On the Mat: Journey with the Teacher, Part III


Have you been following the journey so far?

Check out Part I, the story of my very first yoga class experience, and Part II, making the connection between yoga and dance.

Part III shares why teaching became central to my professional life. I also reflect on how my time “on the mat” continuously sharpens my teaching skills in all disciplines.

To read more specifically about my work with Mind Body Dancer, check out the feature article highlighting us in Dance Teacher Magazine’s August issue!


Why I Teach

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

I have always loved school and the classroom experience. My parents were my first teachers, and both of them had professional careers in teaching. It would appear they succeeded in passing on the teaching instinct.

I also admired many of my teachers in school and dance. The good ones were organized and clear, and I relished how lessons would build week to week. The best ones were genuinely interested in their material. They were able to create connections between the subject they were teaching and other disciplines or viewpoints.

The teachers that changed my life were both rebellious and egoless.  They looked at me as an individual mind and carved out unique pathways to share knowledge with me. Those special teachers were also artists. As in Einstein’s quote above, they expertly wielded the tools of creative thinking, mindful communication, and generosity to awaken the perpetual student and eventual teacher in me. They inspired my desire to want to know more on my own. I am eternally grateful to them; they ignited a fire in me that still burns bright and is central to all of my professional activities.

It appears the answer to the question of why I teach might be simple: I love to learn. To me, the door into the worlds of teaching and learning is a shared, revolving one.


How Time “On the Mat” Enhances the Teaching Experience

By the time I started practicing yoga, I had already been teaching dance for a few years. I did not begin my first yoga class with the intention of becoming a yoga teacher. In fact, I studied yoga for nearly seven years before the thought ever crossed my mind.  It was clear that authenticity as a yoga practitioner required a lifelong commitment and ongoing study. It was perfect for me! Developing a strong foundation was essential. It was my fiery passion as a student of the practice that directed me into a learning pathway that led me even deeper.  To this day, I commit to being a student of the practice each time I come to the mat.

I began to notice that the yoga practice quickly became the key to surpassing some of the obstacles that presented themselves in my early teaching years. I was amazed at how the life practices presented to me and pursued on the mat could bring added insight and responsibility to my role as a teacher. My yoga practice provides a framework as I continuously work on effectively communicating and handling the dynamic classroom environment with grace. Below are three key lessons my practice continues to teach me:

  • Yoga is challenging and changing. My time “on the mat” reinforces the patience, focus, and awareness to meet each student where they are.

Each student presents me with a new challenge. With each class I teach, I receive an additional opportunity to go deeper into my own research to effectively communicate with them.  I seek specific language, experiences, and unique methods to unlock their pathways of learning.

  • Yoga is about meeting your edge, knowing when to push on and when to pull back or try another way. My time “on the mat” cultivates fearlessness and letting go in the classroom.

As an artist, I teach because each lesson is a chance to be creative. Keeping material fresh and inspired is a daily responsibility that requires discipline and energy.  I enjoy watching how factors of the seasons, student interests and backgrounds, and environment alter the material and force me to rethink my approach in the classroom.

  • Yoga is about discovering truth in our selves. My time “on the mat” invites me to honor my pathway and express gratitude.

Teaching is not a glamorous profession.  It is exhausting and demanding. But, I wake up each and every day grateful to be on this path. I am grateful to my parents and all teachers and students, past and present, for inspiring me to do this work.

My central intention as a teacher is not so different from what Einstein suggests for all teachers, “…to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”   I personally believe we have a daily opportunity to learn from and teach one another. With the right guides and our own passion for knowledge, we all can pass through the revolving door of teaching and learning with boundless curiosity again and again.


TaraMarie Perri

– photo credit: Sophie Kuller

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