5 things yoga teaching reveals
Each and every action what we do in life shapes the way we perceive the world. Although practicing yoga on a daily basis taught me quite a few things, teaching yoga gave so much more understanding of myself, of people around me and of our interactions in time and space.
It’s been two years since I completed my 200 Yoga Teaching at the Arhanta ashram in the Netherlands, and a bit more than a year since I started teaching Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and Yin yoga in Australia. During this time, I have been working in three different yoga studios, met amazing people, wrote a book and learned quite a few lessons from my failures and achievements. You may tell that for a yoga practitioner like myself, such words like “failure” and “achievement” should not exist. But let’s be honest with ourselves. People like me who have been born and bred in Western culture cannot fully stop see the world through western categories. So even though, I am pretty much inspired and influenced by yoga philosophy, it will, probably, take me years to fully digest and accept the yogic way of non-judgement and non-attachment to the results. In any case, the act of teaching yoga taught me a few valuable lessons.
1. Start with «Why» and then move toward “What”:
If you have no idea why you hit the road and where you want to get, you’d better not to expect much from your journey. You might have certain luck on your way, but fortune is too slippery to be trusted. On the other hand, having a clear direction is always helpful. Although the reasons which motivate you and route you planned so well will, probably, alternate slightly, it’s still worth having a clear final destination in mind. Therefore, the goals which we set should be simple, specific and achievable. Most importantly, we should remember at all times why we even bother to achieve them. Certainly, I knew this even before starting to teach, but trust me, when you have the whole group of people in front of you, 45/60/75 minutes behind your belt and overwhelming expectations that you should teach, guide, instruct verbally, show physically, notice, adjust, correct etc, you really need to have a very clear plan in your head. You should know why are doing this and where the finish line lies.
2. There are many ways in which we can support others and be supported by them
As a yoga teacher you are expected to provide your students with lots of support. You can support people in many ways: by careful physical adjustment, by giving vocal clues, and by doing the same asanas together with students side be side. All of these may give great physical, emotional and mental support. Unquestionably, there is no one best option, as various situations require different types of support: a person might be strong, but inflexible; flexible, but weak, or even strong and flexible but emotionally exhausted and lacking energy to move. As a yoga teacher you can support people at all times. Everybody needs support from time to time, even the strongest people.
3. Teaching consists of sharing and caring
Teaching yoga is so much more than just showing different poses and explaining them verbally. My yoga teacher Yogi Ram (who is about to publish a book about the ways in which yoga sequences are designed) always told us that caring is the most important element of teaching. Therefore, no matter which asanas the yoga teachers can or cannot do, their students will remember them for caring, guiding and enhancing students’s practice with timely piece of advice or adjustment, not for showing of how strong/flexible they are. Through my teaching experience I can to the same conclusion. Most of the students do not care if their yoga teacher can place the leg behind the head or not, instead they wish to be guided, supported and encouraged. As as result, teaching yoga is all about sharing expertise, experience and energy while being caring and attentive.
4. The art of falling and failing
In yoga as in all the other spheres of life there is a lot of falling and failing. It is impossible to learn a new pose without messing up with it at he beginning, or even falling out of it at least once. You will rarely see this on Facebook or Instagram, but that’s reality: in order to master anything you first have to fail many times… At the times I am practicing yoga as a student my failures make me laugh. However, making mistakes as a teacher makes me depressed. So I keep reminding myself that, the only way to become a better teacher is the same as to become a better student: fall, stand up, repeat.
5. By letting go we grow
In yoga teaching the expectations of how yoga teacher is support to teach are both external and internal. External expectations are mostly created by social media images and by the desires students attach to their practice. The latter can be quite high and unrealistic (eg. Can you teach me to do a split by the next Sunday?). The internal expectations are even worse. Perhaps, it’s part of a human nature to create some perfect image of ourselves in our heads, and to have those overwhelming ideas of how we should look, walk, talk, perform. However, the truth is, being attached to that perfect idea of ourselves is actually holding us back. As soon as we let go of those unrealistic expectations and accept ourselves and people around us the way we are, we will start to grow. Rapidly!
These are the lessons which yoga teaching provided me with. I guess, I might have learned the same things doing other activities, but who knows, maybe, it would take me much longer!
Call for action:
If you are looking for the ways which would allow you to become calmer and mentally stronger, these are some ideas you might try out. Start with “Why” and then create the vision of your final destination. Be very clear about what you want to achieve and why you’re aiming at this goal. While moving toward your goal, do not be afraid of giving or accepting support from others. We all need support from time to time. Accept your own limitations and be ready to fall time after time until you learn the lesson. Finally, let go of that perfect image of yourself and of the people around you. This will make you so much calmer and stronger! All the best with your life journey!