I had the pleasure last week of connecting with many wonderful and gifted yogis and yoga teachers. I’m pretty sure it’s one of my most favorite things in the world – connecting with brilliant beings <3 It’s why I do what I do. In all this connecting, an interesting theme emerged. And not only for me, I heard the same theme was arising for others as well. There seemed to be a lot of conversation around how teaching is really “putting yourself out there”.
Perri gave a great talk at the Lululemon Metta event on Jan 4th, where she described yoga as journey towards a “unified field of energy”. The wording was very much reflective of my experience with moments of deep healing and intimate interconnection – I can feel that my field of energy/prana/chi/qi is unified, and in those moments the potential exists to become unified with other fields as well, the fields of all those who are around us when we are in that moment of integration and interconnection. It’s yoga in the truest and deepest sense of oneness.
Surrendering to the moment so we can get right down to our core, to our essence, to our field of being, is at the root of the yogic practices – that’s why we practice. And yet, going to that place can be challenging. There can be a lot of perceived layers between where we are and connecting with this place of unified being. If we add on top of that, doing it in front of others and working to guide others to this place – wow, that is not only a tall order – it’s really putting ourselves out there!
For those who teach, each time we are facilitating yoga experiences for people, we are bringing our deepest Self to the forefront every time. It’s an opportunity to be our real and authentic Self… and this can be a very vulnerable place. As teachers, we have the opportunity to bare our Selves and souls to our students, which in turn creates the space for them to connect deeply within too. If the students so choose, then can then bare their Selves and souls too. When this happens, yoga happens <3
When I “bare my soul” to my students, it is typically not a dramatic, emotional, wild or intense expression… I’m basically sharing with my students the techniques and ideas that have allowed me to connect deeply within myself. Although it is highly personal, it doesn’t have to be cathartic. Most often what I teach is simple and practical – some might even say boring cause I don’t do ruffles 😉
Spiritual journeys are interesting, especially with yoga where there can be a strong emphasis on the asana portion of the practice. Yoga is by design a spiritual science. If you practice yoga, whether it be postures, breathing, chanting, or study of the philosophy, you will be walking a spiritual path. Typically any spiritual paths will have a place where we rub up against something that creates an inner friction. This is when it can become intense. I’ve known many who have tried to use yoga to get away from themselves and the suffering of their world. In my experience that doesn’t work, cause the more yoga you do, the deeper inside yourself you go, and all the disowned bits and pieces arise for to be seen, felt and then integrated into our “field of energy” or body-mind complex.
So why is teaching yoga really “putting yourself out there”? If I’m the real me, and people are in resistance to me, then what? If I’m putting myself out there through my teaching and someone hates my class, then what? If I’m being as authentic as I know how and someone calls me a fraud, then what?
This fall I had the opportunity to experience all these things. It started with teaching, of course. The student came to class. I put myself out there doing the best I know how in the most me way possible (I could also say, the only way possible for me – we cannot teach yoga if we are not ourselves), and the student didn’t really know what to make of all of it. The student then, like most of us who are uncomfortable moved into a place of strong resistance. And then the student quit the practice and left. In the process, I was called a fake.
Why do I share this with you? Well, because teaching really is putting yourself out there. It means that you will be, all going well, walking your yoga talk – you will be being the most you that you can be (real and authentic) and this is a vulnerable place to be!
Thanks to yoga, I was able to dual process the event and experience it in two distinct ways.
On one hand I was able to see that the student was going through a very challenging time. I realized that although yoga would be helpful in the long term, in the short term it was likely doing a lot of uncomfortable rubbing up. Expectations and reality were not a match. A lot of strong energies were arising, they needed an outlet, and I was there.
On the other hand, I felt so vulnerable, sad, hurt, and angry. L It was very challenging and, frankly, super unpleasant. I had my soft shmooshy heart broken that day. I was sad that we were not able to move past the resistance to a place of more openness where I could show them techniques that could really help them on their path. I was so hurt that I was perceived as a fake. Then I got really angry – how could this person not know how hard I work at my yoga practice??? Who are they to judge me and what I do, especially in the world of yoga!?!?!
In all honesty, my biggest fear is finding out that I’m a big fraud, a fake, a jerk and a liar. It was fascinating that in a matter of hours all my fears and insecurities were at the surface – waiting for me to see them, work with them, and integrate them.
As much as it’s hard, it’s a gift when this happens. It creates for us the opportunity to inquiry more deeply and to reflect on our journey’s and paths (where we’ve been, and where we think we are going). Thanks to this experience I now know that even after 10 years of teaching yoga, I still have fears and anxieties that surface. I am not the teacher for everyone. And not everyone will like what I teach – even if I’m putting myself out there. It was an exercise in recruiting my support network (my family and friends), in reviewing what and how I teach to see if there are any big gaps or things missing, and a huge exercise in letting go. I find it helpful to remember that what other people think about me is more their business than it is mine, even if I’m caught knee deep in it.
The next question is likely, if putting myself out there gets my soft and shmooshy heart broken – why do it?
Well, when the scenario unfolds where you are real and authentic, and your students can be real and authentic too, there is a magic that happens which allows both of you to connect in a real, non-judgmental, loving and brilliant way that can fuel your heart and soul in a way nothing else can. Where a simple shared look can bring you indescribable joy. When you are in this place, and I am in this place – we become one, and this sense of acceptance and unconditional love and joy changes lives. It’s why we do yoga. It’s who we really are… It’s like the best home coming ever! That’s why we put ourselves out there.
I want to end this newsletter with two thoughts:
The first is to encourage those of you who have perhaps had experiences like mine described above (shmooshy broken heart scenario) or who are afraid of this, to keep continue anyways. Teaching yoga isn’t only about helping the students to heal themselves, it’s also about allowing them to be mirrors and vehicles of deeper inquiry and healing for us – they will be our best teachers! Yes it’s hard. Yes it hurts. However, it is not bigger than you and you will figure it out. Don’t forget, as a yoga teacher you need a support team 😉 You’re not alone in this brilliant community of yogis!
The second is the Namaste translation from Gandhi:
“I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides.
I honor the place in you of light, love, truth, peace and wisdom.
I honor the place in you where, when you are in that place, and I am in that place, there is only one of us.”
Om Shantih, Prema, and Namaste (universal peace & love & more),
Mona L. Warner, ERYT500 & CYA-E-RYT500