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The Teacher Within

“Ronen, please lead us through Suryanamaskara A.”

David Swenson, one of the most senior Ashtanga yoga teachers around, motioned me to the front of the class to kick off a week-long Ashtanga yoga teacher training course at Kaia Yoga. I was the only non-teacher in the room and was very happy to remain that way. So why did he pick me?

Don’t get me wrong. I can flow through the sun salutation sequence in my sleep. You throw me off a cliff and I can do it on my way down. I’ve practiced it thousands of times. But to verbalize what I do from muscle memory in front of a class — while standing next to the guy who has it programmed into his DNA — was another story.  My mouth opened but nothing resembling instructions came out.  I decided right then and there that the world did not need another yoga teacher, especially not me.

Nine months ago I injured my back and it’s been a slow road to recovery. I’ve been gradually rebuilding my practice, at first with a gentle sequence and recently with a baby Ashtanga series. Just two weeks ago I could only complete two thirds of the sequence. And once David detailed what he expected of us during the week, anxiety set in.

From day one, David threw us into the deep end of the teaching pool and expected us to teach each other to swim as best we could. He demonstrated a pose to the class with some variations and said “now you do.” This was experiential learning at its best. You can read about it, watch it on video, practice it for years — like I have — but apparently nothing prepares you better to teach than teaching. Yikes!

But, by the end of the week, I was able to convey the essence of the sequence verbally and with my hands to others in the class. David’s hands-on approach proved that I may be ready to teach what I learned sooner than I thought. And if I wait for the all-knowing-moment to share, I may be doing it in my next life.

During the last two days of the course, we attempted to complete the entire primary series. It’s a very challenging 90 minutes. However, the yoga fairy sprinkled some magic dust on my mat and, with the help of my partner, I lifted, folded, twisted, floated, and sweated my way through the entire thing. It was nine months coming, but as Guruji said:  “Do the practice and all is coming.” And yes it did.

For the final three postures, I sat Buddha-like, arms stretched across my knees, gazing at the tip of my nose and attempting to synch my breath to my teacher’s count. Suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude passed through me for everything and everybody that I have in my life. I think such magic happens when my focus, intent, and practice intersect. And somewhere during the count, it all came together.

All well and good, but the question of what kind of teacher I should become — if at all — still lingered. David said, “We can all teach as much as we know about any subject. Knowledge and experience will be the tools and practice will remain the greatest teacher. “

Not sure about the knowledge yet, but I’ve been practicing “Suryanmaskar A” in my sleep just in case he calls on me again:

  • inhale: arms up
  • exhale: fold forward
  • inhale: look up
  • exhale: jump to plank
  • Inhale: up dog
  • exhale: down dog
  • inhale: jump to your hands — head up
  • exhale: fold
  • Inhale: arms up
  • exhale: samasthiti

What do you want to teach and whom? Please share below.

About Ronen Yaari

I’m no guru and I don’t have hundreds of hours of certifications. All I can claim is that I did not squander the time that I was given so far. I took care of my body from an early age and realized that a fit body was going to be the vehicle of choice to propel me around the planet to find what I was supposed to find. I ran marathons, biked continents, climbed glaciers, walked across states, sailed oceans, explored reefs and floated myself over yoga mats. If the sun is down I’m a sleep and if it’s up I’m outside. My biggest accomplishment by far is creating a family that enjoys each other and puts up with me.