I use to teach a lot of yoga, hours every day. I joked that, though it wasn’t all super physical, I was a marathon yoga teacher. I taught different things in those many hours. It was also in one facility, so I didn’t have to drive hither and yon. I loved what I did and I earned a good living in the days when teaching yoga wasn’t really known as a vocation.
It is said you teach what you most need to learn, maybe that is true. I guess I needed to learn how to be in my body, how to be myself and connected to something more. I also learned a lot about teaching, communicating, relating. For me learning is primarily about self-awareness, and secondarily about information. This is why I teach yoga and not history, which was incidentally what I studied as an undergraduate.
For some reason, my desire to talk about the breath today brought me back to reflecting on these early days of marathon teaching. I taught this morning, a short 75-minute class and everyone was very focused. It felt like many years of what it took for me to learn were transmitted and absorbed by everyone in the room. It was a bit of a time warp really, it felt like we must have practiced for hours to get that deep. At the heart of this story is the breath.
If you have practiced yoga with me, you will know there is a special way that we breathe. This comes from my teacher Rama and is the essence of her method, which she will not name. She calls it Yoga. There are lots of layers to this teaching, but in a nutshell it is a way of using the breath to create shifts and changes in our being without activating the ego or the will. It is a way of working within the yoga poses that takes you into deep states of meditation where subtle conflict is resolved. It is a way of converting the oxygen we breathe into the prana or energy we need to maintain our integrity.
How does all this happen through breath? I wish I could describe it here. I actually have been trying (and editing it out) but it is really something you have to experience. For now I will simply say breathe in and receive: oxygen, energy, light! Breathe out and move: do, allow, flow. And stay aware of the source of the breath as well, know that you needn’t give anything vital to your being away, to do what you are doing.