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Why it is important to have a yoga teacher

Do you think it’s important to have a yoga teacher? I do.

This past weekend I traveled up to the Ann Arbor School of Yoga to attend the weekend intensive with my teacher, Laurie Blakeney. (In the photo below, that’s me standing on Laurie’s shoulders!) I have been attending these weekend intensives regularly for years. They are what keep me going in my practice and teaching.

Laurie Blakeney is a senior teacher in the Iyengar Yoga system. She has been teaching since the early 1980’s and continues to travel to the Iyengar Yoga Institute in India annually to further her own studies. To say she knows a lot about yoga is an understatement.

Ann Arbor School of Yoga weekend intensives
The teachers with their teacher.

I love attending Laurie’s classes, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that she presents herself as a teacher and also as a student. In class she shares stories and ideas from her time learning with B.K.S. Iyengar, who was her primary teacher up until his death in 2014. She has told us many stories of practicing with B.K.S. Iyengar and how it changed her perspectives. And in the past several years she has been speaking more and more about the classes she now takes with Prashant Iyengar (B.K.S. Iyengar’s son). Laurie has always had a teacher.

This weekend Laurie told us about the time she asked B.K.S. Iyengar if there’s was a cap on a students potential. Meaning, did he think that there is a limit to the amount someone can learn. B.K.S. Iyengar responded by saying “it depends on their teacher.”

A teacher takes you beyond what you think you know

In the Iyengar Yoga system it is a requirement that teachers have teachers. I think this is a very good thing because it’s difficult to see ourselves accurately. All of us have memories or past impressions that can skew our opinion of the current moment. Therefore, someone else, outside of ourselves, needs to show us where to improve and when we are doing well.

I don’t see my teacher, or any teacher, as a saint or someone who is all knowing. We are all flawed because we are human. My teacher, and all other teachers, just needs to have more experience than me trying to stay on the path of yoga.

A good teacher can not only show you where you are going wrong but also how to learn what you need to learn. Then you are not always reliant on the teacher for everything. The student shouldn’t be reliant on the teachers to tell them what to do all the time. Sometimes the student needs to go out and explore on their own. But they should come back periodically to check in, just to make sure they are not drifting too far off course.

Lucky for us Laurie will be coming to Cincinnati next year! She will teach a weekend workshop May 15-17, 2020. Stay tuned for scheduling details.

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