“We are always looking outward, listening to our teachers who come with their own problems and limitations and we ignore the most supreme teacher within ourselves. The only way to evolve, to progress, to truly practice, is to listen to our inner teacher.” Prashant Iyengar
WIth the retirement of our teacher Donald Moyer this May, Prashant Iyengar’s words have never seemed more important. How can we make the yoga practice our own? How can we learn to become our own inner teacher.
After having spent several years receiving a very precise list of requirements from my yoga teachers around where to place the foot and how to lift the chest, I took my first class with Donald Moyer. His use of language, was so different from my other teachers. He seldom told a student what not to do, nor did he invoke terms such as lock, dig, harden and pound. Instead he used directives such and lengthen or expand, in order to encourage a students’ increasing awareness of their own needs and inclinations in their yoga postures. In Donald’s classes we learned that there was never a single “right way” to do a pose, that each body had its own history and needs. Donald’s classes celebrated all different types of bodies. His use of language established, as my colleague Susan Leigh Foster says, ” a harmonious dialogue around awareness, will, and body, encouraging the student to ask, How does it feel to do a pose in this way? Where does my effort come from? What kind of effort brings transformation? As our bodies responded over time, we learned to listen.
Especially in this moment in history where bodies are bullied into exacting positions in competitive environments, it is crucial to imagine an alternative, where we learn to practice and experience things for ourselves and become our own inner teacher. This is the greatest gift a teacher can pass on, to teach us how to listen to the world around us and within us.
Quote of the Month
“Even if my words help you, you cannot depend on them alone. Each of us needs to reinterpret what we experience in our own language. This is especially true for teachers, so we can pass on the gift to those that follow. At the first anniversary celebration of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune in January,1976 I remember Iyengar’s closing words: ‘In my end is your beginning.’
These words still reverberate for me more than 30 years later. Please take my work and carry it one step further.”
Founding Director of the Yoga Room, Berkeley, California and author of Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body.