I was a self-taught yogi. After I joined my first yoga class at 19 I bought books on yoga and started doing it on my own at home. I experimented with the postures, meditation techniques and breathing exercises that I read about in books. This was before the plethora of yoga videos was readily available on the internet so my self-study in yoga consisted of a bunch of rather disorganized stretches done at odd hours of the day that suited my schedule and level of interest. When I joined my first Ashtanga Yoga class nearly two years later I got a hint of the discipline, dedication and determination required to do this practice. But it was only when I traveled to Mysore, India to meet Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson R. Sharath Jois that I truly experienced the transformational power of having a teacher on the inner journey of yoga.
When I practice alone in the many months I spend away from India each year, I am often back to self-practice. If something is difficult the option simply to skip it hangs in the air. I know from experience how hard it is go through difficult places in the practice alone and how much easier it is to do this with the help of a teacher. For example, when I practice on my own I have to push myself to work my own backbends but when I am in Mysore, India my teacher R. Sharath Jois comes to work with me every day. There are days in India that if I were at home I would take it easy but on those days my teacher motivates me to surpass my limitations. The results are evident in a just a few weeks of practice. I go deeper with his help than on my best days of self-practice. Practicing with Guruji and Sharath has taught me that I do not always know what is right for myself. I have learned the humility to acknowledge that I do not always know what is best or right for myself. Sometimes my preferences are based on a limited concept of myself and my potential. It’s the role of the teacher to help me break through my limitations and experience a stronger, more powerful presence within. Continue reading >>