I have always loved learning. As a gardener, I loved learning everything I could about the plants and the soil that I was working with. If there was a flower that I wanted to grow in my garden, I studied up to find out what would provide it with the ideal conditions for it to thrive - what kind of soil, how much sunlight, how much water. And then I paid attention. I built a bed with more porous, acidic soil and one with more clay soil and others in between.
2016 has been the most inspiring year of learning in my life. I have never worked harder and yet I have never felt more exhilarated by my subject. This has taught me how to be efficient with my time and encouraged me to truly begin applying myself as a student. These days I spend most hours at my computer writing or on my mat exploring. I teach fewer classes but when I do teach, I am able to share the adventure of yoga with others in the intimate settings, personalized way and extended format that I have for so long yearned for. I am so grateful for the chance I get to learn from the extraordinary men and women who have come to me for yoga.
Paul Grilley wrote:
"It is part of human nature to codify and rigidify, just as it is part of human nature to break with tradition and create something new. We cannot teach effectively without some generalizations, but we haven't reached maturity until we have outgrown generalizations and can completely focus on the unique needs of every student in every pose. This is not an impossible dream – it just takes more time than a TT program can afford. The onus of continuing growth is on each and every yoga teacher. This is the only way a teacher can reach his or her full potential."
This is the joy of the "I don't know" mind. This is the dream that motivates me every single day to keep learning and growing!
This past year I have devoted myself to learning everything I possibly can about human anatomy and how it applies to the yoga practice. I dove in with both feet - learning in person and on-line from teachers who inspire me, reading articles and books, experimenting each day on my own mat, availing myself of any resource I could get my hands on. This new understanding of the body in movement has changed my practice and it has radically changed my teaching.
The body and mind are connected. By working in my body, I have been able to reshape my mind and the way I think. Understanding how my body is put together has allowed me to work more skillfully and in more nuanced ways. My asana practice has changed the way I think about myself, the way I interpret my own and other people's behaviors, the risks I am willing to take, how I respond to loss, it would be impossible to list it all. But suffice it to say that it has been like a complete rewiring inside.
I don't claim to know much. I know only a little. But it is my great joy to share what I have learned with other teachers so that they can enjoy greater freedom and confidence in working with students.
A mentor used to say to me, "Caroline, how free do you want to be?" My answer is: "Very." My primary interest in teaching yoga is helping others to find more freedom... The kind of freedom that allows us to know peace, to experience a deep sense of inner harmony that is not contingent upon outside circumstances, to taste joy. For me, working with the body has been an expedient means to that end.
There is a beautiful quote by legendary choreographer Martha Graham. It is a piece of advice she was offering to Agnes de Mille, a less experienced choreographer who was feeling unsure of her abilities as an artist:
"It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open."
I wish for everyone in 2017 the tremendous joy that comes from harnessing the incredible energy of whatever you are passionate about and the reward of sharing it with people you love. Even as time ticks on, may we all keep our minds young!