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Monday, February 24, 2014

What Teaching Has Taught Me

To Be Present:  Every time I practice yoga, I try to quiet my thoughts, but if my mind wanders to the fact that I need a pedicure, nothing bad happens.  Krishnamacharya doesn't miraculously appear and smack my wrist with a ruler.  However, if my mind were to drift while teaching, that would be bad.  I could potentially forget my sequence and leave my students hanging...maybe upside down.  Realizing my ability to be present for my students has translated into a stronger capacity to be present for myself.

To Be Myself:  I used to get really blue when someone didn't love my class, laugh at my joke, or enjoy the songs I played.  These days, I don't sweat it.  It's impossible for everyone to like everything I do.  Being a teacher isn't about being liked anyway; it's about challenging my students to move and think differently.  One of my teachers once told me that we practice for our students and we teach for ourselves.  I didn't understand this at first, but now I know it to be totally true.  I remain always a student so that I can stay inspired, but when it comes to planning a class, I can only teach what I know, what I love, and what makes sense to me.  The only option is to be authentic, and the rest will fall into place.

Sometimes People Are Mean,  and They Really Need Your Love:  People have walked out of my class, rolled their eyes at my dharma talks, scoffed when I suggest they use a block.  When I was a nervous substitute teacher, I walked into some less then welcoming rooms.  Just because people have made it to yoga class doesn't mean they are instantly healed; they may in fact need healing more than ever.  People hurt; they suffer, and it's my job not to take anything personally.  I'm just learning how to do that.  The answer is Love.  When a student challenges me, I don't lash out, nor do I ignore him/her for the remainder of class.  I give these students my best hands on adjustments, my most heart-felt smiles; I send them every ounce of love in my heart.  They visibly soften, and  I'm no longer offended or hurt.  I'm untouched like the Lotus.

The Lotus Flower is a powerful symbol in yoga; it represents a state we all wish to embody, one of resilience.  Its petals are waxy to the touch, and when raindrops fall on the flower, they roll right off, leaving the lotus unaffected and unharmed.

It is My Intention to Guide Not To Fix:  I used to be a little obsessive in the classroom; I tried to fix every tense shoulder in Warrior I, every improper chaturanga, every turned out foot in uttanasana... let me tell you, it's exhausting... and impossible.  With twenty or more students in a class, you simply can't perfect everyone's form, nor should you try.  I thought this need to correct every little thing was my attempt to be the best teacher I could be, an instinct to protect my students from injuries that I myself had sustained.  In reality, I was attempting to control and rush a process that is meant to evolve over time with patience, discipline, and sometimes boo boos.  In her book  Living Your Yoga (I really love this book ), Judith Lasater asks teachers if we view our students as a reflection of our teaching?  Oh my god... yes Judith, I do that.  I had been projecting the impossible standards I'd always set for myself onto my students.  Once I recognized the reason for my obsessiveness, I was able to let go a lot.  Today I give my students the space to make mistakes; I give myself the same freedom as well, and it feels really good.  There's no rushing yoga.  It's a practice with no finish line, no black belt to earn, no gold medal to win.  My students and myself have our whole lives to master our cobras.

If my yoga practice is a polite suggestion that I should become more self aware, then my job as a teacher is an outspoken demand, forcing me to learn about myself and the world around me every day.  I'm grateful for this job;  I love this job...even if most nights I look like this.

 this is not a reenactment.  my husband actually found me like this.  i assure you, the drool mark on the comforter is substantial.

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