Teachers. In real life. Weird huh? It’s funny to me how ten years after leaving school, the thought of seeing Ms. R, my old history teacher, in Sainsbury’s still fills me with wonder. For two years she was a reasonably big part of my life, I saw her three times a week, but other than her views on the Suffragettes and the industrial revolution I knew almost nothing about her.
Now a teacher myself I carry even more curiosity, and a touch of responsibility, towards the student/teacher dynamic. Eckhart Tolle talks in the Power of Now about the conventional roles we can find ourselves trapped in (for example: mother, child, waitress, customer) which all create more barriers and separation from each other. So to break down those barriers, here are some of my dirtiest secrets from my role as yoga teacher:
1) I Don’t Know Much Sanskrit
…and I don’t worry too much about it. Yoga is yoga, the names to me are very low on my priority list. Plus, if Shakespeare wrote, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” I feel like I’m in pretty good company. I love to learn and hate to study. Trying to memorize these super long names doesn’t come naturally to me, although I am working on it.
2) I Worry When You’re Not Here
Of course my rational mind says there are a million different reasons why someone doesn’t make it to class. Still sometimes I worry why you haven’t come. Are you ok? Did something I say or do offend you? Then I remind myself, as Don Miguel Ruiz says in the Four Agreements, not to take it personally. Even if you hate my classes, that’s okay. We all need to find the right teacher for us. I might not be it for you. There are so many different styles and so many different teachers out there. Go find them!
3) Some Days I Just Don’t Want To Teach
Some days I just can’t be bothered. Seriously. I am comfy and enjoying my bed. Sometimes I don’t feel like a yogi; I am stressed, tired and my mind is busy. So I take a deep breath, get myself up, put my warrior hat on and go anyway, and by golly by gosh I am always grateful I did. Through this, I’ve learned to leave your baggage at the door of the studio, and if you must, pick it up again on the way out.
4) Sometimes I’m Unprepared
The saying, “just go with the flow” never rang truer. That sinking feeling of being unprepared sucks but sometimes life gets in the way. That being said, these can be some of my favourite classes. These moments come as a valuable reminder to be in the moment, listen to the vibe of my students and go with that. Okay, I’ll admit something else: I secretly love it.
5) I Often Feel Inadequate
This is a tough one to admit to, but crippling self-doubt rears its ugly head from time to time. Ego whispers to me, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m not very good at this pose and you are being judged.” Often I have students who have practised much longer than I have, sometimes even longer than I’ve been alive. To that I say, “Great!” I am grateful to have a space where we can practice together and where I can guide you. Even in a class, we are our own teachers and truly the breath is the real teacher.
6) I Find It Funny When Someone Farts
Because I’ve been there too. It’s all about letting go, right?
7) My Āsana Demonstrations Aren’t Very Good
I often wake up and find my body doesn’t want to do forward bend with straight legs. Sometimes I am a toppling tree. So, I humbly accept my limitations. I listen to my body and work on treating it with kindness and tenderness. I am thankful for body and where it is at today. It has carried me all the way through life to this moment. My aim is to encourage you to do the same.
8) I Forget What Comes Next
All. The. Time. We’ve just finished a long complex flowing sun salutation leading with the right leg. How did we start it again?
9) I Get Distracted
Oftentimes in class you’ll hear something like, “let go of any distractions and bring your focus to the breath.” I know because I say it, but sometimes I haven’t let go of distraction in my own mind and now it’s thinking about where I need to be after this, or anything else niggling at me that particular day. However, as soon as I realise, I remind myself with patience and love where my attention needs to be (on the breath) and bring it back there.
While we are on the subject of getting distracted…
10) I Lose Track Of Time
Have you ever had that moment in Half-Pigeon Pose when all you can think is, “When is this going to be over? I can’t hold this any longer!” Sometimes, just sometimes, I forget to guide you out of the pose. I might be busy helping someone adjust, so you end up holding the pose longer on the left than we do one the right. This isn’t an excuse, but remember, this is your class. Do what feels right in your body. Stop. Change positions. Take child’s pose.
A teacher once told me, the pose begins the moment you feel like you want to leave it. There is so much value to that idea, but never forget that the golden rule that if something doesn’t feel right in your body, don’t do it! Treat everything as an opportunity to grow. Maybe see how it feels to go beyond your comfort zone. How does it feel to hold the pose longer than you normally would? What thoughts keep popping up? Are you holding on to anything unnecessarily? Is your focus with the breath?
That Felt Good
To do whatever is required of you in any situation without it becoming a role that you identify with is an essential lesson in the art of living that each one of us is here to learn.
~ Eckhart Tolle
There we have it. A yoga teacher; a student; a human being. Has anything surprised you? As with any job, we can waste so much energy trying to fit into our idea of what we think is expected of us. Now it’s your turn! Let’s call the comments section of this post, “Confessions of A Zen Monkey Yogi” and share with me your best confessions from your mat!