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Experience > What are we teaching anyway?
by Bruce Bowditch
“ Yoga is the practice of radical transformation”
- Georg Feuerstein

When we take the seat of the yoga teacher, we take the seat with reverence for all the teachers who have gone before us, without whom we would not be experiencing this honor in the first place. When we offer our teachings to our trusting students, what are we really offering? What do we expect of them and they of us? What are we really trying do as a yoga teacher? What are our intentions?

The answers are in the words HATHA YOGA themselves. Hatha Yoga translates as “Powerful” or “Forceful” yoga, or “unifying through force”. Its primary laboratory is the body/mind. This practice uses the actions of the body to help us “force through” the limited concepts we hold of ourselves, and wake up to our divine, perfect nature. Breaking down the word HATHA still further we have HA meaning Sun and THA meaning Moon. This infers balanced energy. So you could say that “Sun energy” helps us build the willpower to change, to bravely confront our darker aspects, while the “Moon energy” helps develop compassion and acceptance while going through the rigors of radical self-transformation.

Yoga is a practice of constantly working at the edge. “The edge” is where we come right up against ourselves, of what we can do and be. It is the boundary between where we are and where we grow, the place of comfortable discomfort, where all growing and healing happens. The edge is the point in every pose, (and your life) when you are still within your capacities but are challenging yourself to go just a little bit further. Stepping up to the edge and daring to leap is how you break through and thus break with old ways of being. Yet, playing at your edge doesn't always mean going for it in every pose. That's ego. The edge can be much more subtle sometimes. It can mean learning to do less, being more tolerant, more patient, and more compassionate toward ourselves. Ultimately, it's at the edge where we see where we truly are and where we wish to be. It's where we extend our hand, with fingers outstretched, touching our heart of hearts, and say, “Yes!”

I can show you how to use the tools, but only you can make the art.

Students come to yoga for any number of reasons. Underlying any of these is the desire to change in some way. They come hoping we as yoga teachers can help them fulfill this desire. At the core of their motivation is the desire to feel better about themselves and to be happy. Whatever the surface reason may be, i.e. loose weight, get fit, hang out with their friends, at the core they want to feel better. The thing that can be a shock to people is that change takes work and in the short term that isn't always pleasant. Change means moving from where you are to a different place. It means altering your habits. It means moving into unfamiliar territory, which can be uncomfortable. Our role as teachers, as guides, is to facilitate their process much as an adventure guide leads a courageous group on a challenging journey to a beautiful and exciting new place. The guide must use all their interpersonal skills, experience, and technical knowledge to lead the group successfully and happily to the destination. Each person is unique and not everyone moves on this journey at the same rate.

The various skills required take time to learn and ultimately blossom from our own journey, our own experience of transformation. Technical skills are like an artist or builder learning to use the tools of their trade; what makes it art must come from his/her creative source and experience. The tools give the ability and the framework for the creative act of teaching to be expressed. These are tested and proven methods to help bring your students to the place they wish to go and that ensure the safest, most direct route.

Clear Intention

Most importantly, our intention as teachers must always be to serve our students' journey of self-transformation with integrity and honor. Our intention must always be to present ourselves authentically and to teach with compassion. The highest purpose of teaching yoga is for our students to come to see their best qualities, to help uncover their boundless divine nature and encourage that to shine forth. In the absence of this intention, yoga becomes merely physical exercise and falls far short of it's potential.

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