Teacher Training with Tim

It was a subtle transformation of perspective. I didn’t shave my head, adopt a Sanskrit name, or sit in a Himalayan cave. I gathered along with 24 other yoga teachers at Tim Miller’s modern studio in a suburban California shopping mall where Tim taught us by his own example that as yogis we should be ourselves.

The training reminded me that yoga goes beyond culture and ethnicity.  “Yoga is universal knowledge” said Pattabhi Jois.  Although it has been exceedingly helpful in my study of yoga to have lived in India, the practice itself has taught me that yoga is applicable to any culture from Turkish to Taiwanese.

Tim loves to quote his guru’s now famous one-liners, and he does so in his effective delivery of a thoughtful and digestible teaching of yoga. He has a gift for transmitting the teaching of yoga as a familiar and natural way of being.

In the training I was really impressed by how Tim showed no signs of straining or even striving to be anything other than what he is. His unassuming, accepting, patient and compassionate manner really drew me in.  It was clear that he wasn’t trying to wow anybody by demonstrating fancy ‘show poses’, stylized chanting, or power trips. To me he radiated a very pure intention of a guy who had dedicated his life to practicing and teaching and carrying on the tradition of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga.

The power of the experience for me was in feeling Tim’s dedication and then letting myself open up to the possibility of devotion and surrender. I have reflected on how Tim took the leap of faith as a young man when he got hooked for life in his very first Ashtanga class, then met Pattabhi Jois and learned to surrender his own ego and attachment to bow to the feet of his guru.

The lore in the Ashtanga circles is that the advanced series cultivate humility in the practitioner. I don’t know what Tim was like before he started Ashtanga, but his presence these days is very convincing evidence that humility is possible.

Tim has done the work – more than 30 years of rising early, breathing deep, stretching and bending a bit further, holding the breath a bit longer…, reading, studying and memorizing Sanskrit, making the trips to India, all that…

In 1976(?), he became the first teacher certified by Pattabhi Jois, back when I (and, as a matter of fact, my teacher Sharath) were still school boys. For many years, he taught in a now legendary Encinitas church recreation hall, where he hosted Pattabhi Jois many times. He served in the very modest role of yoga teacher back then when yoga was still a hippie thing in the West. Since then, many of his students have matured into life-long practitioners and gifted senior teachers.

The kicker is that with all this, Tim seems like such a ‘normal’ guy. At 61 years old, Tim is still a dedicated practitioner, and incredibly steady in his role as both local and traveling teacher.  His soft-spoken tone, distinctly ape-like gate (incredible apana;-), matter-of-fact expression of the subtleties of yoga, even the occasional tear of devotion in his eye – all make Timji someone whose presence in the world helps me to keep going…

Since the training, I have seen Tim in Mysore a couple of times.  One time while he was practicing in the back row among the boom of the rising Ashtanga generations. When we gathered in Mysore to say good-bye to our Guru after the passing of Pattabhi Jois in 2009, Tim was there along with many others the Indians fondly call ‘old students’.

Tim’s natural reassurance, sense of humor, and sincere well-being are such a boon for us trying to embody this subtle and elusive prize called yoga. He gives me inspiration to keep doing my practice, self-inquiry, and ‘offering’ of both my challenges and rewards to the divine. In that way, yoga comes to us when instead of trying to become anyone else, we simply become our best selves.

Tim offers this training every summer as well as daily classes throughout the year at his studio in Encinitas. He will be teaching at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence next spring in San Diego.


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