A very special time to be alive
Why becoming a yoga teacher in 2022 requires deeper kindness and a more impactful loving presence. By Jyoti ‘Jo’ Manuel
We are living in unprecedented times. For the first time in my life time, the level of fear, anxiety, terror, trauma and stress are way beyond what we have been taught to manage and live with. I believe we are being invited to connect with ourselves in a much deeper and much more authentic way. We are being invited to change our ways, to review our priorities, to really consider what truly matters for ourselves, for the planet, and for our children and the children of the world. We have an opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves, with the world around us and with what the yogis might call Bhrama. And make different choices, wiser choices, more authentic choices, and become the masters of our thoughts.
This is what the practice of yoga offers
Teaching yoga today requires us to be really authentic, to really understand ourselves and to invite a much higher level of consciousness and awareness of how we show up in the world and what we bring. We generally underestimate the power of our state of being and how that impacts another. Every thought we have is energy and at some level that energy is received by everyone that is in our energy field.
Our yoga classes will have people whose trauma is greater than we may have experienced. They may present with behaviours that make us uncomfortable. So being present to our experience and developing a really deep level of self-kindness and self-acceptance allows us to cultivate a presence for others that is equally kind and accepting.
Often the language that is used by yoga teachers is ‘holding space’. Actually, we cannot ‘hold space’ (think about it!), but what we can do is to cultivate a kind and gentle open heart without judgement, and regulate our autonomic nervous system so that our energy field creates a circle of safety and care for everyone who joins us in our yoga sessions. In that way, our persons practice matters more than our teaching.
Yoga is an amazing tool that can be adopted to meet everyone’s needs. Learning what our students need requires a very quiet presence within ourselves, and the ability to deeply listen to our own needs. When we can truly learn how to take care of ourselves and understand how we function, process, meet ourselves, we can learn what our students need.
Yoga is not just an asana practice, it also offers a profound and beautiful journey of self-development, self-awareness, compassion and kindness to ourselves. I have often been heard in our teacher training programmes saying that my life won’t change if I can get my leg behind my head, but my life will change if I can learn to regulate myself, have choice over the thoughts I choose to think, and open my heart to develop greater kindness, generosity of spirit and compassion.
“Yoga offers such a powerful profound path for self-healing, to allow us to move into wherever the world is taking us next and to healing ourselves and others.”
When I started teaching yoga in the late 80s, its was for the select few who didn’t think it was ‘weird’ or ‘wacky’, or for those who had enough money to participate. Very early on in my teaching journey, my path was opened up to me…to work with people with physical and learning challenges (special needs) and children.
Any thoughts I had about what yoga ‘should’ look like went out the window along with class plans. I quickly had to respond to teaching a blind man and his dog, a woman with cerebral palsy, and another woman who was terrified of dogs in the same class. At that time, I was asked to teach yoga in a school in a very deprived part of London before ADHD and autism were even vaguely understood, let alone diagnosed.
Again, I had to be fully present, no class plans, no expectations, just my own embodied experience of what the practices felt like for me. Trial and error, learning how to be present, to deeply listen beyond language, feel my way. I saw in the children a disconnect that I witness with those carrying trauma, those with autism, ADHD and other diagnoses of physical and learning difficulties and I learned how to share yoga in a way that brought them safety back into their bodies.
I have learned how to be really comfortable in my body, and what practices at different times offer me that. I have learned how to ‘be’, how to deeply relax and feel safe. I have learned how to rebalance my autonomic nervous system and what practices support me when I feel dis-regulated, disorganised, on red alert, and generally out of kilter. I’m aware how easy it is for that to happen in the madness
of the world we are living in. I am seeing more and more people disturbed, deeply anxious, stressed and fearful of the future.
Sometimes I notice that I am holding onto fear and anxiety that doesn’t even belong to me. Yoga helps! Yoga offers such a powerful profound path for self-healing, to allow us to move into wherever the world is taking us next and to healing ourselves and others. May your choice of training support you to support others in the best possible way and to raise the consciousness of the world.
By Jyoti ‘Jo’ Manuel Special Yoga (specialyoga.co.uk) Jyoti is the founder and lead-trainer at Special Yoga. Special Yoga is a training organisation, sharing yoga, breathwork and mindfulness practices to support everyone affected by physical and neuro-diversity.