As a student, I always thought that my teachers had this special quality to live their yoga 24-7, and they couldn’t possibly realize how frazzled I was each time I dragged my butt into class (barely grabbing something to eat, scrounging up change to cover the cost of the class, and reaching for that special moment during a peak pose when my day would just melt away). Visions of meditation rooms and a specially dedicated yoga studio came to mind when I thought of my yoga teachers. Each of them carried this sense of peace with them which contrasted so greatly with my own life, that I couldn’t see how human they really were. Once I entered teacher training, I started to see the other side. Each of the teachers I met (and yes, just learning… they were teachers even then), had their own trials and struggles. We were all coming from different backgrounds and each of us brought something special to the training.
I learned that one of the important parts of teaching is maintaining your own practice and teaching from your strengths. No student wants to learn from a teacher that can’t do the poses that they are instructing and no teacher desires to seem unprepared or unsure. While all of this seems second nature and quite logical to think about… I have realized the importance of this practice for other reasons.
As I said earlier, my teachers always exuded a sense of peace. Without a regular practice designed to get ourselves out of our heads and into our bodies… this is all but impossible. Each day brings new struggles for all of us. By agreeing to teach others, we have signed up to try just a little bit harder to teach from that place of peace. Someone once told me that during one of the Dalai Lama’s speeches, he spoke from such a place of stillness and calm that he was able to bring a calm over the entire crowd. I believe this particular appearance was in front of hundreds of people in NYC. While we might not all be Buddhist masters (or even religious at all), a good yoga teacher should still be able to bring just a fraction of that stillness to their classes. My own teacher once said that we sometimes just need to “hold the space” for our students. If they are having a bad day or the energy is just wrong, holding the space for them… maintaining peace for them is sometimes the most important role we can play as teachers.
My own practice has lagged at times, I’m not perfect. But when I teach a class, I truly feel that it is my responsibility to find that place of peace, stillness and calm that my own students would wish for themselves. From that place of stillness, I hope to create a safe place for them where they can find their own peace and maybe… just maybe become a teacher to others.