As I sat down to prepare my “All Hallow’s Eve” yoga classes, I began to think of my current group of Yoga Teacher Trainee’s. A key point for me to help develop in them is the potential for a career with longevity. At this day in age, being a Yoga Teacher, can actually be a pretty tough gig. A lot of energy goes into leading a yoga class — and — If I’m being honest, rather than only optimistic, the financial return is usually not that great. Of course yoga teachers reap their rewards in other ways. For me I feel incredibly grateful to be part of a system that is cultivating health, wholeness, peace, and joy in the world.
I believe that one of the keys to longevity is to set yourself up so that you continue to be fueled by the work. I am also a believer in that old adage, “variety is the spice of life.” Incorporating meaningful themes in yoga classes can help keep things interesting at the same time it serves many other purposes. Themes can help to give direction and clarity in a particular area, allowing the information to sink in on multiple levels in order to leave a lasting impression. While some people thrive on order and repetition, I just never have. Taking time to come up with a theme each week takes some extra work but I think it’s fun and it almost always lead me to either learn something new or to deepen my understanding in a certain area.
Today, I thought I would share a little bit of my process. For a new teacher this may all seem a little overwhelming, but as all things usually do, it will make more sense over time!
I knew for this week’s classes, I wanted to explore the “darker side” of some of the stories we tell in yoga practice. Yoga heritage is full of stories of both angels and demons. In certain cases it’s the most supreme and auspicious gods and goddesses that take on demonic form. Enter Shiva and Kali. Shiva is recognized as the divine father of yogic practices. Most often held in meditation, at one point, Shiva is awoken from his meditation by the goddess Parvati. As many of the gods and goddesses do, Parvati is known by other names and forms. At their most essential nature, they are all one. Shiva is representative of the deepest and most steady form of universal consciousness and Parvati, as goddess, is the ecstatic creative force that manifests in the world. Both Shiva and Parvati, though often seen as serene and holy, have their darker sides. In a fit of rage, Shiva becomes Nataraj and performs a dance of destruction to wipe out all those who have offended him. Parvati, also known as Durga, takes on the form of Kali. From my point of view, Kali takes the cake for the most ferocious mask of all. Of course they both have good intentions and after a fit of destruction there is room for auspicious growth.
So after all that, I have a plan for class. The “theme” will crystalize into something like: “Embracing our darker nature and recognizing where it might help us break things down in order to make space for auspicious growth.” We will likely take Shiva’s form as Nataraj in the one-legged standing backbend pose known as Natarajasana and we will take goddess shapes in Parvatasana and in the pose known as “The Goddess Pose” (you can look it up.) The benefit for me to work with a theme is that I have something to focus my energy on (rather than being nervous – because even after teaching since I was 14 – now 41 – I still get a little nervous teaching!) The treat is that when I went to find an image of the symbol for shiva and Shakti coming together (like the Star of David) I found an awesome article about Tantra and Yantras that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into when I get a free moment. I’m sharing the link because it’s definitely worth a peek. http://sivasakti.com/articles/intro-yantra.html
So here on the week of Hallow’s Eve, when we glorify both the demons and saints, I wish you peace in the remembrance of both your divine and animal nature. I hope you are discovering an ability to utilize the full spectrum of your unique nature in the best way possible for yourself and those who you connect with most fully.
Om Namah Shivaya ~ Jai Kali Ma ~ Kate