Teaching & Assisting

I began practicing yoga somewhat regularly my last year of college, particularly when I was at Butler over the summer between my junior year and senior semester (I graduated early woohoo!) My first teacher, Alex, played great music (Don’t Matter by Akon was a staple for Sun Salutations) and introduced me to some of my favorite poses, such as Half Moon and Half Pigeon. In fact, Alex made me love Half Pigeon, because, to acknowledge that it can be a difficult pose both physically and emotionally, he passed out Hershey Kisses while in the posture.

My most influential teacher was Jackie. I went to her Monday evening classes regularly during the summer. Just stepping into the room, I felt a sense of calm and freedom. It helped me manage the stress of “figuring out what to do with my life.” Something about the way she taught helped me gain confidence in myself, improve my body image, and become less high-strung. The classes were small, and she treated students with individual attention. I remember one class in particular that was made up of myself, a runner, another girl who was a dancer, and a male football player. She knew these things about the three of us, and asked us what we wanted to focus on, and taught to our needs and abilities. She also always put a lavender pillow on our eyes, and gave shoulder presses, during Savasana. She was, and is, a great teacher.

To me, a great teacher is for others. A good teacher, and a great assistant, has a heart for service. In my life I am called to serve, and yoga is one way I am answering.

This past weekend I completed a Hands On Assisting intensive workshop at the studio. We were led by two great teachers who joined us from Big Fish Power Yoga of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Before we learned how to assist students in their practice, our group discussed why. We talked about exploring our edge, being supported, and building connections. I love receiving assists in class – it just feels so good – and therefore felt I would love to assist. On Sunday afternoon, after the workshop, we all got the chance to assist a public class. I felt so present to what I was doing, felt that I was serving others, and really enjoyed myself. You can watch me in action in this video – I’m the one in the blue tank and black & white shorts…which I so gracefully adjust.

Assisting yoga is like teaching yoga is like practicing yoga…you’ve got to practice! It evolves over time. I want to keep assisting and learning by experience, but I’ve also set the goal for myself to attend Art of Assisting, a Baptiste program, in 2015. Here’s a short video that talks more about what giving and receiving assistance is like:

Perhaps even more exciting was teaching my first public class on Monday night. It was a full house – we would have had to put people in the lobby had anyone else showed up. I taught with my amazing small group that I’ve worked with throughout the program. When we weren’t teaching, we were assisting. I was so focused on my assisting, trying to match my actions with the teacher’s words and the student’s bodies, that time flew by. When it was my turn in the sequence, I taught the core strengthening poses, and Half Pigeon. (I’m thinking about making posts on all the series, by the way…) I didn’t pass out chocolate, it definitely would have melted, but I did get to share a part of myself with the class. Afterward, we were all so pumped up. Teaching that night reaffirmed that all the hard work that goes into “climbing the mountain without a top” is worth it.

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