Shiva Rea, the famous Vinyasa yoga teacher is reputed to have said when someone complimented her teaching, “I am just the river guide. The real teacher is the river.”
After my first year of teaching full-time it became clear that I needed to explore more of the river. My students seemed happy enough with my “guiding” but if I was to keep them interested and coming back for more, I needed to grow as a teacher.
So I enrolled in the 500 Hour Advanced Teacher Training at Kripalu and finished the modules the next year. As a Professional Yoga Teacher, I now knew a lot more of the river, and even though most of my students weren’t ready to “shoot the rapids,” I could guide them safely through, if they ever wanted to go for it.
The studio started to take off the second year. I was now consistently making the rent and people were “hearing about me” through their friends. But the “tipping point” came in April of 2008. I had read about a big studio in NYC doing a “Yoga Challenge” for 30 days. The idea was to challenge students to practice every day for a month so they could see how a consistent daily practice could transform their lives. I thought, “What the hell.”
So in April of 2008 I did “Thirty Days for Thirty Dollars.” I challenged my students, and anyone else in the community, to shoot for a month of yoga, or at least to coming more than their typical once-a-week. Just to see what would happen.
Over 60 people signed up. I taught 3 classes a day, 7 days a week. It was mad-crazy. People who had never stepped on a yoga mat signed up, as well as people who had been practicing for years. They came at 6 in the morning and at 5:30 after work and there was even an overflow crowd at 7. Classes were packed. There was a lot of BIG ENERGY in that room. Lots of powerful “Oms” and big Audible Sighs.
I remember one day in particular, about halfway through the month, coming into class and everyone was all happy and chatty and it took a while to settle them in, help them drop into the practice. But once they were into it, it was magic. I felt it, and more importantly they felt it.
And as the class proceded, this magical “something” kept growing and building, breath after breath, pose after pose, until savasana, and even after savasana.
Before they all left, I said,”Man, It feels like a real yoga community in here today.” And Sarah, in the front row said, “Ya think??” And everyone laughed, and then, (get this) they applauded. Not me. No. They applauded themselves, as a community. And that day everything shifted, everything jelled, everything came together.
Now I’m a few weeks away from the 3rd Annual Yoga Challenge at Main Street Yoga. People keep emailing me, “Is it too early to sign up?” And I keep emailing back, “Yeah, wait another week.”
As for me, I am still learning about this river and all its currents and twists and turns, with Yoganand, my first teacher. I am making my way through his Pranakriya Yoga Teacher Training one class at a time, and I’m in no rush, because I know the slower you go, the more you see.
There is a yoga sutra that, loosely translated, says, “Pick one way and follow it. Don’t keep changing teachers and directions. Follow a path all the way to the end, even if sometimes it feels like you’re going the wrong way.” I’ve decided that Yoganand’s way is the way I want to go. He’s a master. There is absolutely no question in my mind.
Now, one more time, let’s take a look at the building where all this magic takes place:See those 5 windows on the second floor? The big one in the middle flanked by the 2 narrower ones on each side? That’s all Main Street Yoga now. In May of last year I added another room to my lease. I made a “Yoga Lounge” out of it, a hang-out for my peeps. They can sit and have tea there and talk before or after class. They can meet each other informally throughout the day there. It’s a homey room with chairs and plants and magazines and books.
Main Street Yoga is growing. I am growing. I am still learning the ways of the river and how to guide people safely through the swells and the eddies of their bodies, their minds, and their emotions.
I am still not making that “living wage” I was all obsessed with 6 years ago when I first set out on this journey, but I am making one hell of a life.