Kismet. Synchronicity. Divine Intervention. The Power of Intention. Before I even realized I was ready, my teacher appeared! I can get tired of treading the same streets and sometimes look for new routes to explore and new sights to soak in. That day in November 2005, I wandered along a quiet downtown block that I hadn’t walked before and discovered a newly-opened yoga studio offering $5 classes. GASP! An accessible studio with affordable classes in little ol’ Lansing?! Say what?! I made a mental note to check it out as soon as I could.
A couple weeks later, I flipped through the local newspaper to see this radiant Black woman gracing the front page of the business section. She was the owner of the studio I had passed…and she looked like me in shape and ethnicity! (DOUBLE GASP!) I called a dear friend and spiritual confidante in Virginia to share my excitement. Tati knew my spiritual compass had guided me toward the contemplative practice of Buddhism and that I’d recently found what would become my root sangha; however, my study of yoga had been a private and solitary exploration. Tati, who also understood that I could be a “slow burn” with new people and things, immediately declared: “She’s your teacher.”
I liked Sybil instantly and, shortly after I’d begun practicing with her that December, asked if she’d ever consider offering a teachers training. I didn’t have any specific aspirations of becoming a yoga teacher at that moment but could see its potential for healing and building community. Sybil hadn’t ruled it out but was focusing first on getting the studio off the ground.
Fast forward to June 2006, Sybil had hosted a Girls Night Out at the studio and invited me to offer a Reiki share circle similar to those held at the Reiki program I attended before I left New York City three years earlier. It was a lovely body-soul nourishing event filled with asana, laughter yoga, tasty treats, and good conversation. A few days later, I sat down to send Sybil an email to thank her for allowing me to participate and to volunteer to help in any way I could with the studio. Instead I was greeted with a message from her, announcing that she was ready to begin her teachers training program and would like to offer a scholarship to me if I was interested! Um, YEAH!
This month marks 8 years since I began my intensive one-on-one apprenticeship with Sybil. The journey has taken us from apprentice and teacher, mentee and mentor, to friends and collaborators! (Full circle moment: I decided in May to take a summer hiatus and, as soon as I opened Facebook, Sybil’s post appeared in my newsfeed announcing her availability to sub yoga classes, walk dogs or help with gardening!!! ) So I am thrilled to introduce Sybil to the community of devoted practitioners who find refuge with me every Monday evening. Sybil will be bringing a “yummy” spin to Yin + Yang Yoga from 7 July to 28 July.
With a deep gassho, I offer my sincere gratitude to Sybil for being a true sponsor of my teaching, learning, and growing along this path!
How has yoga changed you?
How has your personal practice + teaching approach changed over the years?
When I first started practicing yoga, it was all about the asanas (poses). It was about how it LOOKED, not how it felt.
Now when I practice asana, it is all about the breath. Breath first – pose second. The breath is the precious jewel of all yoga that it often overlooked and this is a true shame. The breath is where the beauty happens.
Also when I first started teaching, I was more concerned about how to sequence classes and would even plan out my classes ahead of time. I remember writing down the sequences on pieces of paper and stuffing them under my mat! I would often check my “notes” to make sure I was on track. Now I teach to the student – to who is in front of me. Sometimes I will ask them for requests, but sometimes I “read” their energy and/or their bodies and the sequence sort of emerges from there. I never plan anymore.