'Iti noa ana, he pito mata'
'From the withered tree a flower blooms'
This whakataukī ( māori proverb ) is the inspiration for this months blog.
The whakataukī reminds me that knowledge and wisdom are passed down through generations from our tūpuna (ancestors), like the tree that passes its energy and nourishment to the flower.
Like te ao māori, the māori world, yoga also has a form of whakapapa…- a genealogy or family tree, with knowledge passed from the elders of the tradition down to students - the next generation.
In past blogs I have talked about the importance of practice, however, one crucial element of your journey is your teacher.
I have been blessed to have begun my journey with yoga over two decades ago.
My teachers came out of the yoga brought to the west from India, and most followed a path or lineage with a particular guru.
It was the nineties and yoga wasn't often practiced to get fit, not like it is today. Yoga could be found in church halls, or community education programmes, but it wasn't a mainstream activity at the time. But it was becoming popular, and a few gyms did offer yoga classes.
Many yoga students were on a spiritual journey, before yoga became associated with fitness and stretching.
The postures of yoga - the physical aspect, is important in hatha yoga. And for many, it is the entry point into yoga. Many come for the poses, but stay for something more.
'Self-care and wellness' - these words were rarely, if ever, used at the time. Although, I found that yoga was taught from a holistic viewpoint- as something you did for the benefit of the mind, body, and spirit.
So, the perception of yoga has changed since I first encountered it.... now there's social media and google to instantly access thousands of images of yoga, or what people think yoga is.
But, sometimes it feels that spaces for holistic yoga, and the spiritual aspects of yoga, the true essence, has been left behind.
With google and social media at your disposal - do you even need a teacher?
It’s true that you can learn a lot by just googling it, and there are social media channels that can teach you how to do some of the practices.
However, yoga is complex, and if you are at the point of wanting to go deeper - then finding someone who is aware of the deeper aspects and aims of yoga, is a good place to start.
A teacher should have experience with what they are teaching you.
Your teacher knows that with dedication, devotion, and awareness, more gifts of yoga are available to you, because they have experienced this.
Your teacher is there to gently guide, but it is up to you to use your awareness, and reflect on your own practice.
A teacher should be someone who has knowledge, training, and has practiced yoga for a while too, or at least is dedicated to their ongoing learning. As we all start somewhere, and gain experience as we go. A new teacher may have a lot of passion and enthusiasm, and their energy for the practice may be inspiring.
Consistency is an attribute of a good teacher - it may get confusing if there are lots of different styles being taught and the classes have no consistent format. Like all learning, repetition is a key factor.
Often teachers who hold the integrity of the practice to heart, will not give out all the information to every student who comes along, they may hold some things back, for those they believe will also respect the tradition, and the power of the practices.
They give out their mātauranga (knowledge) slowly, when they feel students are ready, and will be able to absorb the knowledge. And they themselves will allow new knowledge to mature within themselves, before they share it out to others.
If you have found a teacher who you enjoy and trust, whose style of teaching resonates with you, congratulations, this is pure gold! And remember that as a student you have responsibilities too -
Dedication or devotion to your practice is needed. To water the seed that has been planted and nurture it.
No one else can ultimately nurture it for you, no teacher can make you go to classes or practice at home - that is up to you. A teacher may inspire you to practice, or to look beyond the physical aspects, to receive even greater gifts from your yoga, but you must nurture the seed yourself.
Be patient with yourself and don't be afraid to slow it down. The transformation that yoga offers you takes time to evolve in your life.
This is a lifelong journey.
Also remember that the teacher has a life too, and are on their own journey of self awareness and growth. Yoga teachers are human.
A yoga teacher is not a doctor or therapist, they may have helpful tips for some issues - which should be based on their knowledge, training and experience, but also know where their knowledge ends.
They can direct you to someone else if your concern is beyond their scope, or just say they don't know.
Always consult a healthcare professional for advice on physical and mental health issues you may have, before attending classes. It is helpful for you if the teacher knows about any conditions - so they can help to modify your practice accordingly. This is part of student responsibility also - to inform the teacher, and only go within your limits.
Also remember that in group classes you are one of the group. The class isn't for you alone. Some group classes may not be suitable for certain health conditions, or if you would like to learn more. So ask about their other options, such as private 1-1 or small group sessions.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when seeking a teacher-
Are they a withered tree? Or have they learnt from one? 🥰
The withered tree has withstood many seasons, they have seen many things come, and go, but their roots remain strong. They have been blown about by Tawhirimatea - the god of winds, and lived to tell the tale. They have stood their ground when others have perished. They offer shelter from the storms, because their roots are deep. They may not look much at first glance, but most are patiently waiting for their flowers to bloom....
Though you may not like everything they teach or how they teach it, a good teacher will inspire you to stay on track with your practice, to develop and deepen your awareness.
So is it worth seeking a teacher ? I think so, especially in the beginning of your journey, a teacher can be fabulous puna/ well spring of knowledge.
At other times along the way, you may also benefit from having an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. If you have had a break from yoga, if you are struggling with your practice, or if practice has become dry and lacks inspiration.
Is ongoing, and I am forever grateful for all the teachers that I have had, some for short periods and others for many, many years. I have been fortunate to find teachers whose mahi has resonated with me, and helped me on my journey of both learning and teaching yoga.
So much learning has also come from the teachers that also come in the form of students, family, children, partners, friends, and colleagues.
Lastly, I'd like to mihi to my teachers who have been important and influential on my yoga journey -
-Trish Peters, Alinta Okan ( Swami Ratnamurti ), Swami Shantimurti, Sally Kempton, and Judith Hanson- Lasater.
"Ka nui te aroha ki a koutou mō to koutou mātauranga, ngā mihi nunui ki a koutou!"
Arohanui, Linsey x
And an online self paced programme currently I offer is Yoga for Calm, which you can do at anytime.
For 1-1 yoga either in person or virtually, or yoga for your hui or workplace, please contact me directly.
Do sign up to my email newsletter too! This is the quickest way to hear all the news about upcoming courses, classes, blogs, retreats and more.