Ekam Yoga ran its first yoga teacher training last year. On the whole it was successful; but I was left feeling like 200 hours just isn’t enough. Yoga is vast. 200 hours feels like the blink of an eye.
Lately I’ve been thinking: what makes a good yoga teacher? Then I think: what makes a great yoga teacher? And I remember my first yoga teacher.
Her name is Debbera Blackwell and she is still teaching yoga in the Svaroopa style in Boston, where I started taking classes with her 15 years ago. Back in those days yoga was yoga and if someone were to ask me what style I practiced, I wouldn’t have understood the question. (I’m still not exactly sure what Svaroopa yoga is.) Debbera had a direct teaching style, a grounded approach, and put my flexibility and gymnastics training to the test. It wasn’t awe I developed for her, it was respect. She grounded me in proper alignment, she knew just how to build a posture so that I was challenged throughout, and she kept me coming back for more. She created such a strong foundation in me that to this day I still remember her and what she taught me.
I am inspired when I watch DVDs of advanced practitioners of ashtanga vinyasa yoga (Kino MacGregor, Richard Freeman and David Swenson to name a few). I am indebted to those who have invested time and effort to writing about ashtanga (Lino Miele and Gregor Maehle have some particularly excellent contributions). And I am grateful and humbled to practice with inspiring teachers like Michael Gannon, Eddie Stern, and Sharath. To me they are all great teachers.
To be honest, I don’t aspire to be a great yoga teacher; I only aspire to being a good one. To me it is more important to be the teacher who created space and encouraged a practice to take root and grow rather than be a towering pinnacle of how far you may get (if you practice and study hard enough for long enough). I don’t need to be the teacher who offers exclusive getaways, packed workshops, or sells lots of DVDs and books; but I’d love to be the one that points a student in the right direction and then gives them a shove down their own path. I have no desire to be the teacher that everyone’s dying to take a class with; I want to be a teacher that everyone remembers their first yoga class with. Remember? That first class where everything clicked and you said to yourself, ‘I like this, this is where I want to be, this is what I want to be doing.’
So to Debbera- thank you, you still inspire me! And to all the good yoga teachers out there who may not be in some exotic location or selling lots of DVDs, never doubt that you aren’t just as inspiring as those who are. It’s tough to be first, but it’s a lot more memorable.