360° Yoga

Becoming an integrated person as an experienced teacher. By Paula Hines

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to study again with Judith Hanson Lasater. Amidst our training in how to teach advanced restorative yoga with a focus on the therapeutic aspects of this practice, Judith shared many pearls of wisdom from her 45 years of teaching. She spoke about the importance of how we see and treat ourselves and how this can allow us to become more authentic as teachers. Among the many things discussed were the two stages of practice: 1) Transcendence and 2) Integration.

As I reflect on my journey of practicing for 15 years and now being in my fifth year of teaching, I wanted to share this with you as the ideas Judith shared really struck a chord with me.

When we start our yoga journey we usually want to be narrow. For instance, we might change our diet by becoming vegetarian or vegan and being very disciplined in our physical practice. We want to be able to do Handstand and Scorpion. We shape ourselves into what we believe yoga is or should be. I’m sure many of us can relate.

In my own case, I remember going to classes six days a week and there would be an overriding sense of guilt if for any reason I missed a day or two. This sense of guilt was not in any way provoked by my teachers at that time, it was solely down to what I believed I ‘should’ be doing to be a good yogi.

This tendency to want to be narrow early on in our yoga journey is a necessary stage but as we gain more experience this begins to shift towards integration. Or, as Judith joked, when we make this shift, we happily eat gluten in front of god and everyone!

Your definition of yoga becomes 360° so that there is no aspect of your life that isn’t your yoga practice. In other words, the Yamas and Niyamas become ‘description’ rather than ‘prescription’.

You welcome all parts of yourself so you no longer judge your shadow self (because yoga is not only ‘love and light’). We come to realise that the sign of an ‘advanced’ person is not whether you can stand on your hands but whether you are willing to go into your dark places and, consequently, be more capable of holding space for others.

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer

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