Like many of you, my early forays into yoga revolved around instructional videos. I would follow along at home, learning what poses looked like, and occasionally understanding a verbal cue of what they should feel like. It was a great beginning for my practice and I have fond memories of sweating it out under Shiva Rea's tutelage in my living room.
The first time I practiced live with Shiva was also around my 10th public yoga class. I was in LA on tour as a musician, practicing yoga in my hotel room with my Shiva videos. My high school friend Stacy Gold mentioned that she had practiced with Shiva in Santa Monica earlier that day. The next morning, I excitedly drove 50 minutes from Hollywood, CA to Santa Monica to practice with her in a shala with about 40 yogis. It was a 2/3 level practice and I was a 1/2 level dude. Didn't matter. This was my one chance to practice with my video guru. That day had a huge impact on both my practice and even my teaching.
Not only were her physical assists helpful in creating a better and deeper understanding of the postures, her vocal cues offered more specific assists as well. There was one complicated pose (I think it was Astavakrasana, 8 angle pose) that I struggled with in my back corner of the room. She was in front, cueing and explaining and encouraging the class.
Eventually in my personal battle with 8 angle, I made a slightly different move in my attempt to get it and I heard her exclaim, "Yes!" I looked up from my contortions and she was looking right at me from across the room with a gigantic smile. She had been assisting me with her cues all along.
After I flew back home from LA, I heard her cues in her videos more fully. Yet I also missed being in the room with a teacher who could personally help me go deeper, fix my alignment and inspire me to keep trying. At that time, I began to fully understand the value of a live yoga teacher and community.
I have been blessed to receive hundreds of phenomenal physical and verbal assists from my fellow teachers in the CCY/YogaWorks community of Maryland. Intensive training with Kim Manfredi and classes with my college teacher Helen Heffer & NYC’s Dharma Mittra have been invaluable instructional gifts. They have helped me find more of myself in poses and have shown me ways to deepen the practice experience for my students.
Assists, assists, assists. I give thanks for the gift of assists. And gratitude for the generous teachers who have offered them.