We sat down to chat with Mariel Witmond, a beloved teacher here at The Power Yoga Company. Mariel crafts beautiful dance-like creative sequences for her classes. We wanted to know all about her inspirations and intentions.
Hi Mariel! Thank you for stopping to talk.
Thank you for inviting me.
So, why do you think creative sequencing is important?
I think part of the reason I love creative sequences is that quite often with yoga we can fall into habits – which is what I think is what we do in our day to day lives quite comfortably. So, when you know what’s coming you can get a little bit lazy. The mind can wander. You stop really thinking about the poses as much because you can now sit in them quite comfortably.
Whereas when you have a creative sequence, you’re constantly being challenged to pay attention. I think for a lot of people that can be quite hard because we’re so controlling. Letting go of that control and allowing someone else to guide you can be great.
I always start and finish my classes with students lying down. I do it because I want people to see the difference between what it’s like to come into a class with all the baggage that we carry and how hard it is for us to let go of control. To really connect with who we are, and what we want, and to finish a class exhausted. But in a good way – having worked with your body, worked with your breath.
There’s almost this euphoria that you get at the end of class. I think that’s why sometimes people cry, because you finally let go and things release. It’s incredibly liberating and beautiful and I think the more that we move, the more creative we can be, the more that you loosen up that control.
I think control can be challenging for us; we live very controlling lives. That’s one of the biggest things that yoga has done for me is just broken down a lot of those walls, for me to face myself, for me to face things that I didn’t realise I was capable of. At the end of the day, to realise that the only one setting limits is ourselves.
One of the common challenges that crops up linked to control is self-consciousness. How do you approach that as a teacher?
A lot of times we assume that people are judging us, we assume that they’re looking at us when in reality it has nothing to do with us: we’re all in our little worlds. I love the quote that says everyone’s dealing with their own personal conflict. Be kinder than necessary, because we’re all fighting our own battles.
And as a teacher you have to find your authentic voice. Some people will love it, some people will hate it; it has nothing to do with you as a person. So it took me a while. It took a lot of personal management. But I was forced to face these things head on and they changed my life.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still nervous before every class I teach. Mondays are my scariest class as it’s always a new sequence and I never know how it’s going to go down. But I like that fear because I feel like our fears can guide us. The more scared we are to do something, it’s probably because we care about it that little bit more. So having fear before I teach a class is a good sign that I’m still invested, that I still care about the kind of class that I teach and the intention that I put into that class.
I now have peace of mind – I feel proud of the classes I teach. I put my heart and soul into it and some people respond to it and some people might not. But then you attract your tribe. It’s like that in life as well, I think. People are drawn to the kind of person that you are and I think that with students that plays a big part. I think if you find a very like-minded teacher, someone you feel you can connect with, you’ll always stick with that teacher.
Do you find opportunities to share that with your students in class? To help them not be self-conscious?
I’ll definitely try my best to find moments. The things that resonate with me at a specific time: I’ll try to draw them into specific points in the class. Usually towards the end as I’m transitioning into stretches there’ll be a moment where I keep people in child’s pose. I really try to focus in that particular moment on remind people that we can control our thoughts. It’s one of the few things that we can actually – if we can become aware of them and pay attention – use to draw ourselves into more positive places.
I think the biggest message is recognising that yoga’s a journey for all of us. None of us have it all figured out; we all started somewhere, which is the same thing in life. If someone else is doing it, then that’s just a sign that you can do it too. That should be motivation. I think one of the most inspiring things that I was ever taught: comparison and jealousy are an absolute waste of time.
Comparison and jealousy will always hold you back, will keep you small, will make you feel like you’re not good enough. Whereas if you look with inspiration, with motivation, that gives you drive, that makes you accomplish what other people are accomplishing if that’s what you want to do.
I think that for me was huge: to be able to admire people. Because it also changes your relationship with them, as opposed to being one of animosity or jealousy. You can connect with some phenomenal people and that is inspiring.
That’s a beautiful sentiment, Mariel. Thank you for sharing that with us.
You’re so welcome.