Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.
I’m grateful to live and teach in San Francisco – a city where I can practice and study with various senior teachers on a regular basis. I was excited when the tour led us back to my hometown and eager to sit down with the teachers that have influenced me the most. Throughout our week in San Francisco, we spoke with Stephanie Snyder, Jason Crandell and Janet Stone, three teachers that have been instrumental in my own development as a student and teacher. And while each discussed a different topic, and provided different perspectives, each had the same common thread and core piece of advice for teachers today: to remain a perennial student above all else.
Here’s what Snyder, Crandell and Stone had to say about the most important conversations in yoga today and their advice for teachers navigating their personal path.
Making Yoga Philosophy Accessible and Integrated in Daily Life
Stephanie Snyder is known for her ability to teach yoga philosophy and make it relevant to students. “Making yoga philosophy accessible to the modern yogi is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “It’s time for the West to mature as practitioners and to step into 'living the yoga' instead of just practicing the yoga.”
As Snyder sees it, the more modern the world gets and the more sophisticated our minds become, the more complex our problems appear to be. All the more reason to study the texts daily (specifically The Yoga Sutras and The Bhagavad Gita). “We can begin to apply this philosophy –that’s actually very straightforward – to our lives in a way that help us identify the source of our suffering,” she said. “Only then, we can we be in a position to truly be of service in a way that’s much more impactful.”
Practice Stephanie Snyder's Sequence for Abundance.
According to Snyder, It’s important to know that by studying yoga we are really studying ourselves: looking at our patterns of behavior, preferences, attachments, reactions and responses and using the practice as a tool to help us be more discerning, intentional and aware from moment to moment. Snyder encourages teachers to share the philosophy in public classes because a lot of us are dealing with the same things: anxiety, stress, technology, (dis)ease, and more. “If you share from direct experience, the teachings will land,” she said.
Snyder's advice for newer teachers:
Remain honest in your teaching – meaning, stay committed as a student. As long as your first and primary relationship to the practice is as a student, your teaching will always be honest and come across as authentic and real.”
See also Stephanie Snyder's 30-Second Advice for Every Yoga Student.
Integrating Higher Standards For Teacher Education
I completed my 500-hour training with Jason Crandell last year and continue to study with him whenever I can. He has always been a teacher that helps me ask the bigger questions about yoga, and he continues to offer so much knowledge when it comes to refining and improving my teaching. He is truly a teacher’s teacher who values his role as an educator, which is why our conversation centered around the importance of integrating higher standards for teacher education.
“A 200-hour program is equivalent to one semester at school. Let’s just put that into perspective," said Crandell. "It’s important to remember, as yoga teachers, we are teaching a subject matter – one that requires a broad scope of quality education." He believes that this education should provide proper technique and and an understanding of how consent is applied when offering manual adjustments. It should provide a sound approach to developing intelligent and thoughtful sequences. It should, above all else, help teachers develop critical thinking skills – just like in any discipline that requires dedication and effort.
Crandell’s advice for newer teachers:
“Stay engaged in your own practice and your own process. Remain a student of life and inspired to learn.”
The Journey of Self-Responsibility and Self-Study
Sitting comfortably in her living room with her harmonium by her side, Janet Stone shared that in order to embody yoga, we must begin by taking responsibility for ourselves – our personal well-being and actions. “Whether coming to the practice through asana, meditation or the eight limbs, yoga needs to move off the mat,” she said. She believes that one way to “live” our yoga is through self-study (Svahdyaya), which leads to greater wisdom. As we begin to understand ourselves more, we can and must take responsibility for the ways in which we are engaging with ourselves and the world. “I’m endlessly fascinated at how people can be yoga," said Stone. "And that’s a conversation I want to keep hearing.”
According to Stone, yoga asks us to be in a state of inquiry. But, what are we really inquiring about? Are we inquiring within to really, truly, deeply know ourselves and take responsibility for our actions? How is what we are practicing on the mat going to translate in our day-to-day life? How can we begin to see the impact of our choices?
Through personal practice, we can find ways to go beyond the “doing” of yoga and begin to embody yoga as a way of life. “The point is to commit to developing a deeper understanding of yourself,” said Stone. “Developing that internal awareness breeds external awareness; cultivating equanimity within helps to cultivate equanimity without.”
Stone’s advice for newer teachers:
“Be a practitioner first. That is the only way you’ll remember you’re not the doer; rather, you allow the teachings to come through you as a result of your own studentship.”