Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Value of a Teacher: Why You Need to Find a Teacher Today

The Value of a Teacher:  Why You Need to Find a Teacher Today

Although Mysore might have not felt to me as the most "spiritual" place in India, as I wrote before in Yoga in Mysore - It's Madness!, there was one thing that got me really inspired during my six months stay in this wonderful city.

The devotion and the respect that the yoga students who come from all around the world have for their teachers, whomever he or she is, is remarkable.

It's not about blindly following somebody else but more about a sense of gratitude and surrender towards that person that it's able to guide us in the right direction and show us what we are actually capable of doing.

They inspire us, they motivate us, they challenge us to break our limitations, and help us discover our true potential.

I think this is a healthy and necessary attitude to develop towards our teachers.

If we have respect for our teachers and stay humble in their presence we allow ourselves to learn from their teachings. On the contrary if we keep an arrogant attitude thinking that we know better we make it impossible for us to open up and learn anything.

That's probably why in India there is a tradition of honoring the teachers or gurus by offering them a gift, usually in the form of fruits, before receiving their blessings or their teachings.

After a few months in Mysore I also started to discover in myself a feeling of affection, respect and gratitude that I naturally developed towards the Ashtanga Yoga teachers that I was practicing with, first with Ajay Kumar and later on with Vijay Kumar.

The progress that I noticed in my practice thanks to their guidance, their dedication to their own practice, their daily efforts to spread the benefits of yoga by teaching and their own devotion to their gurus has inspired me in different ways.

Marco Pino with Ajay KumarMarco Pino with Vijay Kumar
With Ajay KumarWith Vijay Kumar

But the value of a teacher doesn't apply only to the spiritual path.

Whatever skill you want to learn or master in whichever field that might be, like in the arts, sports or business; a teacher, guru, coach or mentor is of utmost importance to guide you and help you get there.

A few years ago while I was living in Belgium I told one of my friends that I was looking for a guitar teacher. He immediately responded "Why would you do that? You can find everything for free online."

In a way he was right, there is a huge amount of information available on the web, one can certainly learn just about anything online and for free.

But what is the use of all that information if you don't know what exactly you need to learn? You can spend hours and hours searching online for who knows what, getting completely lost on the internet. That's probably why it's called "The Web."

On top of that we all know that not everything that is on the web is reliable (except for this blog of course, lol) so even if you are able to find what you were looking for it might not be the best advice.

Online videos, DVDs and books are definitely useful but they can't replace a real teacher. Whatever doubts I have after studying anything online I know that only a real teacher will be able to clarify them and only a real teacher will be able to give me the feedback that I might need.

For instance, if you want to learn to play the guitar you could search for online video guitar lessons, but even if you find the best guitar video lesson ever it won't be able to tell you if your hands are in the wrong position or if your technique is not correct.

A video can't tell you if you are not doing the right effort or it can't tell you which are the areas that you in particular need to work on to stay focused and save time. Basically a video can't give you any feedback whatsoever.

While I was in Kathmandu, Nepal I found two amazing guitar teachers.

In a very gentle way Chakra Lama, my gypsy jazz guitar teacher, would tell me "You haven't practice enough," and he was right. On another occasion he said, "I think you have a problem with your picking speed, right? You have a bad picking habit."

Chakra Lama Gypsy Jazz Guitar Teacher in Kathmandu
Chakra Lama - Gypsy Jazz Guitarist

And whenever I would tell Rajat Rai, my other guitar teacher, that I wanted to learn something specific he would sometimes say "Sure you will, but today you need to learn this," ignoring my request and teaching me not what I wanted to learn but what he knew I needed to learn.

Rajat Rai Jazz Guitar Teacher in Kathmandu
Rajat Rai - Jazz Guitarist

I actually had one more guitar teacher in Kathamandu, he was the first teacher that I met. He is an amazing electric guitar player and he is able to do exactly everything that I wish I could do but unfortunately his teaching skills were not the best.

Every time after class I would leave feeling defeated and depressed, he was always asking me to do things that were completely beyond my capacity. Fortunately later on I met Rajat and then Chakra.

The same applies to the practice of hatha yoga.

A video can't tell you if your alignment is incorrect or if you are at risk of injuring your joints. It can't tell you if your breath is not deep. It can't motivate you to keep practicing. It can't encourage you when you feel like a failure and it can't congratulate you when you've made some progress.

"Why didn't you come yesterday?" Vijay Kumar would ask me whenever I would miss a day of Ashtanga Yoga practice encouraging me to stay focused. "Marco, keep the elbows in!" Ajay Kumar would remind me when doing the jump back or jump through between asanas to protect my shoulders.

So, if you want to learn some skill or art that you feel passionate about your first task should be to take your time to find the right teacher or mentor for you and once you find him or her stay humble and listen with open ears.

If you are looking for an Ashtanga Yoga teacher in Mysore you mind find this blog useful: The Best Ashtanga Yoga Teachers in Mysore, India.

Another very important point to remember is to not to be cheap but rather to be willing to pay the price that your teacher is asking for. To be willing to pay for what you love and value is a form of self respect and it's an attitude that can help to open the doors of abundance in your life.

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