Teaching in Yoga studios for the past five years has been some of the most rewarding and mind numbing, exhilarating and heartbreaking work of my life. It certainly hasn’t been all good vibes and positivity. Simply put, it’s complicated.
My relationship with Yoga, as a practice and a lifestyle, on the other hand continues to unfold simply and beautifully and right on time.
So, why has teaching provided such a different lens? Who knows? But here are a couple of stories I can share. There might be an answer somewhere in there. Maybe, not.
When It’s Complicated
As a teacher I am subject to feedback from students who are also going on their own yoga journeys. It’s important to stay open to their experience and the after class communication of their experience - which is sort of like making a copy of a copy.
Not so long ago I received third-party feedback about a woman’s experience in my class. The feedback she left mentioned nothing of my sequence or how well she physically enjoyed class. It was all about me. Long story short, she didn’t like me. Even after thousands of classes taught, receiving news like this wasn’t any easier. Worst of all, I couldn’t even picture this woman’s face. Maybe she really was ignored! Perhaps I was aloof. Am I distant and cold towards my students? I started to turn on myself.
Then, I considered the system of communication. This woman was not speaking directly to me. She was typing in a box about me and sending it to the internet. It was her singular experience as she felt it was. Who could argue with that? It was her truth in that moment. But, was it Truth with a capital ‘T’? There was no face-to-face relay of this information and much of what she offered was assumption for how she thought I was feeling in that moment.
This made things even more complicated for me. When my knee jerk reaction was to blame myself things were easy. ‘I’m a sh*tty teacher. That’s it’
But, that wasn’t it.
This woman didn’t know that when she referenced the attention I paid to a young man at the front desk (a face I can picture vividly) she made assumptions about why I was talking to him for so long. Her assumptions, well, they were way off base.This young man was in need of connection too and sought it out at the front desk. This young man had been candid with me a couple weeks before about his struggle with depression and anger and how much yoga was helping. And, while I’m not a therapist, I know from past struggles with my own mental health how beneficial it can be to just have someone listen to your story without offering advice or critique.
So I chose to listen to him. All the while, she was feeling ignored, unseen, unheard.
I’m not sure how to reconcile my frustration with her for so badly misconstruing the situation other than to empathize because I to, in all my humanness, am not omniscient. I am not all-knowing and can easily be led to assumption.
I have to have compassion for myself in order to have compassion for her, even while the words she wrote stung.
I wish I could say to her, “I see you.”
But the truth is, I didn’t. I don’t see everything.
When It’s Simple.
But, yoga isn’t always complicated. When I am on my mat for me, with no agenda, I am simple. I breath. I move.
When I arrived in my new town of Austin, TX after spending 30 years in the midwest and living in my hometown of Chicago, I was disoriented. I cried a lot and over stupid things like not knowing where to find a gas station, and being frustrated when people didn’t understand a joke that I knew my friends back home would love.=
But, I found home on my yoga mat. I cried and laughed and cried in class. I felt home in my body and in my breath even though I was surrounded by people I’d never seen before and in a studio that looked and felt and smelled brand new.
The sequence and the music and the cues were stylistically so far away from my normal practice. But it was a practice and it was my practice. I simply arrived on my mat, quieted my mind and opened up my ears to what was being offered. The rest was catharsis.
Yoga, in the taking, for me it is a simple process. Yoga, in the teaching, has more layers.
I’m not sure it ever has to be hard or soft. Complicated or simple. It’s probably, always, somewhere in the middle of learning to be with myself and translating that into being with others. Add in a healthy dose of each person on their own path and the best I can do is tap into some compassion for myself, fill up while I’m on the mat, and let that spill over the best it can while I teach. I can commit to seeking to see everyone while also forgiving myself when I miss the mark.
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