A Guest Post by Shannon Garvey, one of our inspiring Team DDY Bethesda Teachers.

How many times during a practice do we say these words: “Step your right foot forward”? What we are really asking of our students is not just to step forward on their mats, but to move forward in their lives. This fall marks fifteen years that I have been teaching yoga. I have led classes at small gyms, huge athletic centers, universities, and traditional yoga studios. I have witnessed the power of the practice and how it can and will change people’s lives.

It may seem drastic to make such a claim, and I know as a science teacher myself, evidence should back up my words. The evidence is that people come back to their mats again and again. The man in the back of the room who lost a loved one last year; the mother who needs the strength to lift her son in and out of a wheelchair; the student who is stressed about what she is going to do after graduation; the ones who come on their birthdays or engagements to celebrate; the ones who come when they are angry about the state of the world or the state of their lives.

Down Dog offers a safe place where students can bring themselves to their mats, hold on to what they need, and let go of what they don’t want. It is in a way like washing our dirty dishes; We have to get the gunk off of them after each meal, so we give them a scrub or send them through the dishwasher, because tomorrow we need to eat off them again. This practice is like getting rid of whatever is weighing us down. As yoga teachers, we assist our students in this process.

I sometimes hear before class, one student telling another, “I’ll feel great when this is over.” I respond by asking them to enjoy the practice now. It’s a practice of being fully alive in the experience, living the ups and downs (physically and emotionally), the laughing, crying, sweating, breathing like you have never breathed before kind of feeling. It is the prize in the process we all like to preach as teachers. I am reminded of this when I get overwhelmed in my own life and my husband tells me to, “Do it joyfully, Shannon!”

I truly believe this works.

We can help our students to experience joy by leading them through the practice, looking them in the eyes, and holding them accountable for their actions. That is what makes them sweat more than any cranking of the thermostat or replacement of a heating system. We inspire our students to be in it, whether “it” is the practice on their mats, or in their own lives.

Yoga teaches us all to love what it right in front of us right now.

As teachers, we are called to love the people who show up in our classes. They are right in front of us!

There is routine in this practice, as there is in our daily lives.

LOVE the routine we get up to in the morning, the making of the coffee and the brushing of teeth, the feeding of our children and getting them ready for school and daycare. LOVE the sun series, and the drive to work. LOVE the long holds in warrior two, and the challenging project from a boss.

Sometimes it is not easy to do that fifth wheel or the late commute, but it is always worth it.

I teach at DDY because this is what it has taught me: to love my practice and my life.

Down Dog has given me the opportunity for continual growth in my teaching, the forward moving energy that keeps my classes going, and right foot stepping up. That is why I am here. That is why I stay with “what is.” Because “what is” is a good thing; it is Down Dog Yoga.

With love,

Shannon Garvey