“On Teaching”

November 19, 2015 | Uncategorized

Q: I was curious about the way you field questions from your students and workshop attendees. I thought that I noticed you having a specific method for approaching questions and problems. Am I right? And if so may I ask what it is?

A: I am not sure that I have one single strategy about how I respond to students, but I can tell you that I do have an overall goal. It is to help students learn to become more independent and self-reliant. This is not as simple as it sounds. Many people are independent, but not necessarily clear. The goal of the teacher should be much more exquisite and luminous than just “personal independence”. My highest role as a teacher is to help students develop a relationship with their inner teacher–the true teacher. If you see that in the answers that I give then you, as a student, and me as your teacher, are both doing our jobs.

Q: My doctor suggested I should stop teaching because of my chronic back injury, which you are all too familiar with. Rod, I don’t know what to do. 

A: I know you well enough to tell you to disregard the doctor’s advice regarding your professional or career choices. You love teaching. Follow that. I can’t comment whether or not you have a chronic issue in your lower back, but here’s what I do know, you should be able to teach Yoga even if you were disabled. If you are hurting your back when you teach, teach differently. Recently, I watched you move for a weeklong seminar. You have great understanding of your body and the correct way to move. What you know could be of great value to those who have similar issues, whether or not you are able to demonstrate every pose.   Keep building lower back stability through modified forms of Salabhasana (Locust Pose). Maha Mudra should be part of your regular practice. The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra contains within it miraculous powers for healing. This would be a great mantra for your body as well as to help you build your inner (mental and spiritual) strength. This mantra can help you heal tissue, and provide the kind of strength you need to move forward.

Q: I am curious how you wound up being a successful teacher. What precisely were the steps?

A: I can’t give you a formula for how I wound up where I am professionally. I simply committed myself to what mattered most, to what inspired me. I learnt as much as I could and then built upon what I had learnt day after day. It probably helped that I found great joy in sharing what I was learning and how I had benefited from yoga. But it was completely dependent on the teachers I had and my willingness to be taught by them and practice what they taught me. In other words, follow your inspiration.

Q: Is there one thing that stands out for you about teaching?

A: No, there is not one thing–there are several things: the joy of teaching is sharing, seeing the impact and change it has on student’s lives. And just as significant is being able to look back and see that I have helped spread the light of my teachers’ wisdom, knowledge, and love.

Q: I feel so connected to the teachings. They’ve already touched me, and improved my life immeasurably. I know I want to teach and share all that you and the tradition have given me. But then fear and doubt creep in. how can I stop floundering and facilitating between the two? 

A: The very way that the teachings have touched you is more than enough to give you a dynamic and fulfilling path to teaching. Now you just must commit to them and see yourself as those things. In my early formation as a Yogi, I “saw” myself as being able to transmit the teachings well before I really could. I just presumed and assumed that role based on my intention and wish. It’s not more complicated than that. Move forward with energy, vitality and commitment. Don’t look back, don’t doubt. Assume and presume.

Q: I have been having some difficulties. And the more I teach, the worse it gets. Although I am dedicated to Pure Yoga, I still teach “Hot Yoga” classes (I need to make a living). I “do” these classes while I teach, I feel like I’m getting burnt. Unable to sleep, when I am teaching I feel great. When I am not I am feeling depressed and frustrated. I watch my breath at my nostrils when I meditate for an hour a day. Can you give me some guidance? 

A: The red flag is that you need to stop practicing when you teach. When you teach, teach, when you practice, practice. When you do both at the same time, it invites all sorts of difficulties. If you’re going to keep over heating your system, you need to find ways to balance it.   If you do Pranayama, do Sitali, the cooling breath, through the mouth and tongue. I suggest a more focused form of meditation. Keeping your attention on your breath is fine, but keep it at the abdomen. Stay focused on the abdomen, and don’t allow your attention to wander from the movement or from the presence, either from the movement of the abdomen, just feeling it rise and fall on each breath, or on the feeling behind the abdomen, the inner presence. Let me know about the effect of those two practices. Do the Pranayama ten minutes twice a day and meditation no more than twenty minutes once or twice a day. And finally, take some time to consider how you can make a living in a manner than keeps you, not only more balanced, but happier.