Teacher Feature; Rita Derkin
I first began practicing yoga as a young kid,” she says, “My grandmother bought me a book about yoga at a garage sale or something, and I was immediately intrigued. However, it wasn’t until I was about nineteen years old and emerging from an adolescence of feeling very disconnected from my body that I began practicing regularly at a studio. Karin Charuz, my first teacher and now a good friend, was my initial spark of inspiration and insight into the potentials of yoga, and I will always be grateful for this pivotal role she played at the start of my path.”
In time, yoga became a necessary practice for Rita. After two or three years of regular practice and becoming more comfortable in her body, Rita decided to go another step further. “As I became more and more comfortable with the physical aspects of the practice – the body getting stronger and more flexible, the breath getting deeper and the mind calmer – I became after of the more subtle yet most powerful effects that the practice was having on my psyche,” says Rita, “The assumed disconnect that I had felt between my mind and body began to dissipate and over time, I began to feel an incredible sense of freedom. Inspiring by own teachers, I wondered if I could guide others down this same path of reclamation and self empowerment through yoga. With this in mind, as well as the intention to deepen my own practice and knowledge, I applied for the teacher training program at Yoga Tree.”
And Yoga Tree welcomed Rita with open arms! “I had the privilege of learning from Jason Lu, Karin Charuz, Matthew Remski, Mary Foran, Elysia Baldassarra and other teachers who broadened by understanding of both what yoga is and what being a teacher could be. I completed the program as a one month intensive and by the end of it, I felt like both my practice and my confidence to teach strengthened greatly. It was during this experience when I began to feel like becoming a teacher was my path in life and my focus changed. Everything became about becoming the clearest transmitter of this healing practice that I could be for others.”
Rita sees teaching at Yoga Tree as an incredible gift and a process that has helped her transform as a yoga teacher. ” I feel a much greater awareness in my own practice after leading others through theirs – watching my students encourages me to be more patient and compassionate with myself,” she says, “The sense of unity that emerges during a class reminds me of the inherent commonalities that exist at the most basic level between all human beings. Each time a class ends, I bow my head in gratitude for both my students and this studio which has, and continues, to facilitate growth for me in so many ways.”
When working with beginners, Rita has a few words of advice to offer. “Whenever I meet someone who is just starting their yoga practice, I think of the words of Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki: ‘If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind, there are few.’ Come to yoga with an openness to something new and the fluidity to change, and you will flourish. I would also emphasize the importance of shifting away from the “aesthetic” aspects of yoga, such as difficult postures and hyper flexibility (which come with time), to the “therapeutic” aspects which begin from your very first class. Focus on how you feel during and after your practice, be patient and practice as regularly as possible (even if that means once a week!) Yoga is truly for everyone, so find a teacher who you connect with and who makes you feel accepted.”
Choosing a favorite asana is difficult for Rita, and it has changed over the years, and they have changed for different reasons: “Sometimes because the stretch felt so good, other times because the pose looked difficult to do and there I was, doing it,” says Rita, “However, at this point, my favourite pose is Tadasana or “Mountain Pose.” It is my favourite because of how seemingly simple and easy it looks and yet how challenging it can be. To take that still standing posture midway through a flowing practice, without shifting around or adjusting clothing or stance is often much harder than it seems. With the body still, the gaze soft, and the feet grounded, suddenly there is a profound connection with the heart beat and the breath. It is a moment of repose and stillness that is so necessary for most humans in our society who move at a speeding pace throughout most of their daily lives.”
Treat yourself to one of Rita’s astonishing practices at our Midtown or Downtown location! Namaste!