down to balance. I am an expert; I am also a beginner. I tread a steady line between the two, bringing the best of both.
If you would like to become an expert in using yoga to improve your health please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07813 077074
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