Witnessing Transformation

One of the great privileges of being a yoga teacher, is to witness transformation. In every class there is a shift – from distraction to attention, from separateness to unity, or from agitation to calm. One might observe this in a particular student, or in the group as whole, or in even in one’s self as a result of having held the group for the duration of the session.

Through yoga we have the capacity to reduce our suffering, and to realise our true potential. The practice allows us to see the ways in which we contribute to our physical, mental or emotional pain. But this awareness is just the beginning, and those who wish to let go of the habits that are holding them back must be prepared to take a long term approach. Sure, I have witnessed epiphanies, where a student suddenly becomes aware of an aspect of themselves that was previously hidden from view, but more often than not, personal transformation is a gradual process, built on many months or years of dedicated practice. This kind of change is not necessarily dramatic or exciting to observe, but as teacher, it is the kind that inspires me the most.

As a teacher of yoga, I am by definition also a student. The roles are not separate in my view, and from time to time, an opportunity comes along for us to come together as a community of learners. Recently, we were lucky to have such an opportunity in the form of a three day seminar on Prānāyāma (conscious breathing practices). ‘The Power of Yoga – Exploring Prānāyāma for Health & Vitality’, was presented by Kausthub Desikachar (principal teacher at the Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation – KHYF – in Chennai, India).

This seminar was well attended. I found myself in the company of a wide range of students, some of whom were relatively new to this form of classical yoga, while others were long-term practitioners, teachers or teacher trainees in the tradition of T. Krishnamacharya.

The teacher took us on a fascinating journey through the theory & practice of various Prānāyāma techniques. Classical yoga texts, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali formed the foundation of all the teachings, and yet the material was presented in a way that made it accessible to all of us, and applicable in our modern context. Such experiential processes allow the knowledge to reach beyond the mind, into the body and the heart, allowing each student to retain it in a way that resonates with them. Even though the practices seemed relatively simple, the experience was profound. The layering of āsana, prānāyāma, mantra and meditation led to moments of deep internalisation for many, even within the context of this large and diverse group.

The knowledge imparted during the prānāyāma seminar was indeed profound, but what truly inspired me was the ongoing transformation I observed in the teacher himself. Kausthub’s teaching is heartfelt. He speaks freely about his difficulties, and shows humility in acknowledging his teachers and mentors for having guided him through some dark times. I observed a deepening of wisdom and spiritual connection in Kausthub that I attribute to his own ongoing practice.

What became clear to me at this seminar is that we are a indeed a sangha, a growing community of learners. The word lineage is often used in this classical yoga context, but I see it more as a web of support that connects us. Sometimes our role is to support others in their process, and at other times we lean into that web and find the support we need. In this web, none of us can see from every angle, so we rely on each other for clarity and perspective.

Whether we label ourselves as students or teachers of yoga, we grow because of our commitment to the practice, and because of our honest interactions with each other. It is a privilege to be in sangha. To witness transformation in others is to be reminded of the real possibility that we ourselves can overcome our limitations and grow to fulfill our true potential.


Lynda Miers-Henneveld.


One Response to “Witnessing Transformation”

  1. Carrie Wainwright says:

    This is a lovely piece, Linda. And coincides with my thinking over the last 24 hours about how much I get out of our yoga classes – especially when I’m feeling ready. Last night’s class was just lovely for me. I really enjoyed the practice, and the energy in the room. Your energy is astonishingly consistent, and always warm and encouraging. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m deeply grateful