Don’t you just love them?
I know I do.
There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.
I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.
Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.
I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!
I’m so excited for this month’s interview!
Have you met Madeleine yet?
Madeleine Lohman is December’s Featured Teacher. She teaches Yoga Basics, Gentle and Level 1-2 yoga at It’s All Yoga and she is also part of the IAY Teacher Training faculty. Plus she does massage and private yoga sessions/parties.
Did I mention she also totally rocks?
When did you start practicing yoga? Why?
Sometime in the late-mid nineties, I returned to Seattle after going to school in Montreal. I had my degree in English Literature which naturally led me to work at a toy store. (The coolest toy store ever, Archie Mcphee, but that’s another story…)
I had free time and brain space on my hands, and needed something new to think about. My friend was taking classes at a community center, so I went along.
It was a beginner’s class, but an accelerated one intended for folks who were already “in shape.” I don’t know what led me to believe that described me. I’ll never forget the teacher kneeling beside me trying to encourage me to roll back into plough pose. All my efforts produced almost no movement, only grunting.
I do remember that I did my first handstand in that class. I actually cried out: “Jeezus!!!”
The teacher didn’t find it funny.
How has your yoga practice evolved over time?
It has definitely moved out of the realm of competition and into the realm of kindness. It took a long time. It’s still happening.
I mean, I was never going to be a super-power-vinyasa yogi, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t mistake yoga as just another way to “improve” my body.
Old habits die hard.
When you spend your teen years dieting and exercising in a punishing way, yoga can quite neatly fit into that regimen. Yoga can either change your bad habits or just give you another tool to cement them with.
Now, the asanas (poses) are a way to lavish attention on this body just as it is. And to make meditation, breathing, and just generally living a little easier.
How long have you been a yoga teacher?
Since 2003 or so. My first certification, ironically enough, was through “YogaFit.” They do trainings which take place over one weekend, which certainly opens them up to a lot of criticism in the yoga community.
And no, you can’t learn to be a yoga teacher in a weekend.
But it’s a very useful starting point for students like me, who were being nudged in the direction of teaching by a lot of sources, but were afraid of the full, Yoga Alliance approved, hundreds of hours type of commitment. It lets you know if you’re moving in the right direction.
And then I felt ready to jump in to the hundreds of hours of training I’ve done since then, knowing I liked what I was experiencing.
Truly, though, the only thing that prepares you for teaching is teaching.
Lots of it. As much as you can. Especially, when you’re starting out, offering your teaching freely to groups that might not ordinarily have access to the practice.
Do you have a home practice? What’s it like?
I believe if you don’t have a consistent home practice, you got nothing to teach.
My home practice finally started because it had to, it was a requirement of my second teacher training. There’s nothing like having to turn in a report that makes you get your practice in gear.
Since then, it’s faltered now and then, but for the most part, that’s how I teach, by making sure I practice and then teaching what I’ve found.
After confidently telling students for years that it’s more beneficial to have a shorter home practice that’s more frequent, I’ve completely changed my mind.
I do practice every morning, but by that I mean a sitting meditation and some very simple stretching.
In terms of the whiz-bang, full-on, get-down-on-it asana practice, I do that Monday/Wednesday/Friday, because I’m regimented like that. I discovered that shorter asana practices every day made me feel like I was reading a bunch of short stories, when what I wanted was to read a novel.
For me, taking a class definitely does not take the place of a home practice. Home practice is the work, class is the vacation. And as anyone who’s read my blog knows, I have a little trouble taking enough vacations.
Everyone gets a free pass or two in yoga, the poses and body parts that generally give you no complaints and are a lot of fun to wallow in. For me, that’s hips and hamstrings. So, give me a forward fold or a pigeon and I’m happy. The one pose I do every day, though, is downward dog.
Least favorite pose?
I’m not sure what you would call the opposite of your “free pass” – but for me it’s anything that requires upper body flexibility or strength. Chaturanga is the first that comes to mind, but any pose where you bind your arms (clasping hands together in a complicated way behind your torso) will find me cursing and looking for a strap.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – MadYoga Goes Online!
Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.
October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.