Do Your Homework

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Kaz Castillo assists Veronique Tan at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore

Kaz Castillo and Veronique Tan with the dedicated practitioners at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore.

Last week, Veronique Tan, whose program I am covering here in Osaka, distributed a sheet explaining “homework” to each regular student. I was with her, as she explained to each student what she recommended they work on over the next two months that she is away in Mysore. And how I would be here to help.

On Thursday, one student, Akemi-san noticed that I had my own sheet–actually, sheets plural! A neat stack stapled together, on each page was the profile of two students, each a regular Mysore pass holder, their current posture, their work in progress, their challenges and their “homework.” She pointed with delight and laughed!

“Yes,” I smiled and laughed too, explaining that I also had my own “homework” from Veronique-sensei!

And so work begins. Homework in tow, I will be going to Spirit tomorrow morning, my first day of a two month covering stint here at Spirit Yoga Osaka.

The Mysore program here is not new to me. Past teachers that have taught here are friends. The first to hold the program, Ursula Scott was instrumental in inspiring me to make my first ever trip to Mysore, India. Then, last year, I became the interim covering teacher here between August and September. Returning now after nearly 9 months of teaching in Egypt and in Spain, of traveling and having what I can best describe as an epic romantic adventure with myself, I feel a little like I’m returning to the classroom after having done quite a bit of homework myself.

Sure, it’s been a little “off book.” There’s been a lot of practice–but a lot of the prime yoga  experiences lately have happened off the mat. Self-study is not an isolated activity that is happening at home, it is happening all the time in life.

One never really knows what to expect or what our practice will be like or what the class will bring each morning. And it’s best not to have any expectations. But we certainly can come to class, to our mats, to our lives a little more prepared each and every morning…

The Schedule of Morning Mysore: Monday-Thursday 6:30-10:00am. Friday 6:45-8:45am Led. Sunday 7:30-10am.

PHOTO: Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore. Photo by: Veronique Tan.

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Oh, My! How They Grow!

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IMG_4748I recently came home to Manila after a year of travel and teaching. The most striking of changes were seeing my nieces and godchildren, two of whom were newborns when I left the Philippines. I was shocked and delighted to see them walking, talking (though the words are not formed yet).

Returning to Osaka after nearly nine months, I feel a little similar, seeing how things have changed and how the program has grown.

It was a beautiful and easy re-entry to Spirit Yoga last week, as I assisted Veronique between Tuesday and Thursday. I loved seeing some of the older students with whom I had worked with grow deeper in their practice. And I was thrilled to see how many new faces there were also. It is a real joy to see one’s practice evolve. It is likewise so heart warming to see a whole program become bigger, more robust.

It’s a real pleasure to be back. It’s an honor to hold this space once again, in the teacher’s absence, this time Veronique Tan, who has been guiding the program here since October 2013. I feel blessed and inspired to see how much a program can grow!

PHOTO: Thursday’s class was an all time high: 27 practitioners. We had to draw open the curtains to the changing area to make space for people to finish. I love the enthusiasm I see here in Japan. Could clearly see how happy the students were to send Veronique off so she could herself study with her teacher. I start leading the Mysore mornings tomorrow, Sunday, June 29.

The Teacher’s Energy

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Veronique coming into Virabhadrasana A

Veronique coming into Virabhadrasana A

I love that precious time in the morning, when everything is quiet, and the teacher self practices, breathing his or her energy into the space, laying down the blueprint for the class to come…

Things have gone full circle again as I return to Osaka, this time to cover for Veronique Tan, who took over the Spirit Mysore program after I subbed for it 9 months ago. For the last three mornings, I have worked the mysore room with Veronique, assisting some familiar practitioners but also a lot of new ones.

And I am inspired–just as I imagine many of the students (there was a record number of students today at 27) who came to class this morning to send off their teacher. It’s amazing what one person can do in 9 months. And while Veronique herself relates that the program did not begin to grow until the spring months and humbly points out she’s not done much out of the ordinary–as an outsider with an inside seat I see things differently.

Barring certain logistical restrictions and external factors, for students to show up, the teacher must shows up first. And mere attendance will not do. For a teacher to truly show up they must practice in the same way they want their students to attend to class, with consistency and dedication, with flexibility and also compassion. First and foremost, the teacher must practice, really truly wholeheartedly practice–not for the student but for one’s self, not with any attachment to any particular goal other than to simply practice. Ideally, he/she must teach as he/she practices; ideally, he/she must live as he/she teaches–at least, as best as humanly possible.

In the last year, I have learned a great deal from not just the experience of teaching and the interaction with students but also from the teachers I have had the good fortune to cover for and learn from. I know I will continue to learn in this space even with Veronique all the way in Mysore, India. Lots to look forward to here at Spirit, where I will be subbing the Mysore program from July 1 to August 31.