Om bhur bhuvah svah
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat
Through the coming, going, and the balance of life
The essential nature illuminating existence is the adorable one
May all perceive through subtle intellect
The brilliance of enlightenment.
(Chapter One – Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques)
Classroom in a Book
I came across Teaching Yoga last week and picked it up to not only improve the free Yoga classes I offer to those who cannot afford to attend a class themselves, but to improve my own knowledge as well. Meeting all the teacher training curriculum and standards that the Yoga Alliance sets as the leading world registry for accredited instructors; Teaching Yoga also serves as a classroom textbook for new student teachers – as well as for the average Yogi like me looking to enhance their own practice and skills in all areas of Yoga.
Contrary to some remaining opinions out there that Yoga is nothing more than calisthenics and skin tight clothing (Pilates – snicker!); Mark Stephens’s latest book is an embodiment of Hatha Yoga in its truest sense. The experience and wisdom Mark gained through starting a successful program fifteen years ago to bring Yoga to schools, prisons, treatment centers and veteran’s facilities is revealed in what has become the first comprehensive guide for would be teachers and practitioners alike.
Teach with Integrity
Teaching Yoga is filled with profound insight into the complex history of Yoga. The mythological meanings of the Asanas are discussed, as is practical techniques for teaching and exploring Pranayama and meditation. Teachers are given a multitude of tools to help plan and sequence classes, teach with integrity and authority, and work with students whose physical situations require additional time and variation.
There are not enough praises I can heap on this helpful and valuable life manual, for that is at its core what Yoga really is about…Life! It is clear to me that the author of Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques has traveled the journey inward through the Asanas and into the heart of Yoga itself. Mark’s gentle but firm insistence in pushing by myths to the practice and developing your own authentic expression of Yoga are basis enough for purchasing this book, as it is the most valuable lesson of all: Yoga is alive, evolving, changing, as is all of life, and finding your own expression of this truth will be the best gift you can offer as a teacher.
For Teachers of all Wisdom…
Many years ago I used to congratulate myself on how smart I was becoming and how good my grades were. At the time, I failed to realize that even though the grades were mine, and I was becoming an intelligent young man, the reason it was possible was because of my teachers. One teacher who stands out in particular was my grade three teacher, a Mr. Madden. Of all the school teachers I remember, my memory of him is most vivid.
As the only poor (I mean really poor) grade three student in my class, it didn’t help that I only had my mother in my life. She was ill as well, with what one day became known as Lupus; although at the time the doctors were clueless on how to help her. Without the kindness, time, understanding, and caring that Mr. Madden brought into my life…I could not even imagine. I was young, very much alone, and very much in need of guidance. The foundation that Mr. Madden helped me lay within myself is still there, too. I like to think that like a pyramid rising up towards the sun, the early layers of the foundation being laid are the most important, and that the foundation Mr. Madden helped me build has continued to support me my entire life thus far.
A True Gift
Accepting the responsibility of becoming a teacher is not one of choice, according to my way of thinking. We are all given opportunity every day to be both the teacher and the student – to give openly and then openly receive. The foundation of our mind and how it learns is a function of being taught, and therefore naturally to also teach in return.
There are those of us who feel the natural urge to share in learning with others so strongly that it drives us to become a teacher as a life’s calling – whether as a full or part-time job in our society or as a Swami in an Ashram in India…each of you who chooses to teach others is worthy of the highest praise. Your gift of knowledge, wisdom, kindness, and willingness to help others around you is already its own reward, as I am sure you are well aware.
Yoga, a path to the Heart of Life
Perhaps this is why I have found it so difficult to actively teach – I must feel not yet worthy of such a title as “teacher.” I am content to remain a student of life, Yoga, and all its mysteries, happy to know there are so many dedicated and caring people who are worthy of such an honourable undertaking that teaching is. To all those who teach or would like to teach Yoga, you honor the planet, its people, and yourself. You teach a way to the Heart of Life, and a way to peace and joy in a world in so much need.