Michael Fukumura: Sustaining Yoga Teaching for 50 Years
How to Sustain Your Yoga Teaching for 50 Years aka Lessons Learned From My Father
My father is a physician and has been a huge source of inspiration. He flourished as a well-respected physician for 50 years. He loved his practice and his patients. His passion, perspective, and fierce discipline are all qualities that a serious yoga teacher can cultivate to support longevity and success in the profession.
Orient Yourself to Service
The driving purpose of dad’s medical practice was to alleviate the suffering of his patients and care for them in the best way possible. He was so dedicated to the well being of his patients that no matter what was happening in his personal life, he never missed a day of work. He placed so much meaning on truly serving his patients that he was able to summon up hidden reserves of resources that have always left me in awe. His deep care and devotion led him to sacrifice much time and energy and work at an extraordinary level of intensity because he was whole-heartedly engaged in his purpose.
Teaching yoga is intense and demanding. If you are teaching many classes, privates, workshops, and trainings, it can be very exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally, and at all levels of being. When you start to feel energetically drained, visualize a room full of your students who have invested their time and money to be there for you. They have taken time out of their busy day to be there to receive your offerings through your unique voice and collection of skills. Remember your calling and how your teachings transform your students so they connect to the best of themselves, become more vital, and experience profound freedom in their lives. By shifting your attention from yourself to your students, even when you are feeling diminished, it propels you to show up fully engaged. By orienting yourself to service, you step into the currents of a greater flow of energy and cultivate the key inner qualities of compassion, enthusiasm, and steadfastness that are crucial to thriving as a yoga teacher.
Curiosity: Be Fascinated by Learning
Dad has always been a scholar no matter how old (he is still learning at age 86). His keen interest to constantly learn served to always grew professionally and personally. Despite his busy practice, he always kept up with the latest research, techniques, knowledge and skills in medicine so that he was able to serve his patients with the highest and state of the art level of care.
Studentship is critical to staying grounded in the seat of the teacher. We are blessed as contemporary yoga teachers with a wealth of fantastic master teachers and myriad of multimedia educational resources for our profession. There is so much to discover. The more that you learn, the more you will want to explore and the whole process becomes enjoyable, enriching, and fulfilling. You will gain so much through fresh insights and perspectives that grow your teachings when you take the time and effort to study, whether it is from a book, online, or in-person. So, be bold and challenge yourself to try to learn something new. Then, apply your new skills and knowledge so it is shared as living wisdom and transmitted through your teachings. With a commitment to learning for the rest of your life, you are better able to adapt to changes and enjoy the process.
Love Your Profession by Challenging Yourself
Dad loved the challenges of being a doctor. He was interested in finding better and more efficient ways medicine could improve lives. This is the reason why he did not retire until age 80.
Keep igniting your passion for teaching yoga by expanding your boundaries. The easiest way to get bored teaching is to teach the same routine, with the same script, in the same way. Instead, infuse your teachings with the vitality born out of stepping out of your comfort zone. Introduce heightened vibrancy into your teaching through creative sequencing, clearly articulating instructions, use of metaphors, better observational skills, verbal adjustments, effective manual adjustments, and weaving in a meaningful theme. Learn better techniques to empower students to reach their full potential.
A potent source of inspiration and passion for your teaching comes from your own dedicated practice of meditation, pranayama, asana, journaling, contemplation, and heart-opening practices. By expanding your range of practices so that you penetrate your mind, body, and heart, your love of yoga will grow and so will what you offer back through your teachings.
Relax –Recover – Nap Time
Dad worked so intensely as a physician that he really needed time to restore his energies. When he came home, he always carved out some time to take a relaxing bath and special sacred nap times. While he never did yoga asana, he had his own version of savasana and restorative practices that allowed him to sufficiently replenish his energies so that he could serve in the best way possible.
As yoga teachers, we know that we need to take care of ourselves in order to serve others. So, to be of ultimate service, organize your time to have dedicated rest periods. Please, don’t skip savasana. Meditation is the ultimate. And, even in your asana, invoke a quality of “resting” in the postures and in your breath, so that your are not forcing or pushing against yourself but moving with a greater support. Create a habit of just the right amount rest and recovery so that you are able to deliver the best to your students for many years.
Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder ~ Rumi
~ Michael Fukumura, prAna Ambassador