The path of a teacher or yoga therapist: Accessing inner wisdom to chart your course5
We live in a busy world. The householder stage of life is weighted with responsibilities at work and home and being a citizen of the world. Wonderful, but complicating, is the access to so much information. We have the veritable buffet table of yoga and scientific information at our fingertips and unlimited opportunities to engage in courses and workshops and trainings. And while the pursuit of knowledge is important for any yoga teacher or yoga therapist, we need time to listen inwardly to what aligns with who we are.
In my last guest blog, I covered the importance of personal practice in creating a livelihood. It bears repeating. Keep your personal practice alive and a means for personal and professional transformation. While the achievement of bendy and challenging postures may feed your ego and help you rock your class, it’s the inner work of yoga that is extremely important in your authenticity, the manifestation of your highest potential, and your alignment with your highest values.
I’m so grateful to my teachers for pointing me in the direction of the inner work almost 30 years ago. While age seasons all of us, it’s the inner practices of yoga like pranayama, meditation, chanting and symbolic aspects of practice that lead us home to ourselves. I appreciate what my teacher Gary Kraftsow says, “discriminative insight arises when we are established in our true nature, this represents the highest goal of Yoga.” The discriminative insight gained through sadhana can be a guiding light in all areas of your life, even your path as a teacher or therapist. When we regularly immerse ourselves in practice, we have times of going deeply into a state where inner wisdom arises.
We can read leadership, entrepreneur and business books and take insightful courses. These exercises in gaining knowledge are necessary. I’ve found that the deep insights for the path forward come from a personal practice that taps into inner wisdom. When engaged in a personal practice that supports transformation, we are less tossed around by habitual emotional reactions, personality tendencies, old and outdated personal stories and mindsets, tendencies to accumulate more, and default patterns of taking the road that’s familiar.
So how is it that we access the inner wisdom? I’ve learned from my teachers that the doorway in may be asana, but that asana is in service to pranayama, chanting and meditation to support the deeper inner work of transformation and the cultivation of potential.
How is it that one turns mindsets of “I can’t” into “I can” or “I don’t know” into “I know”? How is it that one taps into a deep reserve of prana to do what needs to be done? It comes back to personal practice.
Consistent practice over time often reveals surprising directions, strength of purpose that is deeply rooted, and a path that is in alignment with your values. The vidya, the stream of teachings, flow through you in charting a course that may be unfamiliar in so many ways, but so familiar in that it reflects who you truly are.
When I contemplate the challenges for yoga teachers and yoga therapists, I think that one challenge is the use of so much energy at the buffet table of endless information; the trap of another serving at that buffet table that only skims the surface of the teachings. One thing that you can do is reflect on your chosen path and how much time you give that path or goal. How much time gets diffused in service to endless information? How much time is really dedicated to digging in and learning something deeply, doing the hard work of developing something new or aligning with what you are really called to contribute?
The more you align with what is authentically you will be felt by your potential clients or customers and those around you who value what you do. Word spreads. People find you. They recognize the authenticity of your teaching and Yoga Therapy. They recognize that you’ve experienced what you transmit. They recognize that you’ve explored different manifestations of the teachings. From this deeper inner transmission of yoga, you will boldly go with humility on a path that feels like you.
Here is a sample framework for accessing inner wisdom for your teaching and Yoga Therapy:
- Use asana to prepare your body to sit and to prepare your breath for pranayama. Lengthen inhale and exhale in several postures.
- If you appreciate the turning inward from chanting, consider using a chant in several postures in the practice that align with connecting with your True Self. You may have a lineage chant that speaks deeply to you and takes you home.
- Move into Nadi Shodana or Pratiloma Ujjayi for at least 12 – 18 breaths. You could add silent chanting with pranayama to further deepen the practice.
- Sit in meditation. Reflect on your values, what is deeply felt as a path for your work as a teacher or yoga therapist. Reflect on what distracts you from this path. Reflect on how much time you spend cultivating your intended path. Listen in the silence for the deeper insights.
- Use the ancient practice of Sankalpa to seal in your intentions and manifest your deeply held values.
- Journal to process any insights that surface.
- Repeat frequently!
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Mary Hilliker is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, an experienced yoga teacher at the E-RYT 500 level and a Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). She studied with Gary Kraftsow of the American Viniyoga Institute for the last 20 years.
Mary has been mentoring yoga therapists for the last 8 years in their individual client work, development of therapeutic groups and workshops, personal practice and professional transformation. Mary worked with Gary Kraftsow and the American Viniyoga Institute in administrative, faculty and curriculum coordination roles, most recently with the AVI Yoga Therapist Training.
Interest in musculoskeletal health was fundamental to her early start in Yoga Therapy. Her work evolved to a generalist Yoga Therapy practice that also includes a focus on physiological and mental health. Much of her work focuses on beginners and people 55+, people who seek out Yoga Therapy who haven’t been exposed to yoga or Viniyoga. She teaches therapeutic groups and special events such as Yoga for Better Sleep, Yoga for Stressful and Anxious Times, Yoga for Digestive Health, Yoga for Grief & Healing, Yoga Therapy for Structural Conditions, Yoga Therapy for Headaches, Yoga for Seasonal Changes and Yoga for Fatigue.
Mary owns and operates River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School, a Yoga Alliance RYS-200 and RYS-300 in Wausau, Wisconsin. She is a business partner and teacher/yoga therapist with 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness in Wausau, WI. In that role, she focuses her time on individualized Yoga Therapy, teaching Yoga Therapy groups, webinars and special events, training yoga teachers, and providing continuing education for yoga teachers and yoga therapists.
Thank you for these reminders, Mary 🙏Great post.
Wonderful information! Thank you!
Thank you Mary for these timely reminders. It is so easy, even after years of practice, to be caught in a pace that is not ours and to slip our focus to the outside/crazy paced world whereas practice and teaching are coming from the inside.
I especially appreciate this thought from your article: “One thing that you can do is reflect on your chosen path and how much time you give that path or goal. How much time gets diffused in service to endless information? How much time is really dedicated to digging in and learning something deeply, doing the hard work of developing something new or aligning with what you are really called to contribute?” It reminds me that, as I am also diving deeply into qigong, I’m sustained by my long yoga practice and need to give equal time to yoga. I find that the two are very complimentary. Thanks for your post.
I totally agree with your comment and thoughts, especially as I am totally diving into qigong too and find it enhances and deepens my yoga practice 🙂