Finding Your Teacher

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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

There is this saying you often hear in Yoga circles – actually a Buddhist saying. It has certainly been true for my yoga journey. Teachers have entered my life for what seems – in hindsight at least – a very obvious purpose.  I also acknowledge that some of these teachers haven’t even been teaching in the formal sense. Some of my teachers have been my own students, friends, children, animals and even trees! 🙂 some of them have actually not been very good teachers , in the technical sense. But a bad experience is often a very good learning experience.

Having said that, I am acutely aware that there are yogis only just setting out on their paths of discovery who may not know what to look for in a teacher. I am also very aware that more and more newly qualified teachers are emerging from teacher training and beginning their teaching journeys. Compared to when I started teaching ten years ago-when I pretty much knew all of the yoga teachers in Glasgow personally- there is a massive choice of classes, teachers and styles. And realistically, too much choice can be overwhelming.

There are heaps of guides on this subject too. How to choose a yoga style that suits you, how to choose a teacher, what to look for in a teacher, what qualifications to check for, etc. So instead of creating a surplus “guide” I am going to speak from an entirely personal perspective. Enjoy – Jude x

What I look for in a teacher

1. Presence. What I mean by this is not charisma or anything at all like that. What I mean is that the teacher is “present” for his or her students. That they are there. In the Space. Absolutely WITH the teaching. Also the ability to hold a safe space for the work.

2. Knowledge. I want to learn something. So I want to know that the teacher knows something of what they are teaching and more than I do. Generally, for me, this means that they have a. studied it for a reasonable length of time and b. continue to study and see this as a lifelong journey . When teaching asana ( and most Western teachers do) then  I want to know that my teacher understands bodies – very well. For me, I trust them even more if they have studied another body work system or at least really know their anatomy, physiology and bio-mechanics. So safety comes into this too.

3.  A personal practice. I want to know that my teacher does what they are teaching. Has experienced from their own personal relationship with it.

4. A real human being. I am drawn to teachers who share something of themselves and are honest about their humanity/foibles/mistakes. I also appreciate a sense of humour, a weakness for chocolate and in the case of one of my cherished teachers – a bit of a grumpy streak! basically – no bull***t!

5. Teaches from the Heart. Someone who shares from the heart of love, compassion and honesty.

6. Holds nothing back. There are no secrets or mysteries. They share what they know. All of it. With love. They are also honest about what they don’t know. I don’t want to be fobbed off with half-truths or pseudo -science.

7. Creates opportunities for growth. A teacher who is able to safely challenge boundaries, comfort zones and  physical abilities and to take his or her students into the realm of discovery of what is possible. This is the essence of Yoga.

8. Doesn’t show off.  A teacher is not there to show me what the amazing shapes they can get into or to use the time for their own practice. Just…no. It isn’t about them.

9. Communicates with ease. Seems obvious but a teacher should be good at explaining stuff. I don’t want to be confused and if I am, I want them to take the time to help me understand. Even the most esoteric elements of yoga can be opened up by someone who both understands and can communicate clearly.

10. Laughs. Often. At themselves and at the world. But not at me (unless I invite it!) 🙂

Business at Heart

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“Every act of business can be an act of love.” Mark Silver, The Heart of Business 

As I mark a year in business with In the Moment , I celebrate what has manifested over the last twelve months. Things I would never have imagined when I started on my journey as a yoga teacher. One of things I have always celebrated about creating the space and the project is the organic and intuitive process that brought it all about, that brought me to the space and brought teachers into my life to share the vision. I have a vision that is based on integrity, non-violent communication and love. 

Yes, Love!

I never had a formal business plan. I did have a vision and a clear idea of what I wanted to create and who I wanted to help, and I had a clear handle on the finances. I originally applied for Social Enterprise funding – which I didn’t get because my desire to be integrated and help everyone wasn’t targeted at one specific group.  The point is, documents exist that formally communicate about my plans, I am not completely flying by the seat of my yoga pants. I just don’t have a “business plan”.

My commitment for this year was to focus more strategically on the marketing of the business and felt that I wanted to take advice. Easy. There’s lots of help out there for small businesses, right? Well… yes. But what I discovered was that there isn’t much help for someone with my business “model”, or with no business plan! One biggie is that I am not interested in growth. I don’t mean I am not interested  in expanding my business or catering to more people, or making money.  I mean I am not interested in the capitalist idea of growth. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I don’t align myself with the idea of growth. What I want to do is run a heart-centred business that also makes me enough money to live on. In normal business parlance – a “profit”. I don’t think my business is failing if my profit doesn’t get exponentially larger. 

I was excited recently by being offered  free mentoring by a local business organisation until I read this in the criteria : “Growth potential £100K to £250K within 3 years.” I turned the leaflet over checking that I had the one for small businesses! Apparently so. And apparently not for me!

Realising that business help was available to me only if I had  the sort of business that fits this idea of growth, I decided to help myself. The business was born that way, so it wasn’t a difficult thing to envisage. So I started looking online for business information from people that were running my sort of business. I found a site (recommended and endorsed) aimed at marketing for yoga businesses and studios.  I downloaded all the free stuff. Great!

Not great!

Every single piece of advice I read was stated in the negative. “Don’t do X” and “Stop doing Y” and “You’re probably not doing Z” 

I kept going. Maybe there are things that I am doing wrong?

And then I got to the bit that said – and I am paraphrasing ” Maybe your teaching isn’t good enough!”

OK. Enough. I have my own inner demons and critics without someone who is supposed to be HELPING ME jumping in on the act. And in a week where my despondency monsters were manifesting, it is not what I needed to hear. It’s not what anybody needs to hear. It’s not that I didn’t agree with the idea, necessarily. I believe sincerely that the teaching we offer in the centre should be high quality and I include myself. But there are other ways to say that, and better ways to motivate. 

It was then that I came across an article in a yoga magazine which was written by business coach. Via her recommendation I came across The Heart of Business. Now we were getting somewhere. Other people run heart-centred businesses! 🙂  I have been enjoying some of the generous downloads from this site over the past week. I also discovered Leonie Dawson  who embodies heart-centred business for women. I recommend both. 

Just those two resources turned my thinking completely. Somehow, despite my rejection of the traditional business model, I had managed to get caught up in thinking that I needed to be doing something different to be successful. And what I really needed to do was to continue to believe in what I was already doing. To do what Mark Silver calls The Remembrance . And to do more of what I know I am good at, and give more of what I have to offer. 

I discovered that my best business coach and mentor, is myself. 

“Your amazing life and amazing business doesn’t have to look like ANYONE else’s.That it doesn’t have to be about sacrifice and burn out and disconnection from those things you hold dearest: your family, your peace of mind, your spirit, your integrity, your time out. It can be crafted the way YOU love it. The way it makes YOU happy.” Leonie Dawson