Scan a few studio websites, read a few yoga bios, and you’re bound to land on it: so and so is a Master teacher. Not just a pedestrian, dime a dozen yoga teacher, but a Master teacher. Supporting the designation will perhaps include several bullet points highlighting credentials earned; years trained; lineages studied; trainings led; books published; Yoga Journal covers graced and so on.
All awesome. Really. I’ve followed and trained from a totally valid list of Master teachers since developing a life long obsession with this practice, and wouldn’t question the validity behind their designation for a second. Except that where my own path of yoga teaching is concerned, I’m far more interested in the process of mastery than ever becoming a Master. The minute I call myself a Master of anything (though I think I’m a Master of loving up any dog – from pipsqueak pug to massive mastiff – that comes within petting distance), the book sort of closes for me. As in, chapter over, you finished it, go find something else. Labeling myself a Master teacher doesn’t allow for the natural fuck ups and foibles that go along with the process of discovery. The process of mastery.
So you’re a civilian today, are you?”
Choosing mastery over the pressure of being a Master lets me continue what I love most: being a student. As I rolled out my mat in a fellow teacher’s class this morning, one of my students scratched his head over seeing me set up in the back of the room as opposed to the front. Yes sir, I’m a civilian. A student just like you, working to master these poses and all the internal crap that followed me into the room just like you. Today and every day after.
It’s what makes me a better teacher. A better student. A better human being.”
In fact, the more I suck, the more motivated I get to getting better at whatever it is I currently suck at. Two days ago I was tasked with preparing a simple hot veggie dish for a volunteer organization (Community Cooks) that distributes a nice meal prepared by a team of six of us to low-income down on their luck good-hearted people in need. Because I sort of suck at cooking (the book says 15 minute prep time; reality is 60 minute Shan time, as I discern the difference between a colander and a sieve, sigh…), I’m all in. All in for nailing this motherf****er of an epicurean warm new potato salad with grainy mustard. And as the dish left my door for the truck, I delighted in pure gluttonous satisfaction over mastering this one-dish challenge. Because God knows I am no Master in the kitchen. Thank God for that.
Shannon Brady: Non-Master Yoga Teacher…”
If I had to include the word Master in my teacher bio, I think the description would go something like this:
- She mastered the ability to fall on her ass, laugh loudly, get up and do it again until eventually she held Half Moon pose.
- She mastered accepting the reality that some students, no matter how much heart and soul she puts into her classes, aren’t coming back. And won’t ever tell her why.
- She mastered the act of calming her hyperactive mind, restless body, and about-to-sob-out-loud state of emotion through breath, focus and rigorous flow on her mat. Every time.
So yogis, if you’re hung up on whether or not you’re a Master at anything at all, let it go. Try mastery instead. It’s more fun without all the pressure.