Apr 18, 2013

5 Things I Learned from Teaching Yoga Besides "Yoga"

Since Bikram Yoga is the same 26 postures every class, and I practiced about six days a week for a little over a year before I arrived at Teacher Training, I assumed pssssh I know these postures soo well! I therefore assumed that teaching them would be easy. I would naturally be a knowledgeable, confident, and loving yoga teacher...

Then why did I find myself a few months into my new career getting asked questions I had no idea the answers to, feel like I wanted to cry when people looked sad while practicing, and feel frustration towards people who appeared not to be listening to my instructions?

Through teaching hundreds of classes to hundreds of bodies and abilities, traveling to studios and seminars, and researching and discussing the postures, my knowledge of the postures certainly deepened to a new level.

Meanwhile, I was learning so much more than physical postures. Here are the main things, of which I hold just as important to teaching as the knowledge about yoga postures.

1. Kindness. Realizing all the different kinds of people in this world, and how many of them are suffering, was sad and overwhelming at first. It is my purpose to share this yoga with them and I found how to recognize the good in each person, regardless of past judgements or of their behavior.

2. Sympathy. Before, I only knew the postures for one body, mine, but you can't teach to your own body. I realized that certain instructions that once helped me may be ineffective to the class. Having never experienced injury myself, it was difficult to understand why a student would not take my instruction. When my dad's arthritis prevented him from doing several postures fully, I understood that students have so many things going on in their body and that I needed to recognize that, not resent it.

3. Tolerance - There are certain aspects of yoga that students aren't ready to address. I learned not to let students' bad habits steal my peace as a teacher or steal my energy from the rest of the class. Taking a moment to think back to my early practice, I suddenly remembered that I also did some wacky stuff in class that I was not yet ready to detach from. I realized that acting like a drill sergeant was not the environment I wanted to create. The fact that we are all here trying yoga is all that matters.

4. Gratitude. I am thankful for my practice and I am thankful for yours. No. Matter. What.  Even if a student is difficult to "tolerate," no, especially when they are, the bottom line is, I'm glad you're here, I'll see you tomorrow.

5. EGO. Who knew that even with a history of low self-confidence I could have such a big ego? The way that students practice is not always about the teacher. So, why would I take personal offense? I have no idea what their day was like, what is happening at home, and what is going on in their body and in their mind. Taking offense or feeling ignored as a teacher is the ego responding; their behavior may have nothing to do with me. Teaching is a humbling experience. Sometimes I can recognize the presence of my ego but not always. Knowing this, I try to surround myself with more experienced teachers, to remind myself that I don't know all the answers.

When I say that this is what I learned besides yoga, I now realize that this is yoga. Yes, those who study yoga know that is not only asanas or physical practice. But I had no idea I would explore the rest by means of teaching. I practice these five things inside the yoga room but more importantly, outside the room as well.

Many of us try yoga to free our bodies from discomfort, and for health and fitness, but find that we learn to free our minds and open our hearts.


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