After an equal parts restful and restless three month break from teaching, I’ve slowly ramped up to a schedule that feels just right – not so hot I’m burning myself out, not so cold my skills of observation get dull or my pacing gets clunky. With the support of the amazing studios I teach and practice at (Down Under Yoga), the porridge feels just right. Nourishing and invigorating.
Since returning, I’ve encountered a handful of scenarios that are testing my skills as a teacher, and none of them have to do with cuing the perfect Chatturanga (still working on that…and will be until everyone in the room can one day put their knees down without creating a disempowering story around it). The lessons I’m learning are imploring me to get honest with myself and take a hard look at what my purpose is, and is not, in my teaching, my practice, and my life. Heavy stuff, yes. But worth the effort. I want to make bigger imprints with every step on my path toward growth. And so should you. Here’s what I’m learning, and hoping you can too:
- I’m here to teach you, not entertain you. This is one heady endeavor. Like most human beings, that not-so-subtle roll of the eyes from the back row, or hardcore handstander blasting past my gentle cues to please slow the fuck down and establish your breath don’t go unnoticed. I see you, I feel your negative vibe, and I want you to enjoy my class. I really do. But my job isn’t to entertain you. Otherwise I’d roll out the turn tables, strobe lights and bust a move with you baby. But that’s not my job. So after a class I taught recently when a student shared he got bored, I took a couple of deep breaths, exhaled out my need to please, and discussed the particulars of what he found boring and what tools he could incorporate in his next class to stay interested and promote growth.
- I may be at the front of the room, but I’m taking risks and learning right alongside you. My skill is not in getting every cue or sequence detail just right. I’ve certainly developed a grab bag of go-tos that have passed the did it land in their bodies? test. But unless I take risks, explore new ways of communicating to you, and learn from your feedback, we all stay stuck in a ditch of been there done that. Growth requires taking risks, failing, brushing it off, and getting back up again. And again and again.
- I practice with teachers who aren’t like me. As much as I love practicing in classes with a similar pace, sequence, dynamism and flow as the ones I teach, I develop more from teachers who offer something different. Teachers that make me uncomfortable, or even annoy me. Teachers that nudge me toward poses I often breeze over, or into a place of inquiry that makes me squirm. And if I get bored, dammit – that’s on me to wake up and do the work.
- I’m not alone. After what I felt like was a particularly shitty class (where a few of my teaching risks resulted in more furrowed brows begging “huh??” vs. physical shifts), I ran into another teacher at Starbucks who laughed over how she had just made a total mess of her last class. God bless you woman. We’re all in this together, doing our best to be the best possible teachers for our students, who are showing up doing their best for us in every class.
Hope some of this resonates, whether you teach or not. Have fun on your mat – and trust your own inquiry and growth to deliver the joy.