Hala: How Not To Be A Yoga Jerk!

Hala opens up about having been a really self-righteous and superior younger yogi. It turned out she had transferred her perfectionism, control issues, and harsh way of relating to herself and others into her yoga practice and new identification as a spiritual know-it-all…

“I pushed a lot of people away from me, because I was really judgmental —I was kind of a jerk..”

Hala shares how over time she learned that yoga practice could help her heal and grow and experience greater freedom from her unconscious issues —and that rather than the evidence of this being fancy, competitive yoga poses, it showed up in her life and her relationships getting better!

The Training Helped Me Be Compassionate and Patient In My Work In Human Resources


Stephanie works in human resources. She found her experience in the training gave her compassionate and patient tools for dealing with people’s “stuff” at work —and appreciated the shared group experience of support, in which each person could learn about teaching yoga at their own pace.

3 Questions, #1: Why Did You First Fall In Love With Yoga?

Watch Jay, Julian and Hala talk about their first experiences of realizing the benefits and possibilities of their yoga practice.

Jay shares the moment she first experienced the emotionally healing relief of being in savasana, after at first thinking the physical similarities with gymnastics were the reason she liked yoga.

Julian talks about being a young music school student and discovering that the “good hurt” of yoga was a vehicle for liberation, freedom of movement and emotional balance.

Hala shares how a serious medical diagnosis deepened her relationship to self-care and really relating to her body with love and respect.

A Trustworthy Guide

 by Jay Fields

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been re-reading Erich Schiffmann’s book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness.

Let me just say: if you don’t already have this book, do yourself a favor and buy it. I recommend this book more than any other to new and veteran yoga students when they ask for a book that will help them develop their practice. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read on how to really make your yoga your yoga. I personally re-read it at least once a year.

I love how Erich addresses “playing the edge” in a pose. That is, how to find just the right physical and emotional tone of a pose between having no effect and having a hurtful effect. Whether you explore this in a led class or on your own in your home practice, learning how to get closer and closer to your maximum edge of discomfort (and comfort!), helps you to develop the capacity to be with intensity in your life—whether intense joy, trust and love or intense fear, anger and sadness.

The truth is, most of us live in a pretty narrow bandwidth of what we deem acceptable feelings, especially emotionally. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the first hint of an emotion and 10 being the place where you feel like you wouldn’t be able to breathe if you actually let yourself feel what you were feeling, how many times have you been at a 9 in the last year? Or a 7? Or a 5 for that matter?

It’s more common to explore our physical edges. Maybe you’ve been at a 9 or 10 physically when you ran a triathlon, gave birth, or performed a profoundly challenging yoga posture or sequence. Not many of us, however, will go to or through that level of intensity on our own—that’s where coaches, doctors, and teachers come in handy.

The same goes for the emotional stuff. It took me almost three years of working with a counselor before I felt like I would trust myself to explore 7+ on my own. Even now, though I can go there on my own, I’m far more willing to explore the really, really intense emotions when I’m with her.

Why is that? Because I’m still growing my ability to trust myself to keep a witness for me when I’m breaking down or lashing out at my very edge. And also because I trust her wholeheartedly.trapeze trust

And why is that? Because I know she’s been there. Though very rarely will she share from her own experience, she doesn’t need to. I can feel it in her. And what’s the it that I can feel? It’s the breadth and depth of her presence, the space that she takes up. To be honest, it’s kind of ineffable. I can just feel it, you know?

So can your students. They can feel if you’ve been to the dark corner that you’re beckoning them toward. They can sense if you’ve stood on the high peak that you are encouraging them to climb, or the murky abyss that you’re inviting them to explore.

On the most colloquial level, it’s called street cred. And it goes a loooong way, whether you’re a teacher, an artist, a businessman, a friend or a parent.

And not to say that I’m advanced at this, but I will say that I can feel how every time I get closer to my edges, physically and emotionally, I not only trust and love myself more, but I also become a better teacher.

I’m not suggesting that you need to hang out at you maximum edge more, just that you don’t resist it altogether when it comes up. Also, that you develop the ability to know where you are on your scale of 1-10, and to let yourself explore your bandwidth.

A major requisite for being a trustworthy guide (and a remarkable person) is to continually play your edges, expand your comfort zone, and in so doing increase your wattage for how much of life you can consciously allow to flow through you.

Some of the best words on just how to do this come from the Tao Te Ching:

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

And so, I’ll leave you with a variation on that theme:

If you want to become a teacher, let yourself be an avid student of your own places of not knowing.

If you want to share with others, let yourself receive from others and from yourself.

If you want to be a light for others, let yourself dance around with your own shadows.

Hala On Ethics and Teacher Student Psychology for Yoga Alliance

In recent months, there have been several allegations of sexual misconduct by prominent teachers in the yoga community. At the core, this issue stems from an important pillar of yoga teacher ethics—the relationship between teacher and student. The nature of this relationship has many different interpretations by many different people.

Yoga Alliance’s Chief Ambassador Andrew Tanner, E-RYT 500, sat down to talk with Hala Khouri, E-RYT 500, about the nature of student-teacher relationships. Hala talks about the psychological components of these relationships, how trauma comes into play and the basic principles of how to establish clear boundaries with students.

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Healing My Heart, Discovering My Life Path… Rachel’s Testimonial.

We are so proud of our talented and wise young graduate, Rachel. She joined the training in a time of great transition, healing, and self-discovery, and brought so much to the group. We look forward to seeing what happens in her journey, as she has so much to offer the world!

5 Ways Yoga Can Help Manage Stress and Trauma —Hala Khouri for Yoga Alliance

Five Ways Yoga Can Manage Stress and Trauma with Hala Khouri from Yoga Alliance on Vimeo.

Felt Resources Save the Day: How Self-Regulation is the Key to Confident Teaching

by Jay Fields

I only have one memory from the first few dozen yoga classes I taught, and it’s incredibly vivid. I remember looking up at the hands on the clock on the wall and realizing I still had 35 minutes left to go and I had already gone through everything in carefully crafted class plan. Oh. Shit.

Even today I can remember how it felt like time stood still as I felt the tightness in my chest choke out my breath. How badly I wanted to run out of the room. The brick in my stomach when I realized that I had to stay, and that no one could help me but me.

“You got this. Breathe,” I said to myself in the same way I did when I was a kid and was competing in a big gymnastics event. But what stands out so clearly in my mind all these years later is the industrial blue of the tile floor in the rec department and it’s cool temperature on my feet as I tried to feel them under me. More than the words of encouragement to myself, it was this felt sense of being grounded that allowed me to dig deep and call my strength back to my center and get my wits about me enough to finish the class.sexy jay

In the AHEM teacher training that I co-lead with Hala Khouri and Julian Walker, we teach this technique to our trainees. It’s called self-regulation or resourcing yourself. The idea is that you meet an uncomfortable situation with a felt resource in your body in order to be able to stay present enough to allow your capabilities to be bigger than your fear.

Because the reality was, I knew a good deal about the body and about the yoga postures even that early on in my teaching. I just didn’t trust I could access my knowledge with any confidence if I was in front of a group of people. But I found that if I could feel my feet on the floor, feel my center, feel myself being the one behind my own eyes in the room full of people on their mats, I could totally wing those 35 minutes without having a panic attack or resorting to a 35 minute savasana. Not that there would have been anything wrong with a 35 minute savasana. It probably would have been the most brilliant class I ever taught.

But I digress. Felt resources: they’re the key to being able to do something that’s uncomfortable, whether that’s teaching your first handful of yoga classes or it’s doing anything else that you’re passionate about but that scares the pants off of you.

The three felt resources are grounding, centering and orienting yourself in space. Typically one seems most accessible and most effective in helping to return to a sense of steadiness. It might not make the fear disappear, but it will let you be with the fear in a way that it’s just a part of your experience, and not the part running the show. Think fear-with, not fearless.

And here’s the thing–the fear doesn’t even necessarily go away even years into teaching. Perhaps it’s downgraded to nervousness, but either way, it’s an indication that you care about what you’re doing, and that you care that you continue to grow into your best self as a teacher. All these years later, I still take a moment before each class starts to consciously feel myself in the room, aware of the people on their mats and of my breath and of my feet under me all at the same time. Only then do I feel like I can really be there and begin with confidence and with a real connection to myself and my students. And when it happens in the middle of class that I say something that my inner critic chastises me for, “Did you really just say that?” Or when I get a look from a student that I interpret as them not liking me or the class, I still have to stop myself from going into freeze or panic mode by making the choice to feel myself come back to my center and ground.

So it’s not that I’ve necessarily gotten all that more comfortable with teaching in front of a group of people. It’s that I’ve come to thoroughly trust in the reliability of my felt resources to help me manage the ways that I have a tendency to freak out and instead show up the way I would like.

This is why in the AHEM training we place such a huge emphasis on practicing self-regulation through feeling a felt resource. It’s because having access to felt resources and being able to self-regulate allows you to show up as you in a way that is as real and as powerful as possible, whether you’re in front of a room full of yoga students or having a hard conversation with your kid or going in for the interview for the job of your dreams. Said another way:

Felt resource + discomfort = nothing can stop you from doing what calls most convincingly and terrifyingly to your heart. And that’s the sort of equation that adds up to the best kind of teacher and the best kind of person to be out in the world.

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Teaching a Healing Art Requires Facing Your Own Shadows..

Dennis already had a 200 hr certification, but says “People ask why I would do another —but i think people don’t understand that you can get a degree online, or you can go to UC Berkeley or Harvard…. A 200 hr is not just a 200 hr.”

Talking about the training, he says, ” If I am going to teach a healing art, it is really helpful for me to face my own shadows so that I am better prepared to go out into the world and help.

Yoga to me is not just about a flat stomach, its about being able to laugh, and to sleep well, and be a kind and loving individual. This training inspired me to keep moving along my path toward my vision of helping the world to heal..”

I Wanted To Do It For Myself —But Have Found Teaching Is A Calling!

Rebecca was in the midst of a career change after graduate school—she wanted to take some time to decompress and deepen her yoga practice, but was surprised to find that teaching really is something that felt like a calling.

“Teaching, speaking in public, is not something that I have enjoyed or felt I would be good at. But you met everyone where they were at and brought exactly what was needed out of each person…”