My yoga teaching journey and how I ended up here…part one

Written by Teresa Phelps Martin

On March 20, 2012

This is part one of a rather long story and the play Anusara has had in my journey as a yoga teacher, and a journey of me and my co-creation of my life. The stories are all told from my experience and what has brought me to this moment that I am still processing daily. Why the play of Anusara? If you can make it through the many parts, you’ll see. Oh, but I have no idea yet how the story will end.

Nosara, Costa Rica, February 2003 – a beautiful ceremony recognizing the 40 of us that were graduating with a Certification for teaching Hatha Yoga. The red concrete floor, bougainvillea drapped everywhere, the breath taking Shiva in the middle, and the fact that I was earning a certification alongside those who didn’t show up for class, or participate in the manner I did, or held a great disrespect for those of us who were eager and full of enthusiasm to teach yoga with great integrity. When my name was called, I walked up to receive my certification and all frustration dissolved completely as I enjoyed a great stroke of insight. At that moment I only felt a sense of completion, honor and deep respect for my teachers and they had offered the teachings without the expectation that everyone is going to have the same experience. My experience, was mine, and at that moment I couldn’t wait to start teaching yoga!

In a letter that I wrote my friend during my first teacher training, it read something like… I get to help people realize that they contain a goodness, a bliss, a joy inside of them and that through yoga they can awaken this potential and help make the world a better place. My friend, now husband, came across this letter last spring, 8 years later, and said, you should read this. I did and realized that this has been my intention from the very beginning. This message was written before I had even heard the word Anusara or John Friend, however it was only days after receiving my first yoga certification that the Anusara manual landed in my lap.

I spent additional time in Costa Rica, traveling with a few people and visiting my cousin. One person was going to head back to Arizona and begin her studies with Anusara. She was so passionate about it and had come to Costa Rica for her teacher training as, if I am not mistaken, she needed to have completed a 200 hour teacher training. While we were in Arenal I read the manual. Hmm, isn’t that interesting, I thought to myself. But I couldn’t get past the fact that there was this guy that said ultimately we are all free, but to experience this freedom we must abide by a set of ‘rules’ or principles. I thought to myself, who does this guy think he is? We are all free, but we have to do what he says. Besides, I didn’t like the idea of leaping immediately into another training without taking the time to sit with the beautiful offerings we had just received.

While I was in Costa Rica, my little sister and my friend moved her and I to Louisville, KY, a place I had never taken a yoga class or even visited all that much. Not to mention I had little awareness to what the yoga politics were at that time. So I saw a studio had to cancel classes two nights a week as the owner was going to be traveling to do an Anusara Immersion. I didn’t think anything of the method, but rather saw an opportunity to be of service. March of 2003, I began teaching Thursday evenings at 6pm and continued teaching that same time slot for the next 8 years. The owner did the Immersion, and she had another teacher there who taught Anusara, but the method didn’t stand out to me. Sure trying out handstand at the wall with jump switches was exciting and scary, but I also saw too much personality conflict and a huge amount of arrogance. The guy who was really into Anusara, his beliefs and behaviors were totally out of alignment between his home life and his yoga teaching. But, what did I know, I was a new teacher on the block and put my energy into the classes and hearts that were in front of me to teach what I knew to be true through my experiences on and off the mat. The owner was supportive of me and I hold deep gratitude for her opening her door to my teaching in her space, fresh off a teacher training, her initial trust is a big reason why I have evolved as a teacher.

The fall of 2003 I went to Estes Park for the Yoga Journal Conference. I did the continuing education prior to the weekend event. It was an eye opener for certain, Richard Freeman, Rodney Yee, Ana Forest, Gary Kraftsow, and Patricia Walden. I had been taught that there is something to gain with every teacher and every class. To this day I still utilize little nuggets from each of these teachers as well as a deep respect for everyone devoted to the path of yoga. In the workshop with Ana Forest I met a girl who held just as much enthusiasm for being here as I did, but hers came from a different space. Her boyfriend was one of the presenters in the evening panels and she highly encouraged me to go listen to him. Though I was totally buzzing from all the expansive experiences I had been having, I went. I saw the girl and she was in a whole different space, it was obvious that she was excited to be associated with this guy who was obviously a good bit older than her, but who was I to judge. Then a guy, John Friend got up to introduce this speaker, he too held great admiration for his friend and thanked him for all he was contributing, but I didn’t understand what John was talking about nor did I understand anything that this girl’s boyfriend was saying. There words were complex and overly intelligent, obviously not landing in my heart. But I was also intoxicated by the physical practice of yoga, three days, 5 different teachers, if this girl wanted to hang out with an ‘older’ intellectual man, power to her, I was more interested in getting back on my yoga mat.

The next day, the whole day was spent with Shiva Rea and it was magical. It was my first experience of being in a room with 200 other people, live music, sitar and drums, assistants that took the time to connect with you if you had an injury, and a practice that moved me in a way I had never quite moved before. I knew I had landed right where I was supposed to be. I gained so much from that class and I remember when there continued to be roars of applause in the other space next to us that Shiva Rea would say, that’s my friend John and it sounds like they are having just as much fun as we are. There it was again, a little less then a foot of a wall between me and the merry band. I remember thinking, how great it is that so many people are enjoying their yoga and that there are so many offerings to choose from, this was the beginning of my addiction to yoga training.

After that conference, I sat with all the offerings I had receive and the one that was most potent for me was the fluid connection to the source of joy that Shiva Rea had inspired, so January 2004 I began to learn how to Embody the Flow. At the same time I was communicating about doing an Immersion of sorts in Cincinatti, it was close to home, and this Anusara stuff kept coming up, but after the two weeks in Venice, CA I decided I should stick with one teaching method and let it soak in before leaping into another practice. The studio I taught at in Kentucky was loving the flow, the owner not so much, but she gave me the space to teach. She brought the teacher from Cincinnati down to do a workshop, I remember practicing and thinking, oh this is nice, but I like my flow so much better and thank goodness for variety.

I continued studying with Shiva Rea, California, New York, India. I loved the combined ability to travel and deepen my knowledge. Shiva Rea taught me how to connect to my heart, to give people the space to experience a deeper current of their own heart as well. I watched my classes grow and everyone’s awareness and enthusiasm for yoga increasing. My hunger to know more began and at about the same time, the owner of the studio was going to move, she offered the purchase of the studio to me, but our views didn’t align, she found another buyer, and I was super excited for everyone involved…

To be continued…

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