By Valerie Moselle

For most of us, yoga is a classroom experience, a group encounter. We respond to the synergy of the room, the music, the mat, and the invitation to look inside. Because we respond, we look — inside our skin for sensation, inside our ribcage for breath, and inside our heart for inspiration. What we seek is inside, the teacher tells us. “The answers are within.”

But there is another experience unfolding here. One where we are greeted warmly, where we put down our possessions, turn off our phones, and unroll our mat…not alone…but in a sea (large or small) of others. We may or may not say hello. We may or may not smile or make eye contact with the person next to us. But very soon, we are breathing together.

It is said that the path of yoga is an internal one. And in many ways it is. But yoga as it is commonly experienced in our culture – yoga class – is a communal experience. In a shared space, we learn a common vocabulary that includes familiar transitions, positions, and breath. We learn, or are reminded of, the lessons of compassion, awareness, focus. “Oh yes,” we think, “Compassion, awareness, focus. First I’ll have to find all of those inside of me.” But is that really how it works? I’d like to suggest not, as it seems so many of us unearth meaning in the practice of yoga by coming into communion with others — in breathing, moving, observing, and being together.

As yogis we are often taught that the evolution of the Self (note capital ‘S’) happens in quiet and solitude. But what if that formula is shifting as modern society – and our hunger for a spiritual anchor – evolves? In many ways, it may be that our self-conscious, increasingly isolating, fast-paced, and anxious culture stunts the growth of the Self by offering very few collective opportunities for authentic movement, meaning, breath and emotion. Of course all of these things are present, at any given moment, in a community yoga class.

Those of us responding to the call of yoga, coming to class, and finding a resonance there are part of a mass movement. Not a well-tended, chaperoned movement anchored in tradition, but a wild, free, loose movement of exploration into not what yoga is, was, and does, but what yoga can be for us…as modern human beings. We’re exploring what movement, breath, and meditation might mean for both our physical health as well as our inner awakening, wisdom, and happiness. And as this mass exploration grows, I am seeing something interesting happening in the yoga room.

I am seeing students of all ages and backgrounds taking their first full, conscious breaths of the day-week-month-year-lifetime. I am seeing a careful cultivation of awareness — first physical, then emotional, then psychological. I am seeing community building between practitioners, friendships brewing, and those who are struggling (with whatever) find support and safety. I am seeing emotional release. I am seeing self-discipline and devotion. I am seeing elements of Yoga Philosophy seep into the psyche of so many, and grow into common, shared values. Surrender. The Moment. Awareness. Breath. Compassion. Service.

Some of us are particularly inspired by this unfolding, by the fruits of this movement. Some of us are experiencing such growth, a re-shaping, and nurturing of our world-view, a healthier, happier life. And what happens in some is that a little spark emerges. An idea. A calling. “I’d like to know more about what is happening to me. And I feel inspired to share this journey with others.”

That’s it. That’s the moment you become a teacher.

200 hours of training is not enough time to become a yoga teacher. But from the moment that spark ignites, it is time to nurture the tinder into a delicate flame. That nurturing introduction should be nothing less than an honest exploration into what we, as teachers, can offer in the modern yoga forum…and how…and why. We invite you to join us on that journey. The 2016-17 Luma Yoga Teacher Training starts August 15.