A season of reflection

Hi all! I know it’s been a while. A good friend of mine sent me an email encouraging me to start blogging again. A lot has happened since I last posted both personally and in the US Iyengar community. I felt I needed to sit back and see how things unfolded before jumping into the fray again.

It’s been about a year since I passed my Intermediate Junior I certification. Almost instantly after passing, I was able to relax and just teach the way I wanted to instead worrying about the syllabus. Despite my certification, I prefer to teach basic and raw beginner students. I think I have learned so many modifications trying to get into the Junior I poses, I have applied many of those principles to the simpler poses with nice results.

One thing I have never felt too comfortable with is physically adjusting students. Perhaps it is because of my background in psychology and counseling that I realize people have a lot trauma. Being in an asana can be vulnerable, and to be unexpectedly handled can be like ripping the band aid off an emotional wound.

When I got the notifications that a senior member of our community was ousted for inappropriate adjustments, I felt a jolt. It made me question a lot of things about how we are taught to adjust students in this method. Touching someone is a powerful thing, and can be easily misconstrued. Perhaps that is why I prefer the more basic classes is that many of the asanas don’t require a lot of adjustment if the verbal direction is clear. Long story short, I felt very sad by the news as it put a black mark on this style of teaching which I felt for so many years was peerless.

While all of this was unfolding, I had to sadly give up one of the classes I taught for 16 years because of a road closure that made it difficult for me to get to the class on Saturdays. That, coupled with students who have left the island or became ill left me a little shaken as well. It was almost like having a friend pass away. 

There have been times in the past year I thought about packing it up. I felt like I was going through the motions. My personal practice had deteriorated and my asana ability was crumbling. I was getting fewer students. My health was going downhill as well. I gained weight and my blood pressure was high.  I was constantly exhausted.  Working a full time job and a few side gigs plus yoga classes was taking its toll. And my wife and I are still caregivers for her mom. I saw a doctor who recommended I do a sleep study as my wife said that I snore. As it turns out, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I started using a CPAP machine at night.

Shortly after using the CPAP machine, I felt much better. I didn’t have to take naps every day. My blood pressure improved. And most importantly, my mental clarity started getting sharper again. My weight started to go down as well.

My classes started getting bigger. Now I am starting to get six to nine students when before I was lucky to get four or five per class. I started feeling good about teaching again, and have started back on my personal practice. I have been teaching this particular class for about five years now. I feel close to my students as they have supported me through all the years of getting this certification, my father-in-law passing, and my personal struggles. In short, I am tremendously grateful for my students. At the end of class I chant the Guru Mantra that was taught to us shortly after Guruji’s passing. It is for thanking all of my teachers and my students who as it turns out, are some the greatest teachers of all.

Thanks for the email Sonia!

17 thoughts on “A season of reflection

  1. Peggy Berg

    Thank you for your lovely and honest blog. I really appreciate hearing from you, even though we’ve never met. Glad to hear you are feeling better and that the classes are also going better.

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  2. Amber Foxx

    It’s fascinating how interconnected all your challenges and your turn-around were. Sleep is profoundly healing. I know what you mean about adjustments. It’s something the teacher I study with does brilliantly and without force or intrusion, and he often just uses words. More and more, I use only light touch to direct attention to something a student can’t see, such as a bent knee in the lifted leg of Warrior Three. To substitute for touch I’d prefer not to give, I use my “remote,” miming the adjustment to guide the position of hips, etc. It works–the student finds the action in his or her own body.

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks Amber. So many Iyengar teachers gifted in their ability to adjust. That is what makes me especially sad about the news of some who have abused that privilege. Miming is a wonderful alternative. I have also found repetition works well too.

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  3. babycrow

    Thank you Micheal, thank you Sonia. I have missed your writings and hearing your wise reflections. This too is a way by which you share the teachings and the community of yoga. I feel so much of what you say, as echoes in my own experiences, and there is some comfort in that, even with the difficulties and doubts that persist.

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  4. k8macdo

    Thanks for sharing this part of your journey, Michael. I used to sometimes think that as a yoga teacher, I had to have it all together. HAHAHA!!! No. Being open and authentic about our struggles can open the door to meaningful connection with our students (and others).
    In regards to hands-on adjustments, I am not comfortable with big adjustments. We just can not know what a student might be feeling, what our touch might trigger… Verbal, or light adjustments when I see that someone might be putting a knee at risk, for example, feels fine. I tell the students this up front before we start a session.
    It’s disheartening to learn that someone has used touch inappropriately in any community organization – and I think there is not one group that hasn’t been affected by sexual misconduct of some kind. It’s good that it is now on the radar, and not being swept “under the carpet”.
    So glad to hear that your classes are going well!
    Namaste,
    k8 : )

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks k8! Funny you should mention. I thought I had it all together when I decided to become a yoga teacher. It seems from that moment on I’ve been systematically ripped apart 🙂 In fact, the more “advanced” I get, the more it seems the world crashes down harder around me. A good friend once said that it probably always has been hard, but the yoga make you more aware of it. If that’s the case, how can I get back to ignorance? That was a much happier place. Thank you for keeping track all these years, I appreciate you.

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