“Very good is the enemy of great. You think great is right next door. It’s not. It’s in another country.” — Bono, lead singer, U2
When I signed up for my sixth yoga teacher training with Lillah Schwarz in Asheville, North Carolina, my mother said to me, “Why are you studying more yoga? Don’t you know enough about that already? Why don’t you study something else?”
This was a series of rhetorical questions.
I protested by pointing out all the other subjects I had taken courses about in the past year alone – quantum physics, money, relationships, body work, natural vision improvement and business. None of this impressed my mother. She wanted to understand why I would be wasting my time studying more yoga.
If you were a wine connoisseur, no doubt you would spend a lot of time inquiring about grapes, vintages, history and regions of the world where you can taste the real thing for yourself. You would read about it, drink it, visit the wine cellars and talk to the people who make it.
It takes time to become an aficionado.
No doubt after awhile you would be able to have a very educated palate and make discriminating choices.
I have taken five other teacher trainings, and enjoyed them at the time for what they were worth. Atlanta Yoga Fellowship: I got my feet wet, but felt like so much was missing. White Lotus Foundation: Loved being in the fresh air of California. Integrative Yoga Therapy: I felt like I was going in the right direction, getting my feet wet with the healing aspects of yoga. Erich Schiffman, in Santa Monica and then years later with Erich again in Los Angeles: Loved Erich’s Freedom yoga, which empowered me to take my creativity into my yoga teaching and practice as I am an incurably creative individual.
This sixth yoga teacher training with Lillah Schwarz is the best yet by far and puts all the other yoga teacher trainings I have taken so far to shame. It is the most in-depth. 500 hours. At least nine months of seminars, not counting all our homework, papers and practice. Giving everybody time to process the material, integrate the information into our bodies and learn a new way of thinking, this is the bomb.
The fact that the other teachers in the room with me are from Mexico, France, Buffalo, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and many other far-flung locations, I would say that I am in a room full of aficionados.
One of my favorite quotes about excellence is from Bono, the front man of the group U2. He once said, “The difference between good and great is another country.”
Excellence is in a whole other territory. It’s not even in the same region as mere competence.
Most of the time you have to pass through competence to get to excellence, or even to recognize the difference between the real thing and cheap imitations.
The U.S. is flooded with yoga teacher training programs. I think that is because the only way many yoga studios can stay afloat is by charging large sums for teacher training programs. I personally have known practitioners who went bankrupt running a yoga studio. It’s not just that business wasn’t their forte. They just can’t make enough money to cover their overhead simply by teaching classes.
I know of practitioners who have 10 percent of the experience I have teaching and practicing yoga who have started their own yoga teacher training program.
It’s all great and wonderful to be producing all these yogis until you hear about people who get injured.
One of my good friends has gone to different classes at several yoga studios and hurt his back with various teachers, all of whom were certified yoga teachers. At the time, he has told me, it didn’t seem they were doing anything fancy or challenging, but the net effect was that he ended up in worse pain than when he got there.
My friend has never hurt after coming to any of my classes – he just feels better and better and comes away with a deeper understanding about how to make his body work to his liking.
I have studied with my mentor in healing, Sue Maes, for so many years that both of us can no longer really remember at what point I started. Sue is humble enough that many years ago she said we had to stop being teacher and student, we are now equals. I keep studying healing work not only with Sue but with other excellent practitioners at every opportunity.
To me, learning is not just about assimilating information, it’s about taking on a whole new thought process.
People who are genius-level practitioners think differently than the ones who are just trying to pay the bills.
Sitting in my yoga teacher training with Lillah, who lives in this whole other country called excellence, I have been wondering how long it will take me to be able to think the way she does.
Lillah has even said it straight out: “I want you to be able to think the way that I do.”
I have practiced headstand for many years. Like many people, it took me about nine months to get over my fear of going upside down, but now I absolutely love it.
In the photo above, Lillah is instructing me how to place my head in the exact spot to keep my neck from getting compressed, and how to press down with my arms to lengthen my neck.
The difference between a few millimeters in the body can be the difference between many visits to the chiropractor and a strong, stable neck and being able to stay in a pose long enough to reap the benefits.
If you don’t get your head in the correct position in headstand, you can reverse your cervical curve.
Since literally all the nerves in your body pass through your neck area, it’s important to get this exactly right.
Do your headstand properly and you earn the following benefits:
Stronger upper body
Healing the pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the endocrine system
Balances the pineal gland, which is responsible for melatonin production and sleep
Improves your brain functions
Improves lymphatic flow, which helps your detoxification
Natural facelift, alleviating wrinkles
Relieves stress and depression
Reduces production of cortisol, the stress hormone
Heals varicose veins
Releases endorphins, which makes you feel happy
Improves heart function
Improves concentration and balance
Strengthens your immune system
Promotes good posture
Improves circulation of your blood
Allows you to overcome fear
Gives you a whole new perspective on life, literally, since you are upside down
When you learn how to get your head on straight, literally and figuratively, whether you are upside down or standing on your own two feet, you can find your own way from competence to excellence.
It really helps to start by working with excellent practitioners in the first place.
Even if you yourself are not an expert, give yourself permission to find the ones who are. You will save yourself a whole lot of time and money and get to your solution much more quickly.