Sometimes students are surprised to find out I don’t have the stereotypical yoga persona. My background as a coach, personal trainer, and instructor of a wide variety of physical fitness activities spans 40 years. In that time I found my ‘authentic’ voice.
It may sound strange to refer to an ‘authentic’ voice, but fitness instructors can easily fall into the trap of trying to sound like someone they are not. Take the drill sergeant approach to training. Some trainers are under the impression that it’s necessary to yell and berate a client into compliance. In the yoga world instructors are to sound a little spaced-out with emphasis on metaphorical verbal cues.
I can remember being in yoga classes back in the day and hearing directives like “ground down into the earth,”and “float through the crown.” As a trainer, coach, and yoga teacher I am more inclined to describe how to do these things anatomically. I find the description of how to perform yoga postures much more precise when I teach the students some basic anatomy and bio-mechanics.
Yoga teachers in India are not what we perceive yoga teachers to be here in the west. They are rarely serene yogis with hypnotic voices and an ever-present calm. Instead many are known to be gruff, some even outlandish. The late B.K.S. Iyengar was known to carry on the alignment-based teachings of T. Krishnamacharya, and many in India referred to him as the lion of Pune because of his extremely strict methods. Bikram Choudhury, inventor of hot yoga and a student of Bishnu Ghosh, calls his yoga ‘Bikram’s Torture Chamber’ in his book ‘Bikram Yoga.’
The many iconic yoga teachers from India most certainly found their own voice and their personalities come through in their teaching. They are not spaced-out hippie-like clones. It seems a shame that there is a pre-existing stereotype of what a yoga teacher should be.
Personally, I’m inspired by anatomist and student of Ida Rolph, Thomas Myers who wrote ‘Anatomy Trains,’ which sits prominently in my library at home. I’m also inspired by former Canadian Olympic Weightlifer and author, Ed McNeely, who I took a personal trainer’s course from. My yoga mentor Danny Paradise has been a huge inspiration to me. The list of influences goes on and on, but I have always stayed true to myself in the way I teach. When you come to my classes I may not be what you expect in a yoga instructor but I can safely say I have found my ‘authentic’ voice.