An Inspirational Quote
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
What I Have Learned Teaching Yoga
by Catherine Carrigan, Catherine@totalfitness.net
This year marks my 10th year as a yoga teacher.
Of all the exercise techniques I have learned and practiced, I believe that yoga is the most profoundly healing methodology on all levels. The effects of practicing yoga are not purely physically – it transforms us literally on all levels.
I am immensely grateful to Monsignor Ed Dillon for inviting me to teach at Holy Spirit Catholic Church years ago. It’s here that I have fully realized my ambitions as a yoga teacher and experienced a depth of joy that I would not have previously thought possible in any career-related endeavor.
I’ll put it quite simply. I love teaching yoga and I love my students. I wanted to mark this special anniversary by sharing what I have learned from this experience:
Listen, listen, listen and then listen some more. I listen to my and I encourage everyone who practices yoga to attune more deeply to their body, mind and spirit.
You must be in tune with yourself before you can be in harmony with the rest of the world around you. As we listen to our bodies and come into greater harmony with ourselves, we find a funny thing happens – we are more in harmony with everyone and everything everywhere. This is what the word “intuitive” is all about.
How you practice yoga is how you do everything else. I love to watch new students. Some will come in and before I can warn them otherwise, they will throw themselves enthusiastically into every pose, shaking off any mistakes when they fall down with a good laugh. Others take offense at themselves when they think they haven’t reached some imaginary point of being perfect. The mat is a great place to observe your patterns.
Half of doing yoga is learning how to do yoga. Yoga teaches you how to play the game of life better than any instruction manual you could ever discover. What seems to work best is a process of allowing rather than forcing, of unfolding and discovering rather than assuming you already know “the end” of the story.
It’s not the end pose that counts, it’s the process. There are many stages to each pose, many variations of all the basic poses and no perfection. You may never reach the end pose – say a perfect split or a perfect backbend – but you can learn to enjoy what you are doing while you are doing it.
Every day you practice requires a different approach. Some schools of yoga require the same poses in the same manner at the same speed for the same given amount of time. This, to me, is like so much of the rest of life – full of “shoulds.” Ideally, we practice by tuning in and doing what needs to be done in the way that brings us back to greater harmony – and that could mean anything from different poses, different tempo to placing a different emphasis (PEEMS – physical, energetic, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) on how we approach our practice.
Be the place that love flows though. It’s good for others and good for you. I owe this wisdom to my yoga teacher Erich Schiffman. Although I have three primary certifications and many years of additional study, I view Erich as my primary teacher. He feels that yoga is meditation. Like Erich, I believe that yoga is a meditative practice that allows us to become channels of divine love.
An advanced practitioner isn’t necessarily one who can do every pose – an advanced practitioner is one who makes every pose his own. We all would do so much better in life if we stopped allowing other people to tell us what shape we should mould ourselves into and shift to a place of making each stage just right for us.
Mental toughness, inner strength, is being able to feel 100 percent of your feelings while staying perfectly calm, grounded and present while doing so. Yoga isn’t about making life cushy – it’s about learning how to be comfortable with yourself no matter where you discover yourself to be. As you relax internally, the physical restrictions become a lot easier to overcome.
One percent theory, 99 percent sweat equity. I would rather do yoga than philosophize about it. I own many books about yoga, and I certainly went through a phase where I enjoyed reading yoga philosophy. But whether you study every advanced yoga text or are completely unaware that an intellectual framework even exists, you earn a greater depth of knowledge though actual practice
Total Fitness yoga classes are open to all levels of practitioners. I invite you to join me every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30-9 p.m. You can find the map with directions to the class at the following link: