By Joan Hyman
From wild child to professional dancer… I was the least likely candidate to become a Senior Yoga Teacher. I became a professional dancer at a young age and headed straight for New York City. My days were spent going to auditions, attending dance classes, rehearsing and then dancing in the clubs until dawn. Eventually, my body started to break down, and so did my big elaborate world.
In the late 1990's, after years of failing to wean myself off of the party scene, I stumbled into a yoga class at Jivamukti in NYC. For the first time in my life, I truly heard my inner being. The message was very clear: “Joan, you must start taking care of yourself.”
Shortly after that class, I found my way to Santa Monica, California. I ended up in a Mysore Ashtanga room at Yogaworks, taught by Maty Ezraty. I specifically remember the seriousness of the practitioners and Maty’s powerful, intense energy.
I walked in and walked right out.
A friend called me later that day and talked me into coming back. While I was intimidated, I was still a bit curious. That was twelve years ago. I have been practicing Ashtanga yoga daily ever since. Maty has been my mentor and one of the most inspirational people on my path as a yoga student as well as a yoga teacher.
During my early years of practice, I experienced a lot of transformation. Transformation is a bumpy, fiery path that can burn! I committed to this practice and found the discipline to do the work it takes to make the leap from party girl to a serious and respected yoga teacher. It was Maty's teaching that grounded me during those years.
Maty encouraged me to be my best, helping me discover what was underneath all of the noise. It was hard to face myself at times, but her fearless teaching and her committed to being her authentic self, helped me stay committed to my path.
Since my time with Maty I’ve gone off into the world and explored different teachers. I recently reconnected with her, assisting her and practicing with her here in Los Angeles. I discovered how lucky I am to have had such an inspiration early in my career. It gave me the opportunity to recognize my growth. Here I am – now 12 years later – practicing with her at a whole new level. I’m not the same. Realizing how far I have come inspires me.
Here are a few things I have learned both from my brilliant teacher and my path as a yoga teacher and how I put what I learned into practice
• Your practice defines your teaching. Your teaching is only as deep as your practice. I am not referring to advanced poses , but our ability and commitment to peel the layers and discover what is actually underneath.
• Spending time with people that inspire you, or your teachers, is important! You will be reminded to be grateful for your gift and humbled to be on this path where you get to do what you love for a living.
• Keep doing the work and stay committed to YOU. Your truth is what you feel in your heart. Teach from this place and success will come.
I was able to confirm a truth I already know: We are more than our thoughts. Learn to meditate and be fearless about what is going on inside and open up your mind. Your highest potential exists way beyond your thoughts! Believe in yourself & be real! Keep it simple and remember Yoga Works!