Welcome to the accessible yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 09:55:20
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are here in him, and I serve as the director of accessible yoga. And I'm
Amber Karnes 09:55:34
your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the accessible yoga board of directors.
Hi, everyone, we're back with another episode of the accessible yoga podcast. This is Jivana. And I'm here with Amber. Hi, Amber.
Amber Karnes 09:55:52
Hey, how's it going?
I'm okay. How are you?
Amber Karnes 09:55:56
Doing? All right. Hanging in there. Yeah, like, I don't know, I have some challenging life stuff going on right now. But as I look around, so does almost everyone. So I know. People get that.
challenging, it's a challenging time. Well, I'm doing good. Actually, my, I always tell you, like, I think about my kids, like, in a way, it's so bad, how attached I am to how they're doing and like, Well, they're both doing kind of better at this moment. And so that makes me feel better. But when I try to separate myself from them, I'm doing, I'm doing okay.
Amber Karnes 09:56:40
I mean, they are a part of you. So I think, but yeah, I hear what you're saying. That's always gotta make your life a little easier to not worry so much. And, you know, yeah, that's like, the parents. Perpetual state sometimes.
Right? And, you know, they're getting older. And so it's funny, it's like, it's one thing when they're little, and like, you literally are responsible for like, their life or death, you know, and like, their life or death situation here. If they're, if you're going to keep them from, like, running into the street or whatever. But like, my kids are older, and you know, my son moved away. And it's like, I gotta, I gotta kind of like, Go, but it's hard. Right, right.
Amber Karnes 09:57:20
But I'm, you know, I'm excited to talk about our topic with you today. I, I love this question of, you know, how we, you know, I don't know what the word is, like, live the teachings, while we're teaching. Like, how do we become? Or what's the word we used in body? How do we embody the teachings in the way we teach yoga?
Amber Karnes 09:57:46
Right, like, is there a yogic way to teach yoga?
Yeah. And I just want to say also like, that, like, no one's perfect. Like, it's not a it's not about being like a perfect being and lightened in order to be a yoga teacher. It's just like, an making the effort, you know, like trying to really reflect on I think, mostly the way we're the way we're presenting yoga, and if we're doing it in a yoga in a yogic way.
Amber Karnes 09:58:15
Right, right. Yeah. And I mean, just to, you know, maybe contrast what we're talking about today, we're going to explore some, some themes from the yoga teachings, some of the Yamas, nyan was and that kind of stuff, and how they apply to, like, to our teaching practice are some ways that we think that could work. But, you know, we probably all experienced yoga classes that were not very yogic in nature, but instead felt like, I don't know a workout where everyone had to compare themselves to each other, or, I don't know, a place where you felt excluded or something like that. So I don't know, I think it's kind of important for us as teachers to like, look at not only are we kind of, you know, helping guide our students through this stuff, but like, is there ways that as teachers, we can actually, like, I don't know, live by example, kind of like model for our students, the stuff we're trying to teach them about?
Exactly. I mean, I think is what it's what makes yoga teaching so special and challenging. You know, it's like it's, it's a living practice that permeates all aspects of our lives. And I think it's, I think teaching can become a form of practice. And so that's, that's how I like to approach it. Like I think of teaching as another aspect of my personal practice. And that helps me because it's a practice. It's not like, again, I'm not perfect at I'm just learning continually learning and messing up and learning. And I agree, I think it's, I think the point here is that yoga is not always taught this way. And, and I know for myself, like, when I take other classes, I have to be careful because I tend to get into really competitive mindset. That's my challenge. And I've actually injured myself in in classes over the years. And I think it's because of that because I'm kind of outwardly focused and wanting approval or wanting to keep up or whatever it is, you know, and I'm just like, that's not, that's not what yoga is about, you know, and it's not the teachers fault when I hurt myself. But I also, I often wonder if the teacher could, I don't know, like, just remind me as a participant of focusing inward or not being competitive, and all those things that might help me to not, yeah, to not get hurt, or to just, you know, to not go to that kind of competitive place.
Amber Karnes 10:00:45
Right. And I think that, you know, everyone's practice is their own, and everybody has personal responsibility on, you know, what they bring to the mat and what they decide to do with it. But I think that you and I both know, there's definitely ways that we can, as teachers, you know, create an environment that is non competitive, and that's about curiosity and inquiry and being present in our bodies. Or we can create an environment like with our words with the way we teach, that encourages competition, and that holds up poses in like a hierarchy of like, advanced and beginner and, you know, that kind of stuff. And so, we want to just share some of the tools that we've worked with that we've seen work for creating this environment where students, you know, feel like they can connect more with their personal practice, and it's about what's actually happening in the moment, and not some sort of, like, expectation of what, you know, a yoga class is supposed to look like, or something like that.
Yeah. What is the what has been the most painful experience for you? I mean, is there something that stands out? For you, like an experience you had that felt not like yoga?
Amber Karnes 10:01:53
I mean, I just, I would say, there's not like one big, you know, traumatic thing that's happened, but I feel like many times over the years, you know, before I kind of, I feel like discovered, like, the bigger practice of yoga, you know, all the eight limbs. Back when I was more attending, like classes that I would say, are like, a workout class with some breathing, you know, what I mean? Like, I've encountered a lot of like, diet, culture, stuff in yoga, whether that's, you know, walking in the studio, and people assuming that I'm brand new, or that I'm there to lose weight, or that, you know, whatever about me, because of the way my body looks, to, you know, in class people assuming what I can or can't do, you know, there's just a lot of, I think, ways that internalized bias around bigger bodies, and stuff like that shows up in yoga. And so a lot of the uncomfortable stuff, for me has been that it was more about, you know, the teacher assuming something about me based on the way that I look, rather than kind of trying to like meet me where I am as a student, rather than what the preconceived notion is in their head of like, someone in that type of body and what they can do and what they are here and what it's all about. I don't know if that makes sense.
Yeah, I do. It's funny, the thing that comes to my mind, too, is like, I don't I don't want people to think we're talking about being very, like, just what's the word acting the part like, I'm not talking about just like acting all yoga, like, I'm all peaceful and happy all the time. And that's not I think, what we're trying to say, Do you know what I mean? Like, there's kind of a cliche yoga teacher vibe, that Yeah,
Amber Karnes 10:03:36
we don't want you to, like get a gauzy scarf and only talk in a voice that sounds like this. Like, that's not we're talking about, like the loving light at all times good vibes only, like, no. So maybe we should just jump into it. I know, there's let's talk specifics about I don't want to say a better way, but a way that we've seen work for a lot of our students and for us as a way of hopefully honoring these teachings. Yeah. So where do you want to start?
Well, I think we can start at the beginning. Like I want to, we're gonna mostly talk about teachings from the yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is, you know, it's still considered the main source for teachings about yoga, although I know there's controversy about it, but it's still we're we're looking, you know, for information about the broader practice beyond just Asana. And I think we can look at, you know, one of the first sutras 1.3 I can well, I don't know I can give a little context and then read it if that I do that. Yeah, that sounds good. All right. So I mean, most people are familiar with if you're familiar with the sutras, you probably know, the second sutra, which is the well this is Swami Satchidananda is translation, the restraint of the modifications of the mind stuff is yoga. And there's many, many different translations of this sutra. Which is basically like what we think of as kind of the theme of the work we're doing or even the definition of yoga, right that we're trying to quiet the mind calming the mind is yoga. And then what I think even more beautiful is the next sutra three where Patanjali says, then the seer self, or the self abides in its own nature. And I just I think it's a beautiful and important idea in yoga, and that what what it means to me is that we actually begin with this positive, right, we begin with the fact that we have this spirit atman are pretty sure the Sanskrit words you can use for that, like you are that spirit. And it's the thoughts that have kind of covered that up or hidden that away from you. And to me that it's a very different philosophy than we use in normally in the West in our, you know, in our, in the capitalist system we live in, which is about getting stuff and an attainment. And then yoga, it's really about, like, undoing and remembering who we are. And so it's, it's to me, it's very powerful in that way. So again, Patanjali is saying that when you quiet the mind, you experience the spirit or the peace that's already there within you. And the way I wanted to just reflect the way I tried to practice that as a teacher is simply to recognize that we all share the same Spirit so that all the students that come to me, I know that even though they're, they're each individual, and they have different bodies and minds, and very different lives, each of them, they have this essential part, this essence that is all the same. And that part of them is whole right part of them is already complete. Yeah, what do you think about that?
Amber Karnes 10:07:02
Yeah, like, um, you know, I think that sometimes I like to think about this in terms of like our humanity, you know, that each of us is different. We have a different lived experience, we have all of that. But we do have this kind of like embodied weird, alive experience that we're all sharing. And, you know, I think the yoga teaching speaks to that when it talks about when it talks about this concept, and that, I don't know, I think that sometimes this can be used in like spiritual bypassing way of like, well, we're all the same, we don't need to see color, or gender, or, you know, like those kinds of conversations. But I think, like, it's not really that way. It's more like, everybody already, I don't know, maybe as a teacher, the way I apply this is by saying, like, actually, I'm not here to fix any of these people. You know, I might have some knowledge that might be helpful, I might be able to guide them through a practice that will help them get more in touch with themselves. You know, remember who they are, be able to connect more with their bodies learn to read, trust their bodies learn to be, you know, yoga is that spiritual practice of like self awareness and turning that attention inward, and then figuring out how you can connect with those other people that share that thing with you, you know, and so for me, I think that the way a lot of us understand things like, I don't know, wellness, or medicine, or yoga, or any of these things that people turn to, for, let's say, help or relief in some way, means that, you know, as a teacher, we have some, you know, special knowledge that we need to give to them. Or if only they would practice this way, then we could fix or heal them or whatever, you know. And so for me, it's really about like, I guess, seeing each student as like whole and individual and complete human that they already are. And that is a different mindset where you're kind of approaching someone as No, no an equal, if that makes sense. Rather than this sort of like power differential that sometimes as teachers is like, well, we know better. Or that we're here to somehow, like, show them what they lack. Do you know what I mean? Even though if I think a lot of times people wouldn't say it out loud that way, that the mindset can sort of be well, if you would only do x, y and z, then you would be where you want it to be. Or like if if you did this practice, right, or something like that.
Right. And to me, it's like sometimes it means being a mirror for people to see their own wholeness. And so I think I find a lot of what I end up doing in a class is just kind of guiding people back to themselves and to finding like trusting themselves like you said, relearning to that they're okay like finding that place within themselves that's already there rather than like, reach some external goal. All right, you know, to be more flexible or stronger or whatever this think you were like losing weight, like you said, like the diet culture influences like, I think that's where it comes in, like, we're so we're so externally motivated. And that's the way the mind works, right? We have, we want external gratification. But this is a spiritual practice. And I think just remembering that this is a spiritual practice that begins with the idea that everybody is already whole. And we need to, actually, all of yoga is about learning to turn the attention back inside in a way that feels safe for people when they're ready to connect with that place, or to find kind of that safe haven within themselves, when everything else feels so lost. And it feels like, you know, it feels different to me to begin with that, at that place, of wholeness than to begin from a place of lack.
Amber Karnes 10:11:09
Right. And I think, you know, this is a place where, like, ableism, shows up sometimes too, right? This notion of like curing people, you know, or like, Okay, you have this disability, injury, chronic pain, whatever it is, like, if you if you come to yoga than you will be made whole. And I think that is, you know, maybe an underlying implicit message, even if not said explicitly, but it certainly is said explicitly, a lot of times. And so I think this is a big mindset shift for a lot of people that, you know, encouraging our students to really like listen to themselves, and creating that sense of personal power is something that, I think, goes toward this concept of like, honoring people's wholeness, you know,
and let's give an example of that, like, how does that How is that expressed in, in real, you know, real life? Examples? Can you give an idea? I mean, I had some thoughts.
Amber Karnes 10:12:15
Yeah, I mean, I think one way that we can do that is through our language and the way that we teach, you know, using language like, of curiosity, inquiry, invitation, rather than, sort of, I don't know, more prescriptive directions, like for instance, rather than, like, align your, you know, heel of your one foot with the arch of the other foot, we might say, like, what, what does it feel like when you firmly press down into the heel of your back foot, and press the toes into the mat with your front foot? Like, in that way, it's about, okay, what experience are you having versus like, this body, this pose needs to like, look a certain way. So sometimes, it's just that simple. As saying, like, you know, when you're ready, move into this next post, rather than just like, inhale, lift your arms. Now, I'm not saying we can't be direct. But I think that, you know, the way that we introduce postures or props, or any of that stuff, we can imply, you know, sort of that there's a hierarchy, and there's like a right and wrong way to do things. Or we can say, there's room for your experience in here and know that that's going to change day to day and throughout your life. And maybe, you know, depending on your body, and your ability, and all of that stuff. So I think it leaves room for that lived experience of being human, which is not the same day to day, you know, when we talk in a way that like encourages student agencies encourages them to listen to themselves. And sometimes it's just like, as simple as saying it out loud to normalize it, like you know what feels best in your body. So if you're feeling something, after I give an instruction, that doesn't feel quite right, you know, if your breath gets away from you, if you're feeling pain somewhere, come out of that, let's talk, let's find another way to do it. That's normal. That won't be weird. You know, even just saying stuff like that to readjust people's expectations that like, Hey, you have a choice here you have a say, what happens to your body? Because you are, you know, the whole and sacred and sovereign person, you're not just here to? I don't know. Yeah, yet called through a bunch of poses, like a drill sergeant or something?
Well, I want to talk about that more, actually, I think, I don't know you're making me think about, I think a change that's been happening in our, in the yoga world recently. And these, you know, in the West, there's a shift towards more trauma informed teaching and more Invitational language. And, you know, I know that some traditional schools don't like that, like that's not how they work. They're very command oriented. Like, I'll give you a small example. When we give an instruction, about moving a part of the body, and using a neutral like saying, lift the arm, versus saying lift your arm, right, and like there's a debate about that like using possessive pronouns for part body parts. and also around Invitational language like, like you just described, instead of giving, like a specific instruction on alignment. How about just exploring how this feels, I feel like there's a shift happening. And I, I can hear some teachers that I know who are more traditional just being like, No, you don't understand, like, why that works. And I just want to say like, in my, I think I do understand, like, why works to give commands and stuff. But I actually think, and this might sound weird, but it's like a more advanced to give choice, it's actually more challenging to act to give people agency rather than to just have them follow you along. And I think that kind of following you along, and just telling them how to move their bodies, is effective for some people. Because the mind can kind of shut off for a bit like you can kind of tune out in a sense and just be present with what the teacher is saying and follow along without really thinking. But I'd like I said, I think it's more advanced to really be present, and questioning, and, and examining and reflecting. As you're going like, wait, what does feel better? You know, what I mean? Like to have the choice is a more challenging way to practice. Believe it or not, you know what I'm saying? It's like, I think it's the opposite of what people think. I think it's more challenging. When you give people choices, they are then like, stuck, because what I find more like beginner students tend to be to want to be told what to do. Like, it's so common for me that the beginning students like, what should I feel here? You know, what is this doing? How do I do this? What should this look like? And they want to be told, and in some level, in some way we do that, like, as yoga teachers, were telling people, oh, make your body into this shape.
Amber Karnes 10:17:03
Right? It's like, we got to show him what Warrior Two looks like, at some point. However, yeah.
Then it's like, do you just have them copy you and think and say, Okay, that's yoga? Or is it like, Wait? Does it feel different if you shift the weight if you don't even move your body? But if you actually shift your weight back, or shift it forward, like, which do you you know, how does that feel? Which do you want to do? Like, how do you know? And then because what's happening is you're actually engaging the mind. And the other way of practicing where you just follow along, and the instruction, the mind is quiet, which is what we want in practice, but engaging the mind in terms of like, exploring the inner sensation is, I'd say more quote, advanced, right? Being conscious of interoception. That's what happens when you do your own practice.
Amber Karnes 10:17:48
Yeah, right. And interoception is that sense of being able to detect those subtle interior body senses, right? Like the stuff we look for in a body scan, your your heartbeat, your blood flow, temperature, pressure, that kind of stuff. And it might sound really simple. If you're listening to this, like, Duh, yeah, of course, everyone can do that. But I really think that for a lot of students, teaching that interoception is like super important, because a lot of people are really sort of cut off, I think, from the the actual experience of noticing and taking in what's going on in their bodies from any given moment to moment. I mean, even if you just think about, like, the number of people who practice yoga that are also actively dieting, right, when you think about something like dieting, where it's like, you basically have to ignore the signals your body is sending you, in order to follow this program of restriction or whatever, that you know, has an effect, right? If we're ignoring body signals, then at some point, you know, are we just in the neck up rather than actually present in our bodies. And it's not always simple, right? Like, I feel like for a lot of students and marginalized identities, it doesn't always feel safe to just like, hang out in the body that society hates, and tells you isn't worthy all the time, you know, and so I think that, but it's such a gift to give students to strengthen this sort of, like, I think, interior mindfulness practice, or whatever the process of like teaching interoception is, because I feel like the more comfortable people can be with their own bodies, the more they can trust their bodies and understand the sensations and the information that their body might be sending them. The more choice the more power they feel like they have that allows, you know, a sense of safety, a sense of belonging, like all of those sort of like basic, primal human needs, can get met if if those conditions are met. And so it's like, that kind of stuff, I think bit by bit goes toward creating HSC and students and really like honoring their wholeness, because we're not, we're not fixing their body. We're just like giving them kind of a way back home, if that makes sense. Yeah, I'm giving them some tools to find that themselves. So
also, I think, I think ableism shows up in nowhere. A that we make assumptions about student like students with disabilities or older students not being as good at yoga. When I think that what I found over the years teaching a lot of people with disabilities is actually they tend to be more in touch with their bodies, like people who have a lot of physical challenges in particular, or chronic pain, for example, tend to actually be very in touch with their body, because they're really living in it. They're really conscious, it's, it's a challenge. And so it brings awareness to it. And I think that my experience has been that it's often people who are not disabled, who are less connected, and seem more, I don't know, like in their head, or whatever it is that they're doing. And I feel like it's another way that I see, you know, accessible yoga, as being more advanced, I think it's just we make a lot of assumptions about someone's physical ability, according to their being there being like an advanced yoga practitioner, or not, you know, like, we have to remember what is the goal here? If we look back at that sutra, it's about abiding in our true nature connecting with our self, our true self.
Amber Karnes 10:21:28
Right? Yeah. So um, maybe before we kind of like move to a different topic, because I know we want to cover a few of these, what are some of the like, concrete ways that you teach interoception or, like, teach students to like, learn to listen to their bodies and that kind of stuff?
I think it's, it's the whole point to me of asana practice, is to create sensitivity to what's happening inside the body. So every time we ask someone to notice how they feel in a pose, notice, you know, the difference between stretching and straining. Notice what happens with the breath as you move into this pose or that one. Notice, see if you can coordinate movement and breath. I think that's all the experience of interoception. Anytime you give choice and options, that's asking people to consider how they're feeling in that moment. body scans, I think, I think are really great for bringing awareness to parts of the body just conscious consciously bringing the mind to different places in the body. Noticing how they feel? Yeah, what do you think? Yeah,
Amber Karnes 10:22:51
I mean, I like all that stuff. I think too. One thing that's been really helpful for some of my students is just having a more guided, I don't know, teaching about identifying sensation. Like I think for some people, they feel very sort of cut off from like, I don't know, like, here's an example, at the end and shavasana, you know, I noticed somebody who is laying in a, what looks to me a very uncomfortable position, they're trying to lay flat on the floor. And that's not really appropriate for their body. So I might say, if you'd like to, you know, if you don't feel comfortable, why don't you try and bolster under the knees blanket under the head. They don't do anything to change it. Even if I go over and say, like, you might feel more comfortable. If you do, oh, I'm not uncomfortable, then if I kind of like, I insist, just try it. And if you don't like it, you can remove them, then they like, oh, relax into it's like almost that they didn't even realize that they were uncomfortable before. Do you know what I mean? And so for some people, it has to start in a very basic place of like, the body scan, sort of stuff being like, Okay, if you notice this sensation, would you give it a name? Where does it live? How intense you know, what, how would you describe it? What color is it you know, even that kind of stuff, I think can be helpful to sort of get people out of a place of like judgment, because I think sometimes, let's say you're experiencing discomfort, you're experiencing pain, you're experiencing something like that in the class, you look around, it seems like everyone else is like, you know, in yoga heaven, and they're not feeling those things, you know, you can start to make a judgment about like, oh, it's something wrong with my body. And then we have all the stories that society has told you about your body, all that stuff, like, now you're out of the body, and in the head, you know, and so sometimes I think just like getting to those very basic things can help like D personalize it a little bit. It's like we're just talking about like, what is the sensation you feeling in your foot right now? Not like what that means or whether it's gonna be there forever, or if it's good or bad or right or wrong, like just like, literally, how is your toe you know? And so I think sometimes like even just breaking it down to that simple level is a way in for folks that might be struggling with the sort of like, let's lay perfectly still and think about our bodies, bodies. scan. Yeah. And so I think the more tools that we can have to sort of like, allow for a lot of different experiences, and maybe even having a conversation with students, you know, before or after class, like, how did you feel before and after that practice? You know, did you notice that things shifted or changed and like giving folks the chance to, like, talk through that stuff, I think can be helpful, too.
And I think noticing energy level, like sometimes I've seen people who it seems like, they equate relaxation with tiredness. And it's almost like, we have a tendency to maybe like, go, go, go, like, like, use a lot of caffeine and just be really kind of out there and going, and then we crash, you know, and right. We don't, it can be hard for and know, myself included, to find that kind of energized, but relaxed place that I think yoga can really give us and it can be a really novel experience for people and to think, Oh, you can actually be relaxed and energized at the same time. And so I would say that's nice to notice, after a practice is like, how do you feel right now? Is are you just tired? Are you relaxed? Like, what's the difference between tired and relaxed?
Amber Karnes 10:26:29
Mm hmm. That's a good reflection. Yeah, I need to think about that one sometimes.
All right, let's talk about one more I want to talk about, well, maybe I don't know if we'll get to all these today. But we had talked about non attachment, we wanted to talk about non attachment, which is really one of my favorite teachings in the yoga sutras. Because it's kind of a underlying theme here, which is to not be focused on external gratification. But to, like Patanjali is telling us connect with that peace that's already there inside of us. So in book one sutra, 15. I'm actually going to read from a different book, this is juggernaut career as inside the yoga Sutras. I like his translation of this sutra. He says non attachment is a manifestation of self mastery in one who is free from craving for objects seen or heard about. And that's a complicated sentence to
Amber Karnes 10:27:31
know, I feel like this sentence is always like, okay, let's break this down.
So it's a manifestation of self mastery. So basically, I think the point there is that it's not, it's just not by accident, right? It's not about non attachment is not indifference. And not, it's not not caring, right? It's not that right. It's actually about having Self Mastery, like being really conscious about being free from desire. In particular, if you read about it more, it's generally about selfish desire that's related to your ego and mind. And the point being that Patanjali has already told us we have what we need inside, right? Like that peace that's within us is the source of our happiness and joy. And the mind, we forget it to there. And we instead think in our minds, that we're going to get happiness from outside, right, we're going to achieve something or get something through sense, satisfaction, sensory experience, that's going to make us happy, and there are great experiences in the world to have. That's not That's not to say, it's not fun, you know, to be in the world and experience things. But the point of the teachings are that this turning inward is actually how you find true peace and true joy, rather than focusing outward, if that makes sense.
Amber Karnes 10:28:59
Right that like, I don't know, it feels natural to sort of like, say, like, Okay, well, when I finally you know, have enough money in my savings account, or get into this relationship, or have a baby or get this house that I want, or, you know, whatever the thing is, or, you know, I finally, you know, feel loved, right, like there's that you can be attached to outcomes or people or things, and that we know that those are the things we can't control circumstances, other people, what other people think about us how other people feel about us, like, the only thing we can have some effect on is our own mind and our own emotions. And so I think that
and they're also impermanent, like those things come and go. And I think that's the point of the teachings is like, you can't base your happiness on something that's temporary. I mean, you can enjoy them for the moment. But, you know, that's not where you should really invest your energy. And that's really the whole point of spiritual practice is investing your time and energy in some in something that will really pay off, which is the fact that it's actually within your own heart, right what you're seeking within
Amber Karnes 10:30:11
you Yeah, you're investing in yourself to which I think, you know, the more self aware that we are, the more we're able to, I think, you know, get to that place of allowing people to show up out as they are and not being attached to, like, a certain idea of the way a relationship might look or, you know, an outcome of, you know, oh, well, I went to school, and I got this degree, and I, you know, did this thing, and so then I should have this exact result, you know, like that, I think it can actually make us more resilient and more able to, like, relate to other people better if we can allow people to just kind of like be who they are, and not be attached to, like, I don't know, some future dream version, that we have some idea of the way that that we there's
also the it's about the desire itself, causing pain. So according like Patanjali says, later, and chapter or Book Two, he says that, you know, desire is actually the root of suffering, and the cause of our karma. And that, you know, to be free from suffering is basically to let go of selfish desire, meaning that you're no longer think that something out there that you're wanting, or craving is going to make you happy, you realize that happiness and peace arise from within you. And it changes the way we live in the world. And actually, when you're not, when you're internally focused in that way, I think it means that your actions don't come out of selfishness and can be of service like that's where serve, that's what service is for. Service is about acting in a way where you're not looking for your own satisfaction of your own desires, right? You're just serving out of love and care for others in connection. Because you have found what you need inside. And that's, that's challenging. That's why services, I think, the most challenging practice of yoga, Karma yoga, but it's based on this idea of non attachment. But anyway, people tend to think non attachment means just like not like giving away your possessions.
Amber Karnes 10:32:18
Or not caring about anything, not caring either
one. No, no, it's
Amber Karnes 10:32:25
alright, so how do we want to apply this to teaching practice? Okay, yeah,
that's good. Well, I think as a teacher being non attached to the result of your teaching, meaning that you're don't, you're not dependent on student feedback, like, you know what I mean, like for them to say, Oh, you did a great job, or that was a great class, or for them to, like, get better at something like you're not, you're not dependent on them, and that you're there serving your students, meaning that like, hopefully, they're, you're getting paid, or you feel like you're getting what you need in like compensation for the class. And that, that that's what they're giving you. And so you're there just to serve them, right, your job is to be there present. Being able to share the teachings as will be most beneficial for them in that moment, without focusing on yourself, either your ego, like having to be lifted up as like a great teacher, or for them to even like you or even to do exactly what you say. Right? Right. Like, maybe they do it differently, maybe instruct, pose, and then they're like, they do something totally different. How does that feel for you? Like, I know, I remember when I was starting, when I was a beginner teacher, I just didn't know what to do when the students did something else, right? Like if someone had their own practice, and were just, like, go off on their own. I thought, Oh, I'm really bad, or I don't know what I'm doing. And it's like, you know, what,
Amber Karnes 10:33:55
like, to correct to that student or something like, yeah,
yeah, what else? How else can you? How else can you practice non attachment as a teacher?
Amber Karnes 10:34:06
Well, I think, you know, one, this is kind of what you're touching on, I think, but like checking your ego around, like, if people practice in a different way that maybe you didn't exactly cue? Does that make you feel some kind of way? And then like, let's dig into that, you know, that for me is like, whenever I feel that kind of like, like irritation or discomfort or something, then I know that's usually some ego thing that I need to investigate. And so, you know, what is that about? Is that about you feeling like you're not maybe confident enough that oh, do I not have the knowledge to like help this person or, or whatever is happening in that moment. You know, I think that one way that we can practice on his astral with our students is just like literally understanding that they're responsible for their own personal practice their body, the way that they show up and practice and hopefully we leave room for that, you know, not just one type of student or one type of experience, but that people show up and get what they need from the class or from you, and that might be different for everybody. And so
I I think I was gonna say, as a yoga therapist, like this is also particularly challenging. If you work with someone who has a chronic illness or who's like, near the end of their life. I know, this is really where it came up for me when I had students who were dying. And it's like, is your job to stop them from dying, like to physically heal them, like, we think we're doing sometimes. So like, it really have to get into a place of kind of acceptance about what your role is, and what it is that you can offer, as a yoga teacher, or energy or therapist, if that's your role. And I think that's where yoga therapy can be confusing for people, and maybe is very complicated. Because therapy has a sense of improvement in that word, you know, are getting better. And I think we have to be careful with that. And I think we need to still practice non attachment as yoga therapists, where we're not attached to the outcome of our work, that students don't have to be fixed or cured or get better, and they might get sicker and die. I mean, they're gonna die, right, they're gonna get sicker, that's just gonna happen. It's unavoidable. So how can you be present and loving and caring for them without being focused on the result, even though you want them to have less suffering, right, you want them to be to have peace? Can you do that by embodying that teaching yourself? Right? That could be freeing for them.
Amber Karnes 10:36:35
Yeah. And, you know, I think sometimes, like, maybe we're not seeing, you know, the result or the outcome that we expected, but we don't really know how it might affect them down the line. You know, like, one example for me is like, a lot of my teaching work has been around body acceptance, like through the lens of the yoga teachings. And then I have people that are like, go through a program or a class or come to retreats, or whatever. And then later, they, you know, get plastic surgery, or they go on diets, and they modify their bodies, and blah, blah, blah, you know, and it's like, I can either get like, oh, well, they weren't even listening to a thing that I said, you know, like, you can kind of go to that place. Or I could be really sad about it, like, Oh, I wish this person didn't have to feel this way about themselves. Yeah. But like, we don't know, you know, like, how that stuff hit them how the yoga practice that they have experienced, like, will prepare them for, you know, whatever part of that journey and like, you know, not everybody is going to connect with the things that we say, or the way that we teach. And so, I think, you know, for me, realizing that like, I'm not the teacher, for everybody, sometimes as a way of like, check my ego around that kind of stuff, that like students have their own, you know, journey and their own practice. And like you said, I'm here to be of service, I have some knowledge that I think can help people, I have some inquiries that I can guide you all through to help get in touch with your bodies. But like, from that point, it's up to y'all to like, take it and decide what you want to do with it, you know, and I think, you know, showing up in a way that's like generous and open and clear, without getting too wrapped up in the outcomes are too entangled in the like, I don't know taking it personal when the practice looks different than what we expect or the outcome looks different, or people decide to take a different path. And maybe this isn't for them, you know, like that. I think that's an opportunity for us to reconnect as teachers to like, what's our why, like, what is the heart of this service that we have decided to do by teaching yoga, like get back connected with that, rather than focusing on like, what didn't turn out the way that we thought it would? Because, you know, that's awesome. I know for me that yeah, that that's a piece of it.
Okay, can we do one more? Yeah. And this is important because I think it's really essential as a yoga teacher and that's to practice ethics and in the yoga is in the yoga teachings. In the yoga Sutras, we have the Yamas, which are really a lot of ethical practices. And one in particular, we want to talk about as Brahmacharya. This is described in Book Two sutra 38. I'm actually going to read this is from miscella Devi, the secret power of yoga. She was a guest on the podcast just a few episodes ago, so you can go back and listen to her. She translates this as devoted to living a balanced and moderate life. Brahmacharya, the scope of one's life force becomes boundless. That was really cool. Living a Balanced moderate life, the scope of one's life force becomes boundless, but you know, Brahmacharya usually, it means celibacy, traditionally, when these teachings were designed for monks, and it was about them not having sex, and then you know, these days, it's often translated as, you know, kind of moderation.
Amber Karnes 10:40:03
Yeah, or like, right use of energy or something like that. Yeah,
I think it has to do with actually in the translation, that real translation of the word it's about focusing your energy on the divine or God. And in a way, it's like focusing your energy on spiritual practice instead of human relationships and sex and sex and romantic relationships, which is where I think, you know, our minds go alive,
Amber Karnes 10:40:26
External, thanks. Yeah. But I wonder, why is that so important as yoga teachers?
Amber Karnes 10:40:34
Well, I think this speaks to a couple of things, right? Like one if we want to talk about celibacy, since sex came up, don't have sex with your students. It's important for teachers to have boundaries, I think, appropriate boundaries. Knowing that, I think it's, I think it's crucial as teachers to realize the power differential that exists simply because of the teacher student relationship. And that implies a lot of things, right, like, students may not feel as free to give you feedback about something because we've been socialized to defer to teachers and to do what authority figures tell us to do. They may feel like they want to please the teacher, because that's like another thing, you know, and so we have all these ways that I think, just the way that culture shows up with power and hierarchy and stuff like that, that we just need to be aware of, because these students often come to us, you know, maybe for a workout maybe for, you know, inner peace, or whatever they think yoga is gonna give them but some of them come to us for spiritual direction. They bring us issues that they're having in their personal lives, their professional lives, like, I think yoga teachers often, you know, in, end up in roles that are more intimate in a relationship sort of way than like the Zumba instructor would. Does that make sense? And so I think that, like, we just have to be really aware of the power that we hold as teacher sometimes, which means having appropriate boundaries with our students, like not entering into sexual or inappropriately personal relationships with someone who we are, in certain ways, in an authority position over even if that's just optics. Does that make sense?
Yeah, I would say it even, I will go back to non attachment maybe, and reflect on how you can be in relationship because the thing is, actually we are in relationship with our students. But I think it's different than having a relationship. It's like, what is a relationship that that is appropriate for a teacher to have or their student. And I think, to me, it's a, it's a relationship that's based on non attachment, meaning that you have no expectations that you're not as a teacher, you're not looking for anything. From your students, you're not looking to get anything back from them. Again, they're paying you probably right, like they're paying you cash to take your class or giving you money, right. And then your job is to say, Okay, you already gave me this money, or this payment, or whatever this is. So my job is to serve you. without expecting anything else. Back from you, I you don't need to praise me. You don't need to be my friend. You don't need to be my romantic partner, because I'm here to serve you as your yoga instructor or yoga teacher. And I feel like not expecting anything back is what will keep that relationship safe. You Yeah, for the student. And, and also for the teacher, like it's a boundary for you. You know, it allows you to be professional, I think is almost a definition of being professional is not expecting something back from a client, right is like, you know, if you, as a teacher, it's important to get your needs met, but you need to do that somewhere else. Like you need to have friends, you need to have romance in your life if you want but outside of the class, right? If someone comes to you as a student, you cannot expect anything back from them at all. Right? You're there to serve them. Yeah, I
Amber Karnes 10:44:05
think that's a really important distinction. Like and that, you know, I think I've heard a lot of questions of like, well, you know, okay, what am I allowed to do? What am I not allowed to do? Like, if I, you know, talk to them in classes, okay. But if I send them a text message, outside class is inappropriate. It's kind of like, okay, well, there's not really this hard and fast checklist in that way. But I think the way that you've defined it of like, what are you expecting out of this is a really good way to kind of check ourselves and be like, are you expecting students to, you know, feed your ego, be your friend, be your romantic partner, you know, like, all of those types of things that's different than, you know, I'm here, I'm connected with my mission. And I'm here to like, share these teachings and be of service. And so I think that's a really good test of, you know, is this a boundary I should set or not?
Yeah. And, you know, I think really exploring this personally is important to really spend time thinking about your past experiences as a student as well as a teacher, like, how does it feel for you when you were a student in someone else's class? What felt best for you? Like what kind of boundaries did work for you as it as a student? Right? And how might that help you understand how to create boundaries as a teacher, and by the way, like, boundaries is like another word for non attachment. Like, I really love that word boundaries, it's like, it's not a negative thing. A boundary is a tool, you know, to remind us to turn within, rather than to look outside, to look to somebody else. And that's what yoga is all about. And so I think that's really the theme here for for this whole episode is just like, it's not easy, but I think to try to do the practice to find what we need in ourselves or somewhere else in our lives, rather than to find it in our relationships with our students.
Amber Karnes 10:46:09
Yeah, yeah. Well said, I think, you know, one other thing that comes up for me here is like scope of practice stuff, too, like a kind of different kind of boundary. But just really remembering that like, as teachers, we're here to be of service and teach yoga, not be someone's therapist, or nutritionist or BFF, or, you know, counselor, or, you know, I don't know, whatever that whole list of things that people come to us for. And so I think one thing that's really useful for every teacher to do is to sort of like, know your lane and stay in it, you know, we're not massage therapists, we're not dieticians, we're not, you're not any of those things, unless you are separately. And that, you know, when folks come to you with those types of issues, understanding, like what's appropriate for you to be able to work with and what you need to refer out to. So do you have you know, a list of referrals of a dietitian and nutritionist, massage therapist, physical therapist, you know, all of those type of like, kind of semi related things that might come up, that you can say, you know, I'm not the person to help you with this, I want to make sure you get appropriate and professional help. And so here's a list of some people that might be able to work with you on that, you know, like, I think in the moment, it can be really hard. If like, someone comes to you, you know, crying with an issue, then it's like, okay, you just want to talk to them, like they're your friend. But like, in that case, maybe it's like a therapist is the more appropriate professional to address that, because they have training, and they have a different role to play. So
yeah, I think that's really essential. Reflecting on scope of practice, reflecting on your personal ethics, like what are your personal, your, what's your personal code of ethics, you know, that you have in your life? And how can you best be of service to your students by being ethical, and practicing Brahmacharya? In your own life? Yeah, I feel like we could go on. I mean, I just want to say, like, I'm trying to stop myself, because like, there's, I love this topic. And I feel like this could be, you know, a whole maybe we
Amber Karnes 10:48:30
need to, maybe we need a part two of
I know, it's getting longer. So I kind of want to wrap it up. I just wondered if you had any other thoughts?
Amber Karnes 10:48:41
What's a question that we could leave people with sort of a an inquiry around this kind of stuff?
Oh, my gosh, yeah. Let's think well, what is your personal code of ethics? Like, yeah, that
Amber Karnes 10:48:50
might be a good thing to do. Yeah, have you written that down? Like, have you really thought about that and created your own sort of like code of ethics? You know? I don't know what some examples of this type of stuff that would go in there.
Think what would go in there is like, how do you respond when someone you know, questions, your pricing for your classes? Like what are your guidelines? What are the rules that you use that you run your yoga business by? How what are your peer relationships like with other teachers, and that's the other thing I would add, again, I don't want to go on but I would just say like, part of the answer to this around Brahmacharya for me is having strong peer relationships with other yoga teachers, where you can share openly that support right like that's really helpful, but in a personal code of ethics. I think you could talk about that maybe you could talk about I don't know what do you think the rules that you that you teach by
Amber Karnes 10:49:56
That's right. Yeah, I think I'm noticing I think you know, in your because everyone's I guess teaching situation is a little bit different, but in your own personal teaching, like you know how much have you done to sort of like, encourage, you know, student choice and agency versus like your own as a teacher, if that makes sense.
Maybe all the things we talked about today could be in there, you could look at how are you practicing yoga and the way you teach? Are you seeing the other students fullness? When you're seeing their students fullness when you're teaching them? Like do you begin there? And how is that expressed and manifested in your teaching? How do you express non attachment to your students progress to how they respond to your teaching? How, yeah, how can you practice yoga in the way you're teaching? Teaching as a practice?
Amber Karnes 10:50:58
Yeah, I love it. All right. Okay. Maybe we should wrap up since we're almost at an hour. I rambled about this for a long time. But we'd love to hear from y'all if you if you have ideas about how you embody this kind of stuff in your teaching, or ways that you found to, to really, I don't know, live out in in model for your students. This practice. We'd love to hear from you.
Yes. Great. Thank you so much, Amber. And thanks, everyone. All right. See you next time. Okay, bye. Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 10:51:37
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Amber Karnes 10:51:56
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai