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The Need for Personal Practice

I teach 12 yoga classes per week and find it difficult to fit in my own personal asana practice. The eight-limb system has other limbs besides asanas. Is it appropriate to study the other limbs as my practice, or is daily asana practice necessary to be a true yoga teacher?

Read Maty Ezraty's repsonse:

Dear Lynne,

It is important at any stage of one's teaching to study the other limbs of yoga. However, this should not be a substitute for asana practice. You should study the other limbs in conjunction with regular asana practice.

It may be time for you to examine your asana practice to see how it could replenish you, so that your practice helps your life. You may need to slow your practice down and practice less vigorous poses. Include more restorative poses and inversions on the days when you are tired and have more classes to teach. You might also try to divide your practice into two smaller segments: a 45-minute session in the morning that is more vigorous, and another 45-minute session in the evening that is more relaxing and soothing. Doing two shorter sessions rather than one long one could fit your schedule better.

Another hard truth that you may need to face is that you are teaching too many classes. Many new teachers make this mistake. Taking on a big load of classes to make ends meet while letting your own practice fall to the side is not a sustainable situation. Twelve public classes is a big load, even for very experienced teachers. In my 18 years of running a yoga school, I found very few teachers who were able to hold down a schedule of that size for a long period of time.

Scheduling yourself efficiently can be a solution to your problem. It's worth taking the time to build a teaching schedule that is effective and promotes the lifestyle you want. Organize your teaching hours so that you minimize your travel time from one class to another. Teach more back-to-back classes, or consider teaching out of your home. Make sure to take days off, and do not substitute teach on these days. On your days off, you can practice more or take a workshop or class to help inspire your teaching. Build your teaching schedule around your practice, not the other way. If a class is dragging your energy down or is not financially worth it, let it go. It is amazing what opens up when we let go. Lastly, some teachers complement their teaching hours with other jobs. My teacher, K. Pattabhi Jois, says that you should practice a series at least 1,000 times before you attempt to teach it. I have heard other teachers say that for every hour you teach, you should practice two hours. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of a daily personal practice.

Maty Ezraty is co-creator of the first two Yoga Works yoga studios in Santa Monica, California. A former YJ Asana columnist, she travels around the world leading teacher trainings, workshops, and yoga retreats.

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