Lessons From my Teacher
A little groggy, and a lot caffeine fueled, I spend the morning after completing my 300-hr yoga training in reflection.
3 modules each two weeks in length.
We met at Love Story Yoga to learn from our teacher.
It was sweaty and soulful. Exhausting and up lifting.
Perhaps it’s too soon for reflections, as I know that the work we did together will continue to simmer and bear fruit for years and years to come.
But today, in the haze of all I’ve experienced, I feel just incredibly grateful to have had such an awesome experience with so many great fellow teachers and one exceptionally skillful teacher, Jason Crandell.
For the sake of this narrative, it’s important for you to understand that I make big decisions pretty much on gut instinct.
I hadn’t met Jason in person or taken any of his public classes, workshops or other trainings, but just based on reputation and a few online classes, I felt, this is the guy.
I signed up and showed up with no tangible expectations other than a hope I hadn’t just wasted a bunch of money.
And you guys, on day one within like 20 minutes, I knew I had made the right choice.
More than just in the things he says or the knowledge he has, it’s the way Jason carries himself that I believe really sets him apart.
He’s professional and serious while maintaining a healthy sense of humor and open mind.
He’s grounded and giving of all the information, tips, tricks, and tools that he’s accumulated over decades of learning.
Most of all he’s accessible and relatable.
I know that this whole post would make him extremely uncomfortable, because the guy doesn’t put himself up on a pedestal, but he’s just going to have to deal with it.
In the spirit of giving, I’d like to share a few initial takeaways I’ve learned from Jason so far. If you are a yoga teacher, I strongly recommend his 300-hr teacher training. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!
You don’t even need to read this article, just click this link right here and sign up for next year.
This is not a paid endorsement, although Jason if you’re out there, I could really go for some Spinach Empanadas…
Moving on to the life lessons:
Pratipaksha-Bhavana: Cultivate the Opposite
Technically this a Yoga Sutra, but it’s something Jason highlights often. When something is working, do more of that thing. When it’s not, try the opposite.
Seems pretty logical right? Not so for me! I’m pretty stubborn, and I’ll bang my head against a brick wall for a pretty long time before I let go and move in a different direction. Be flexible with your expectations and with your approach toward a goal and for god’s sake stop injuring yourself.
Play the long game
It can be tempting to follow fads and quick fixes to conjure popularity or build class size in the short term. Building a career in anything takes a long time, but perhaps especially if you’re a yoga teacher. There are no short cuts. Stay true to who you are and what you feel is really important to share about this practice. It takes time to grow with integrity. You need to put in the hours to build experience, exposure, and embodiment. Don’t rush the process; stay consistent and committed. Have faith that while you may not be sharing the flashiest of the trendiest of the instagram, what you have to share will find resonance with others because it deeply resonates with you.
Share everything you’ve got
Don’t be withholding of information. The best teachers share their tools without reservation. Be open to questions and learn to communicate the same lesson in a few different ways. Many students have different ways of learning or absorbing content, so it’s up to you as a teacher to figure out as many different ways to unpack that content.
But not all at once
You don’t have to share everything you know about yoga in one 60 minute class. Unpack knowledge a little bit at a time. This allows students to actually receive it. In this way, each little nugget of knowledge can be absorbed and embodied by the student. This is particularly relevant to those of us who love to share technical or anatomical detail in teaching yoga asana. If we try to fix everything about a pose all at once, typically no one thing will really land. Focus on one technique over time until it sticks.
You can’t avoid hard work.
A hard thing is just a hard thing, it’s not inherently more valuable than an easy thing. It’s just a hard thing. Hard things in yoga asana when approached with disciplined focus can be good training ground to notice our emotional reactivity. When you come against a challenge, what do you do? Get excited? Not really try? Get frustrated? Fall apart? Challenging asana can be helpful to build resilience that translates off our yoga mats. There is no way to avoid hard work in this life, it comes after you. People get sick. Hearts get broken. Careers fall apart. How do you navigate?
To be a leader, you have to be vulnerable.
Whether we like it or not, being a leader in the yoga community these days means having a visible presence and persona. Social media, marketing, offering workshops and trainings in your likeness, it’s intimidating. Mostly because if people don’t like what we have to say or our retreat fails completely, everyone knows about it!
While we’re all pious yogis who don’t like to admit it, we all have fragile egos and social soft spots. Putting yourself out there publicly can be scary, but we need to accept a certain amount of vulnerability to be a leader.
Share what you stand for.
Also whether we like it or not, there is a conversation happening online about yoga. If you’re a yoga teacher and you have a Facebook page, you’re likely to see people going to blows about what yoga is and more often what yoga is not. Something that I really appreciate about Jason and his wife Andrea is that they’ve up to this point been able to stay above the fray. Jason is incredibly diplomatic and generous when discussing other people’s preferences and beliefs, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold strong beliefs himself. In a world where it’s become so easy to say what you stand against, he manages to clearly articulate what he stands for when it comes to this practice. I really admire that.
I am a teacher.
I know this one seems obvious, but before Jason’s training I didn't really all the time feel like a teacher. I suspect that almost every yoga teacher out there has at one time or another dealt with the staggering weight of “imposter syndrome.” Who am I to be teaching this discipline? Yoga is a huge subject, with layers of anatomical to esoteric understanding of the physical body, to thousands of years of philosophical tradition, meditation, mudras, mantras, kriyas, it's hard, nay impossible, to know everything about yoga. If I don't chant the Gayatri Mantra 108x’s at 4:30 am every morning, can I really be a yoga teacher? Or if I can’t press into handstand, can I really be a yoga teacher? It’s a lot. Self-doubt can be a real bitch.
Jason reminded me what deep down I already knew, teaching yoga is teaching a subject. You don’t have to be perfect or know everything about a subject to teach it.
Just teach what you have to teach.
This of course requires that you know what you want to teach and then to teach it with skill.
You don’t have to be an entertainer.
Resist teaching ad-hoc thrown together classes that drain your energy and your students attention.
You can be a teacher.
Know what you want to teach.
Develop curriculum to support that teaching. Create lesson plans like any other teacher would. Give your students something to learn and time to absorb it.
Be a teacher.
Jason’s approach to curriculum development and choosing when and how to skillfully unpack the teachings of yoga has refined the way I teach, for sure. Most of all, it’s given me renewed confidence. It’s not enough to recognize your dharma, you have to figure out how to do the work. We as yoga teachers are in a long lineage of seekers and sharers. May we all, like Jason, see others on the path and encourage them to leave their mark on this tradition with skill, passion, and confidence.
An additional thank you to all the people that supported our learning sauna. Love Story Yoga and Laurel Haslam for giving us a lovely and welcoming space. Mira Valeria, the assistant with the mostest. And team Crandell, Andrea Ferreti and Sophia for supporting this whole damn thing and likely very tired Jason after I asked him 50,000 questions about the psoas.
Photos courtesy of: Jason Crandell (top), Nam Chantepie (bottom)