Good Teachers – For Whatever Reason

I have moved on from some really good teachers.  My first teacher was my best.  In essence I learned the yoga alphabet and how to read from her.  I was nineteen and soaking up information like a sponge.  I didn’t take the class seriously.  There were many in the class that did.  “Back in the day” it was required to have a physical education class completed in order to receive a diploma.  Yoga was my choice for physical education.  I was in San Francisco so naturally this was a legitimate choice.  I had no idea how this choice was going to follow me for life.

It was a participatory class, so I needed to be there to get my college credits.  This teacher was strict with her yogic philosophy of alignment, protect the spine, there is no yoga without pranayama, and inversions are the natural order of things.  She called this Hatha Yoga.  Of course Western Yoga has experienced a metamorphosis since then.

From this college teacher, not much older than anyone in her class, I put together a personal practice that carried me through my dating years, job changes, pregnancies, moving across the country, all those things that make up life. Until my thirties when yoga studios started popping up and television became inspired.  I did not see yoga studios in my small Wisconsin town, but along the west coast.  I would see these studios when I flew back to visit my parents.  I was envious.  The idea of a yoga studio would never fly in my little Wisconsin borough.  Not in the late 1990’s.  That’s when television put yoga back in my reach with – Inhale with Steve Ross.

My living room became my studio.  Yoga clothes began showing up in my local chain stores.  I bought yoga pants and – lo’ – a sports bra (the crowd “ooh’s” in astonishment).  At night after the kids were in bed I waited for websites to download through my dial-up internet connection so that I could drool over teaching studios that required a month-long stay to learn intense class work at hide-away enclaves before one would be allowed to teach on their own.  And these teaching enclaves costs thousands of dollars.  I ordered  a yoga mat online.  There wasn’t anything available in my town.   I was pleased with myself for actually buying a yoga mat…just for yoga.  It was all so thrilling.

In my forties there was finally a studio with a sole owner/only teacher in a town about thirty minutes away in this rural Wisconsin.  She was doing yoga three times a day with the group.  I don’t remember how much of her time she actually did the asanas with us, but I do remember feeling wonderful to have found a studio so close to home.  I only had to drive thirty minutes to get there, sometimes in the snow.  I don’t remember her name, or the studio name.  I know now that she kept me going.  I was so glad to find her.  My children were young and money was tight and time was even tighter. But I made it.  That woman kept me going.

By my mid-forties there was an annex to the local spiritual book store that allowed a woman to use this annex space for yoga.  This space was only fifteen minutes from home.  This was still not a yoga studio in my town.  But we were getting closer.  It must have been morning meetings, 9 am, so I only came once a week on my only day off during the week, Fridays.  I was the youngest one of the group.  Just five or six of us.  It didn’t matter.  We did yoga.  That woman was putting in the effort to get yoga to our small town.

I left Wisconsin in 2009.  We still did not have a yoga studio when I left.  Currently (2018) there are two – sort of.  One yoga studio with a store-front and regular classes.  One studio type thing that is using the local senior center and other various locations around town (rooftops and large parking areas) to bring in the next generation of thrill-seeker yogis.  It’s something.  And I am glad to see anything being offered.

Three years ago, maybe four, in 2013, Azer arrived as a contracted yoga teacher at my job for one year stint to teach yoga as part of Employee Health Initiative.  The reason Azer was a great teacher is because for a while, the first three months(?) we did the same postures over and over again.  The same sequence, every Tuesday and every Thursday.  After those first three months I was doing this same sequence at home.  I wondered if he really knew yoga or just those asanas.

Two things I learned: number one, familiarity puts things within reach of students.  Number two, the more familiar I am with something, the more apt I am to do it for myself and to show others.

It was Azer that inspired me to teach. If Azer can do it.  So can I.  Azer began teaching in April.  By January I had my friends over in my living room going through the exact same asanas.  They loved it.  More friends came.  Eventually we needed more room and we moved on to another house for more space.

The other wonderful thing about Azer is I watched him try some ideas with us that brought us out of our comfort zone, and I enjoyed those experiences even while I was feeling the discomfort.  Azer was always respectful but especially in his encouragement for us to try new things.  Inversions in particular.  What is outstanding here is that I hope I have brought some of Azer with me to invite my students to grow and try some things that may not be comfortable.  It seems balance poses are the out-of-comfort-zone element for my group.

I was on the hunt to find a studio to train for my certificate.  I scoured the internet and found plenty of studios to choose from.  They all cost the same, roughly about $3,000 for 200 Hour Yoga Teaching Certificate.  I found some wonderful teachers as I was searching a place to train for my certificate.

Kathleen Hunt at Yoga on Beacon kept me moving.  She wasn’t going to take my age as any excuse to not do any poses.  And I loved the challenge, because I knew the asanas.  I knew the right way to do them and she helped adjust me just right every time.  When I went looking online at her bio much later I found that she had founded a school previously.  The school was no longer available, but I realized I had stumbled onto a brilliant instructor.  Strong, stable, knowledgeable and compassionate.   Those may be my favorite words.

Heidi Krotzer at Yoga Soleil in Puyallup is one of these strong, knowlegeable and compassionate teachers as well.  I didn’t find her until I was already in training.  But now she is doing her own teacher training.  I want to re-train for another 200 hours.  Heidi will train me more completely than my original training.  It is only because Heidi is training that I want to re-train for that 200 hours.  I hadn’t considered it until I heard that Heidi is teaching.

I can only hope (and work toward) being considered strong, stable, knowledgeable and compassionate as I continue to breathe.

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