In 2001 I started working with Guy Donahaye in New York. At this point in my life I had been practicing asana and meditation for about 10 years. You could say I was pretty well cocksure. I could do handstands until the cows came home and I didn’t see many people around who could do that unless they had a video.
Guy thoroughly, deliberately broke me. Just like a horse. I realize now how limited my practice was, how proud and incomplete it was.
After a while I apprenticed with him. This introduced me to a whole new brand of humility. He worked on students for hours. I could barely do it for half an hour without slumping against a wall exhausted. I told him he must be some kind of horse. He said he was more like a mule.
I had to relearn a whole new way of holding my body. Guy seemed to effortlessly lift large mammals without pain or pressure and place them neatly in the most convoluted postures, like he was adjusting cats. I felt like I was trying to wrap angry walruses into knots.
The other problem is trying to work on people who obviously know a hell of lot more than you do. Like Richard Freeman explained to me “Being surrounded by Tibetan Buddhists and Rolfing instructors is a real learning incentive.” Asana practice only is not sufficient, your practice becomes your way of life. You must know the body intimately. Anatomy for Hatha Yoga is an essential book for teachers. I highly recommend it.
The third humbling but essential aspect of learning to teach is trying to teach others what you do. In New York I lived in a kind of fantasy world of monkish discipleship. I accepted without question whatever my teacher said. I lived in a small gray cell two hours subway ride from my school and lived entirely on one bowl of white rice and collard greens a day… and some nuts. Many of my students find this incomprehensible.
Many people want to integrate the benefits of yoga in a practical way to their clean modern lifestyle. It is important to accept and understand that students are legitmate in desiring a comfortable painless life, to be compassionate. If yoga is to be anything in this post modern insanity it must be practical and must contribute to happiness.