Blessings of Time and Teaching

Iyengar Yoga in Kalispell, Montana. Photographed by Mandy Mohler of Field Guide Designs.

Many of you know now that I have missed another week of teaching class due to my father’s declining health and passing. Within this process and within the absence of teaching, I am reminded of the blessing of just taking time, being aware of time, and acknowledging the constant changes of life and death in harmony with each other. I am also reminded of how much teaching and being in the community of Iyengar Yoga means to me.

There is so much that BKS Iyengar, his family, and this lineage have taught us about being students of yoga, but BKS and his daughter Geeta also spent a lot of time writing about and teaching us about being teachers. It is why our training and certification process for Iyengar Yoga is so in depth and takes a lot of time…for many of us it is a continuous life process that does not have an end.

Some Advice for the Guidance of Teachers in Basic Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga by Geeta Iyengar

“Work on yourself and then correct your students…You cannot instruct with an unclear and a confused mind…Problems arise when you do not see the students…Build up courage in the student. Be respectful of the emotions of the student…Your eyes must see everyone. Nobody should escape your attention”

Yoga begins with disciplined practice, and that practice is all about what we do with our time and how aware we are of our actions within time. The eight limbs of yoga give us a guide on how to spend each moment learning about and becoming closer to our own self. That does not mean to lock yourself away from life, but to actually dive deep into the experiences of it – bad, good, or indifferent – so that in the end there is no attachment, no regret, no fear. You are where you are when you are, and there is nothing else.

In teaching, and specifically in teaching Iyengar Yoga, the awareness and observance developed in practice gets shared with our students. Before even walking into the studio, we have taken time to create a sequence that probably lines up with last week and will be a link to the next week as well. We typically have long-term goals for the students that come to our classes, the sequence for each class developed to maximize the time to give tools for the student’s own practice of yoga, hopefully giving them some new experience or avenue to experience their own self. In teaching, we are to observe, literally “see” what is going on with students and adjust accordingly so that the teaching will be effective for that moment as well. In Geeta Iyengar’s words, we are to “put ourselves into our student’s bodies” in order to better help them.

So, the time I spend and take with students is quite precious to me. I have always been one to choose jobs I loved, but in a lot of ways, I feel that ultimately yoga chose me. Since teaching has been my “job”, I have always felt more drawn back to it, during breaks and vacations class is always with me somehow. When I am feeling ill or down or distracted in some ways, teaching (sometimes more than practice) can give me a focus that is energizing and refueling. The connection with others and the observation of their learning or their experiencing even the smallest spark of yoga is exhilarating.

Being here at a bedside at the end of a life, I am even more thankful for the truth of what the practice and teaching of Iyengar Yoga has blessed me with. Awareness and experience without distraction and the time given to observe myself and others absolutely enrich both life and death. This time we take for ourself does take discipline and focus, but through that discipline we are drawn with compassion to others.

Geeta Iyengar said “Compassion and discipline are not two separate things. They are two sides of the same coin. Discipline without compassion may prove brutal and fatal, and compassion without discipline may prove ineffectual or destructive. A teacher needs the right balance.” 

I have found balance this week through the support of my entire Iyengar Yoga family, blessed by those at home who substitute teach in my absence and the local studio and teacher here who have given me a place to fall and focus again.

Thank you for your practice and patience and I look forward to being back soon.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.