Featured Teacher: Emma
Born in Ireland and raised in Canada, Emma crossed over fluidly from personal trainer to yoga teacher. She finds beauty in little personal things that motivate her to practise and loves everything about teaching yoga since she started 6 years ago.
Her optimistic attitude lets her embrace each challenge - in practice, teaching and life - with enthusiasm.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Dublin, Ireland but grew up in Toronto, Canada which is where I call home.
How long have you been teaching?
Who was your very first yoga teacher and what was he/she like?
My very first teacher was Joy, a 69-year-old woman whose left arm had been paralysed by a stroke. If anyone attempted to say, "I can't do that pose", she would look from them to her arm and back again, smile and say, "At least try!" She was inspirational!
How long have you been practising?
I've been practising for 8 years.
Originally, what attracted you to yoga?
I was a personal trainer and needed a change in my workout so I tried yoga. I was also at a very low point in my life and was looking for positive change and I found that on my mat.
What motivates you to practise today?
Many things motivate me to get out of bed at 3 am to practise - the silence in the dead of night, the quality of light as the sun rises, the way the practice helps to quiet my monkey mind, the way I feel not only physically, but mentally and emotionally before, during and after a practice. My practice keeps me focused and grounded. As a teacher I feel it is very important to practise what you preach and so from that perspective, I practise so that I can teach more effectively.
How would you describe your personal practice?
I am a practitioner of the ashtanga vinyasa system and so on my mat I practise the intermediate series 5 days a week and primary once a week. I also practise daily pranayama. Since I have incorporated it into my life I don't think I could do without it! It is unbelieveably powerful! On Saturdays I take rest and do an oil bath, which is part of the tradition of ashtanga. It helps with general aches and pains. One of the most important things I have learned is to honour my practice, to listen to it so that it's not a mechanical process of "ekam inhale, dve exhale…" but an organic, living thing that changes daily.
Before you became a yoga teacher, what did you do?
I was a personal fitness trainer.
What do you love about teaching?
Everything!! I love sharing what I have learned. I love learning from my students. I love the relationship that is developed and nurtured between the student and the teacher through the practice. It's an honour to come to "work" every day and be a part of these people's lives. To see them grow and blossom. To serve the student and be there every step of the way. To be a part of the whole process is amazing! I am a very lucky girl!
What do you find challenging about teaching?
Dealing with the ego - whether it is mine or the students'! When egos flair things can get difficult!
Describe your ideal class (as a teacher).
Not to sound too "free lovin' hippie" here but every class is the ideal class. The challenging ones remind me to find the Divine in everyone and the easy ones remind me of what I am trying to get across in the challenging ones.
Describe a class that you would find challenging or difficult (as a teacher).
Ok I had a really challenging class the other day. It was a level 2 ashtanga class and one of the students was new to ashtanga, spoke no english (and my mandarin is bu hao!), AND she was visually-impaired!! So at first if I came near her, she kind of freaked out and kept saying "No see, no see!" I decided just to stay with her. I called the count from her mat and slowly started to physically guide her in and out of poses until we had developed a level of trust. She started to let me move her and WOW! She was amazing! She was willing to try, which can be the hardest thing for most of us to do. A challenging situation presented itself and turned into an opportunity for me to serve, which at the end of the day, is WHY we teach. With very little spoken language the two of us started to communicate with each other on another level. It ended up being one of the most rewarding classes I have ever had the privilege to teach. Thank you.
What teacher has had the biggest impact on your practice?
My guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath Rangaswami.
What is your most embarrassing moment in the studio (as a teacher or student)?
I was showing a class how NOT to do a posture - not to lift into uthpluthi on the fingers to be exact. I was saying that you could dislocate the thumbs as the joints were not built to take the weight of the body. As I was explaining my right thumb dislocated! My hands are sweating right now with the memory….but I got my point across! No one in that class ever tried to lift up on their fingers after that!
Where is the strangest place you've practised yoga?
On the roof of a guest house in Jaipur, India. As I inhaled into upward facing dog I was greeted by a group of monkeys! They sat and watched me practise for a while until they got bored - it was very strange!
Aside from yoga, what other hobbies or interests do you have?
I'm a big fan of photography and architecture so I spend a lot of time taking photos of buildings!
Describe your most profound yoga experience.
It was probably my time in Mysore. I spent 3 months there in 2004 and oh my -- how my life changed! It was there that I started to grasp the depth of this practice - it's endless! I say this practice is like an onion, layer after layer after layer. And that is what I love about it, that it is forever presenting new challenges, new hurdles. It reiterates the concept that yoga is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride!
If you weren't a yoga teacher, what would you be?
I have already been many things and this is where I want to stay!