Patrick McCleaf Yoga Teacher Training Graduate

Q: Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes, especially those you feel would be helpful to share with aspiring yoga outreach teachers and yoga therapists?

A: When I began teaching yoga, I would stress about presenting a specific experience to students, and worry afterwards whether or not we had a ‘good’ practice. As I’ve grown as a teacher, a student, and a human, I am learning that the most important practice that we can focus on as teachers is simply to hold the space for our students to engage in their practice. Towards the beginning of class, I always remind students that this is their practice. Not mine. Not their neighbor’s. This is all for you.

As a teacher, the best possible practice that I can engage in is simply to make space, and hold that space open for my students to explore their own practice. They are not there for me. They are there for them. Honor that, and make space for them to have their practice.

Q: What specific communities are you working with and why?
I’ve been blessed by Yoga District with a Yoga for Guys class that currently meets on Thursday nights. I often invite friends to practice with each other in my home, where we hold classes once or twice a week. That group is most, if not all, male as well.

A: I love sharing the practice with ANYONE, but there is a need for the male population to embrace yoga. The practice has empowered me to be strong in my masculinity, without having to make anyone else feel weak. That is powerful and necessary in our culture. Yoga can reconnect men with their true nature. I often tell my students that the practice is not necessarily soft and easy. We come to the mat because we ARE warriors, and yoga IS a battle.

Q: Describe your personal circumstances or experiences that made you want to share yoga with this community.

A: At 20, I was brought to yoga through the front door of physical activity. I needed something to balance out the physical grind that I had put my body through during years of violent sports and vigorous exercise. I needed to counter the stresses of school, work, friends and family. I will forever be grateful that yoga found me.

Q: What advice do you have to other sharing or seeking to share yoga with diverse communities?

A: Everyone can use yoga in their lives. Everyone CAN practice yoga. Every body. Simply make space, let it be about them.

Q: Please describe a challenging moment that you have experienced teaching, how you faced that challenge, and what you learned from it.

A: When I was fairly new to teaching, I had a challenging one-on-one session with a woman who had a prosthetic leg from the knee down. It was just her who had signed up for the all levels flow class. I was unsure of my ability to take us through a practice that would empower her, as I wasn’t sure that I could make my practice fully accessible. I had never had an opportunity to practice with someone with an amputation. I am so grateful for this moment, as her practice was AMAZING. I felt so empowered after sharing 75 minutes of her practice. We spoke for a long time afterwards, and shared a lot about ourselves; so grateful that we were able to make time and space for each other.

Sharing space with her in the studio taught me so much. I learned more from her in that one class as teacher than I could in 10 classes as a student. She turned me on to Matthew Sanford as well, fortifying my claim that yoga is for any body.

Q: What pose or practice do you like to teach to help students feel empowered? To relieve stress? Please describe how you saw this practice work with an individual or group. 

A: To empower students, I enjoy teaching the headstand, or any variation of the headstand where we can go upside down. I love when a student pop’s their head up after a headstand and tells me that they’ve never been able to rise up into it before.

To relieve stress, I enjoy teaching the shoulder stand and half pigeon postures. I spend a little bit more time in these postures to allow students to settle in to their breath and body, and describe witnessing the breath, witnessing the body, and witnessing the physical and mental changes that take place as we’re in these intense, releasing poses. These postures teach us how to observe ourselves, unattached.

Q: Describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice for which your students taught you a practical application.

A: My students have taught me how to back off. An amazing lesson that I continue to learn comes when students back off of a pose, find their own unique modification, or completely skip it to honor their body. I am very competitive with myself, and in the past have fallen into injuries because I did not listen to my body and instead pushed myself into a situation where I sustain an injury. Watching students honor their body, being completely honest with themselves and where they are that day helped me to be more humble with myself, and honest with my own state.

Q: Please describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice that any of your students connect with and why. Have they taught you a practical application for this or any other pose?

A: I remind my students throughout the entire class, from start to finish, to find their breath. I believe that consistently reminding students to listen, feel, and experience their breath during the practice is an amazing gateway for witnessing the body. Personally, this has transferred to my practice off of the mat, where I often find myself watching my breath while going throughout my day. Finding that connection wherever and whenever we are is a powerful practice.

Q: How has sharing yoga affected you?

A: Sharing yoga has taught me to make space for myself, and for others. Yoga has taught me to make space for my thoughts before reacting, to make space for others to be themselves. I am becoming more compassionate, and empathetic. I truly wish us all to be happy and free.

– Namaste

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