Being here in Southern California, we hope we can beg your forgiveness that Tim Miller is the Confluence teacher we’ve not only had the most contact with — but so have our friends. Here’s a piece we ran from Ashtanga teacher Maria Zavala. She will be among the assistants at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence. Find out more at her website: http://mariazavala.com/
I had been practicing yoga for a couple of years when my path crossed Tim Miller’s in Chicago. I had been taking Vinyasa classes with my friend, Daren Friesen, who now owns Moksha Yoga. I was a faithful student of yoga, mainly Iyengar, but needed something more. I had taken some Ashtanga classes, but it was quite challenging practicing Ashtanga in those days – back in 1996 in Chicago, no one was really teaching it on a consistent basis. Combining breath with movement along with the dynamic flow of these classes offered a fun challenge for me that Iyengar didn’t.
At the time, Daren had been hosting Ashtanga teachers from around the country for special workshops, but I always seemed to be out of town when they were being held. On this particular occasion, I had just come back from a trip. After class, Daren mentioned that Tim Miller was in town, and I should take the last day of his workshop.
I had no idea who Tim was at the time. I was very new to yoga, only practicing 2 years, and my life was very busy with world travel, a lustrous career in hairdressing, socializing, etc. I was in my mid-20s, and thoroughly enjoying life. Yoga was just becoming a part of it. I’m not sure if it was the tone of Daren’s voice when he mentioned the workshop, or that he seemed to be telling me to take the workshop rather than asking.
I chose to participate.
I showed up the next day for Led Primary Series. I realized that many of the students were from other states, not just local folks. I started thinking this guy must be pretty special for so many to make the trek to see him. It didn’t take long to realize that I was in the presence of greatness. Now, I don’t want to put Tim on a pedestal, but let me tell you, I knew he was the real deal by the way he conducted the class. A focused, disciplined, traditional class with the Sanskrit counts, coupled with his dry sense of humor, which I learned to appreciate as I got to know him better. This was part of his way to make you realize that “all is coming” if you practice diligently.
Later that day, Tim conducted his “Yoga Asana Doctor” session during which students ask a question and he answers by having them come up and demonstrate the pose, dissecting it anatomically. I had a question concerning Parivirrta Trikonasana. At the time, it was an awkward, uncomfortable pose for me as my hips were tight and not cooperating in the pose. I have to admit, part of the reason I asked about this pose was I wanted an adjustment from him, as I hadn’t received one in the led class. For those who have studied with Tim, you might be familiar with this famous adjustment. It’s more like a chiropractic adjustment than anything else, and it’s heavenly.
Little did I know at the time that I took this workshop with Tim that the stage was being set for something bigger not too far in the future for me. I was blessed on this occasion to be invited to share the rest of Tim’s stay with Daren, Tim and a few folks who were close with Tim, including Jodi Blumstein. There was a special dinner and the honor (though at the time, I was still a bit oblivious to my great fortune) of being part of a small group that did self-practice with Tim in Daren’s apartment the next day before Tim left town. It was awesome.
Fast forward five years later. I had by then become a serious Ashtanga student, spending two summers in Crete, Greece practicing with Derek Ireland and Rhada. Jodi was teaching Ashtanga in Chicago and I would alternate taking classes with her, self-practice, and taking class with Quinn Kearney, who was teaching at Moksha at the time.
By now I had been immersed in the practice long enough to realize that the frigid Chicago weather was detrimental to my practice – there were many times that I would walk in knee deep snow for a quarter mile or so just to get to class on an early Sunday morning. It would take me the first 40 minutes to practice just to thaw out. I not only felt the need to study with a senior teacher, who was directly linked to the source of Ashtanga in India – Pattabhi Jois – I needed to get to a warm environment, fast!
I immediately thought of Tim in Encinitas and knew instinctively that I needed to move there. And by now, I knew that teaching yoga was going to be my path. (Had someone told me five years earlier that one day I would be teaching yoga, I would have laughed. It seemed so unlikely at the time that I would be a yoga teacher.)
Looking back at this time, I feel that yoga chose me to teach rather than my doing the choosing. I ended up staying in Encinitas for eight years, studying with Tim, participating in his two Teacher Trainings, assisting him in class, and teaching at his Shala. I never got the chance to travel to India, (that’s another long story), but I felt so connected to Mysore because of Tim’s connection to Guruji and his closeness to him.
Studying with Tim is so special. He brings so much knowledge, love and devotion to the practice. Hearing him recount story after story from The Mahabharata during his Improv class. Kirtan chanting on Thursday mornings after Pranayama. His thorough knowledge of Yoga Philosophy imparted in such a way to make it interesting and practicable to our own lives now. . In teacher trainings the countless stories about Guruji. It was more than evident how close Tim was to Guruji by hearing the stories and how much of a presence he was in Tim’s life.
I’m very thankful to have Tim in my life as my teacher. Out of everything I learned from him, I feel the most valuable lessons were gained by his example; being there for his students on a daily basis, even after just returning from a long trip of teaching; he would be in the Mysore room the very next day, 6 a.m. sharp for Pranyama and teaching his full schedule without even a day to rest from his travels.
I’ve always been quite impressed by this, as it’s not an easy task. Tim has always said he learned his work ethic from Guruji – always being there for your students and teaching. Selfless devotion to this practice and to students. That is part of the path of a true teacher.
Posted by Steve