The Importance of a Teacher

What makes a good teacher?  My definition of a good teacher is someone who inspires by leading by example; someone who you can trust without being dependent on; and someone who instills the faith in you to move beyond your current limitations.  I was fortunate to encounter such a teacher during our yoga practice in Ubud, Bali.  In the first few days, Steve didn’t speak much; he moved quietly around the room, at first observing and then maybe giving some gentle adjustments.  I kept my practice to the basics, surrendering the ego and just curious what would arise.  Towards the end of the first week, he encouraged me to work on a few more advanced postures.  These postures are part of what we call in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga “Intermediate Series” and for a long time, just getting to the point where I could attempt these postures, seemed beyond what my body (and mind) would be capable of.  While previous teachers have commented on my limitations (stiff hips, tight shoulders and restricted back movement), Steve did not make any comments about my limitations and on what I thought was a pathetic execution of one of the postures (Kapotasana).  Together with standing back drops, it is one of my most feared (yes, feared!) postures: it takes my breath away, I don’t know up from down and find myself at the limit of what I think I’m capable of.   When Steve came to adjust me in Kapotasana, I just surrendered and trusted that he knew what he was doing as he gently took my arms back behind my head, touching what I at first could not believe were my toes and then eventually (over the course of the next days) holding my ankles!  With my history of so many serious sporting injuries never in my wildest dreams had I envisioned I would ever get close to this!  And this is what a good teacher does:  He or she can give you the faith in yourself that you can do it (because in the end, you still have to do the hard work).  Maybe not tomorrow, not in a week, but maybe in a year – and for me, working through these perceived limitations is what the yoga journey is all about, because we can overcome the same limitations in our minds and habits.  When your mind tries to tell you that it’s all too hard, you are most likely just around the corner of a major breakthrough.  As one of my most favourite yoga teachers, Kino MacGregor, once said: “There is nothing random about yoga, it is the result of slow steady perseverance over many years of practice.  Even when it seems impossible, never give up!”

So, if you ever find yourself stuck or frustrated, seek guidance from a good teacher – and you maybe surprised what may arise 🙂

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