The Importance of having a Mentor
Yogini, poet, teacher, musician, mentor … Rachel Zinman is many things, one of which I am blessed to say, is a close friend of mine. We met in 2004, during my Yoga Arts Teacher training. It was an instant connection and I immediately knew that this was going to be an eternal relationship. Since then, she has been an amazing inspiration to me in both my yoga practice and my teaching, as well as in my personal life.
With yoga becoming so mainstream and as its essence slowly dissolves, I truly believe that it is important to have an experienced, traditional practitioner guide and support you. For me, this is Rachel. She lives authentically, with a deep passion for yoga and is not afraid to dive into those fragile conversations.
Here, we discuss the importance of having such a guiding light in your life.
Q: What does mentorship mean to you?
Mentorship is all about supporting and guiding someone to feel completely confident in what they are offering as a teacher. It’s sharing my own experience, knowledge and understanding of the craft of teaching
Q: Do you have a mentor?
Yes. When I was in NYC, I mentored with Alan Finger for four and a half years. At the time his mentorship was hugely supportive. I learned so many things, meditation, breathing, the inner workings of the Tantric tools of mantra and yantra, plus how to work with subtle energy through marma point therapy. I also learned how to work with people; how to be sensitive to their needs.
Q: Is it important to have a mentor, or only when you feel it’s needed at different stages of your teaching?
As a yoga teacher you want to have someone who’s walked a well-worn path and can point out all the sights. Being able to ask someone about the physical postures and how to help others is important, as is having answers to your deeper questions. Not all mentors are capable of that. They have to have studied more than just asana; they have to have a deep spirit of enquiry in their own practice.
I don’t think it’s about different stages because we can never stop learning. The right mentor has a proven track record and keeps improving their practice and understanding. There’s always something new to be learned. When I left NYC, my mentorship with Alan continued for the next five years. After that my interest and exploration led me to Vedanta and a new mentor.
Q: As a mentor yourself how do you navigate this relationship?
If someone asks me for support, I’m available. So many of the teachers I’ve trained live all over the world, so I offer email support or Skype sessions. If they live in the area, I offer as much face-to-face support as I can. Inviting them to assist on retreats, in classes and if I have time one-on-one sessions. What I’ve found over the years is that people who are really dedicated not only to teaching, but also to their own practice, approach me and ask for support. It’s all up to them.
Q: Do the lines of this relationship get blurred sometimes? If so, how do you manage this?
That’s an interesting question. So many students end up being friends that yes the lines do get blurred. I’m learning when to say no. Especially when it’s not yoga related. It’s not really my job to rescue anyone on a personal level. It’s so important for the person to take responsibility. When I was younger I expected Alan to rescue me from myself. He just wouldn’t do it. That was hard at times; it was definitely tough love. I’m such a softie and I care so much I find it hard to be like that. But as I mature in my own understanding of Yoga, I see it’s necessary not to just give and give. If you help someone through everything they’ll never develop the confidence to fly.
Being mentored is an opportunity to develop your gifts and strengths. You can always go back and double check with your teacher if you’re not sure of something, but eventually it will be your turn to pay it forward.
For more on Rachel see http://www.rachelzinmanyoga.com