February 2022: On Teachers

Today, 6am on 16 February 2022

On Teachers

2 February 2022 was the second anniversary of Rosina’s passing. I miss her every day. This is mixed with tremendous gratitude that she was my teacher.In November 2018, I wrote about working with a teacher. I recounted how I got into yoga thanks to Rosina. She was a guiding light in so many aspects of my life and is still is one of my main teachers.

I realise that in past newsletters I have mentioned this teacher or that one and linked to their work, but never have explained how this thing of being taught works as a whole.

I have always known people were of my teachers quite quickly after meeting them. I recognise a surrender in my mind, body and breath as I put myself in the hands of someone. It just happens without me consciously doing anything. I have even tried to resist it sometimes but it has not been possible. I have worked with magnificent practitioners too, but have not felt that pull. I usually articulate it as: ‘they are a fantastic teacher, but not my teacher’.

There is an old proverb in India that says ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears’. I always thought a mark of extreme generosity that Rosina offered her teachers to her students. That’s how I met Kia who guides me in everything – mind, body, breath, spirit – as a practitioner but also as a teacher and a studio manager. It is not easy to navigate helping others to walk a path and I am supported by the most solid and elegant hands, able to question and to make decisions, rather than just roll because it is what we have been used to. Yoga is the path of change, and Kia walks it.

RoseAnn is also my teacher, and I am so grateful to have her in Glasgow, where she can keep my patterns, avoidances and bad habits in check, working with lightness, humour and impeccable rigour. They are not mutually exclusive and her whole approach is one of balance. I also study with Sudhir Tiwari, James Boag and Lucy Crisfield on aspects of pranayama, philosophy and its practical application, mantra recitation and Sanskrit. In July, I will study with David Swenson (live, finally!|) who I consider one of my very first teachers, as I learned the sequence – and to be kind with this powerful tool – with his book. I have other teachers too, less formal (my husband Neil is top of that list, my students too).

There are different approaches to being taught. Some people say: have one teacher, work with them only. Others say, get different approaches and learn from all of them. Being from the Rosina school of thought, my approach is to do the impossible: both. I follow Kia in the path, as close as I can and I chose to work with RoseAnn in Glasgow because she is phenomenal and also because she supports Kia’s teachings with her own experience. They have worked together, and RoseAnn and Rosina did too. Sudhir has also worked with Kia, in the same lineage. James and Lucy teach the same texts as Kia and Sudhir from slightly different angles. It all fits together.

All of them, whether they know each other or not, work to deepen my knowledge under one guiding light, Kia’s. And this guidance is essential because if it is not there, I believe the teaching becomes scattered and fragmented. When there is conflict – and sometimes there is, of course – I know to follow that light.

Laura x

I bow in gratitude to all my teachers.
What I have been practicing
अथ योगानुशासनम्॥१॥
atha yogānuśāsanam||1||
Now the teachings of yoga begin
Atha … Now … The first word of the Yoga Sutras and the whole teaching of Yoga in one word. Kia explains this so well in her podcast episode recorded in Glasgow!Now: presence, but also readiness … Now that you are here, ready to receive the teachings of yoga … Now that you are ready to be taught, to become a sincere student …

In the West, education tends to be practiced as input: transferring material from the teacher to the student. Uploading. In the East, education is drawing out of the student what is already there, making things that already exist visible. This is a slower process that requires patience. but it is also more long lasting, more insightful and applicable.

I have been practicing surrender to my teachers, and also listening inside for what is (especially through Kia’s latest two podcast episodes on Samkalpa  – an intention formed by the heart), trying to become a little more my own teacher.

What I have been reading
Teachers can also bring about attachment, even obsession and in yoga we work on non-attachment at all levels, even this one. The practice itself can bind us, as we become addicted to it or the sensations and states it elicits. Sincerely asking why we practice (and who for?) is essential. It is important to remember that a teacher supports you on the path, but the work is done by you, through you, for you (and for the good of humanity, as the Mangala mantra mentions).I have been re-reading this article on how to stay accountable when you are not with your teacher, and how that cultivates tapas, the discipline and transformative fire required in yoga.

What I have been pondering
I just finished a course with James on some four-letter words explored through the lens of yoga: hero, womb, yoke, love, icon…  The last session was on guru. In Sanskrit grammar the word is used to mean syllables that are stressed or heavy. Guru signifies gravity.A guru is a dispeller of darkness, awakened conscience. In a way, a guru is the opposite of an expert because they have broad knowledge about life, a wholistic understanding of reality. So, if a guru is someone who guides us out of darkness and into light to help us see, it follows that darkness is a pre-requisite. The guru helps the student to see their blind-spots, to come to their own mastery, so the teachings of the gurumight sometimes feel like a tight slap.

A sishya, a student, needs an attitude of openness and receptiveness in order to transform. She needs to be a patra, a cup fashioned from leaves which is empty (to receive the teachings) and watertight (not to be distracted or use insights in a self-sabotaging way).

Kia is coming to Glasgow!

29 April – 1 May 2022

NADI SHODHANA: Moving into Unity with Duality – Entering the Sanctuary Within
Pranayama & Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series Intensive

Kia returns for a fantastic weekend of three masterclasses, two pranayama and satsang sessions, meditation and brunches in our beautiful Arlington Baths.

Check here for more information and booking.
Early bird until 8 March and over half of the places are taken so book soon if you want to come!

Image: Kia and RoseAnn at Kia’s retreat in the Spanish mountains.

I teach as part of Yoga Moves Glasgow, ONLINE on Tuesday mornings and LIVE at the Arlington on Thursday mornings. If you want to come to a LIVE class, please book in advance as we are still restricting numbers for safety and comfort.
Tuesdays, 07.15 – 08.30/09.00, ONLINE | Yoga (Led into Mysore)* 
Thursdays, 07.15 – 08.30/09.00, LIVE | Yoga (Mysore)*PRANAYAMA (Breathing) first Tuesday of every month

07.15 – 08.30 ONLINE ON ZOOM£5 ONLINE | £11/£9 LIVE

I am also available for pranayama one-to-one sessions online (introductory or following up your practice). Reply to this email if you want to find out more.
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland classes for staff are taking place online. Contact HR for details if you are staff or check RCS sport’s facebook page if you are a student.