Jeff Steel is currently an Iyengar teacher in training, although he has been teaching yoga for a very long time. Here, Jeff shares with us what being a yoga practitioner, first and foremost, is all about and his experience after practice one day…
I would like to share my personal reaction to an afternoon inversion sequence I practiced after a morning backbend class. I often feel the calming effects of inversions, but on this occasion I was particularly affected by an intense backbend practice earlier in the day. My body was tired but my mind was racing and agitated. In the past, a very poor night’s sleep would follow!
I did an afternoon restorative inversion sequence at home. The sequence is detailed below. Whilst doing the sequence, I felt the morning backbends gave me deeper access to the inversion asanas whilst the practice of Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana calmed my nervous system and mind. I was particularly struck by the contrast in my state of mind before and after the practice.
Perhaps the restorative practice effects were amplified by my intention to calm my breath and mind before stating and during the practice. As Caroline has often said, the inversions are the centrepiece of an Iyengar yoga practice. Personal experiences of the effects of asanas keep me returning to the mat.
Inversion Restorative Sequence
Ardho Mukha Viraasna
Supta Baddha Konasana
Ardho Mukha Svanasana
Uttanasana (head supported)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Yoga teacher training
Being in the teacher training program with Caroline Coggins over the past 3 and half years has been an incredible and rewarding journey.
I had been practicing yoga under the guidance of Claire Havey for about 10 years. When Claire asked if I would like to start teacher training, I said yes. I joined Caroline Coggins teacher training program really wanting to deepen my practice and understanding of yoga but not really being sure about being a teacher; this seemed a far away and such a distant possibility.
I remember the first training program weekend I attended and the moment when Caroline asked me to teach a pose. I was terrified and I couldn’t think. I was so nervous, unsure, how to take the pose from my head and translate that into teaching: What to say? How to say it? How to demonstrate? How to convey to others?
To teach at that moment turned everything inside out; taking the knowledge from the inside and conveying this to the outside and then taking information back in again. It was involution and then evolution, going in and then out and then back over and over …
Struggles and obstacles
I had many struggles on the journey to becoming a certified teacher and still have these struggles; self-consciousness, self doubt, fear, trying to find my voice and how to find a connection with students, how to be present to the teaching, to be able to see, hear, feel, and then take the right action.
Something Caroline often said during the program is “how do you get out of your own way?”. That is how do you not become your own obstacle and inhibit your teaching and how do you work with students to integrate the teachings; how to create a shared experience? how to be there for the students?
Not getting caught up in the negative voices and the insecurity has been a personal struggle for me and Caroline has helped to guide me and to realise the importance of the yoga practice a core basis to becoming a teacher and also how do stay with the students.
Caroline wrote to me before my assessment and delivered some important advice on teaching which is so vital..she said “let it make a true difference”, “stay with them deepen them keep seeing them…only them and forget yourself”. These words resonated deeply, yes I have to forget myself to be able to teach.
Teach from the heart
One of the first things written in “Basic Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga” written by Guruji and Geeta S. Iyengar is “Teach from the heart and not the brain”. I think that is so beautiful and true. How do I teach from the heart? What does that look and feel like? I know this is what Caroline Coggins does and she works so hard to impart to her students and trainees and I believe this is really the true challenge of teaching is how to create a heart to heart connection.
The process to certification is thorough and onerous but I suppose it has to be. Being a teacher of the Iyengar way is a huge responsibility and I feel honoured to be on this journey. There are hundreds of hours of training, practice, assisting, reading, reflection and teaching which help to build a balance between these elements of learning and then these elements can be slowly and steadily be integrated into teaching.
How to understand from the self first and then move to external, to move and connect with others and then to go together. The certification just feels like another beginning and another step on the journey with lots of side steps, trips and stumbles I am sure to be found along the way.
I think what I have realised is how many people around me have been there and supported me on the path to certification and this makes such a difference.
I feel so grateful to have such wonderful teachers, I sincerely thank my teachers, Caroline Coggins and Claire Havey. Also I am thankful to be part of such amazing yoga communities at East Redfern Yoga Institute and Half Moon Yoga. The support from teachers, fellow trainees and students is incredible; this is belonging.
As Guruji and Geeta Iyengar outline in “Basic Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga: students are a special gift as the students teach the teacher and help the teacher to be a better teacher, so I especially thank the students who have helped me to learn and been on the journey with me over the past few years and hope will be into the future.
I feel blessed for the love of my partner, children, family and friends, this means so much on the yoga journey; to be connected to each other and be there for each other is so important and to learn how to love..this helps to open the heart.
I hope to keep learning and to be the best teacher I can be. I want to be able to serve and contribute and to make a difference where I can and to always keep on learning and growing. Thank you to Gurujii for being the overall guiding light and to Patanjali for the art, science and philosophy of yoga which has been passed down over thousands of years and which can show the way for all of us.
From my heart
If you’re interested in Teacher Training see The 2019 Teacher Training Program with Caroline Coggins Here