I haven’t posted much to this blog in the last couple of weeks. The simple fact is that I have been too busy. Last week was Spring Break here in my town and loads of yoga teachers took off to various locations leaving a few of us behind to pick up classes. I had 7 classes in 4 days. While I know that is not a lot from many yogis, it was by for the most classes I have taught in so few days and I feel like I have run a marathon (minus the tiny shorts.) It was a challenge for me and, as we all learn through yoga, facing a challenge and persevering through said challenge can change a person. I am no exception. I learned a lot and that education changed me.
As in all professions, yoga teachers can suffer from burn out. While it seems unlikely that teaching yoga, a practice that leads to serenity and peace of both body and mind, can cause burnout, it’s more common than you think. We put a lot of thought and work into classes. We think of music, we think of sequences, we think of methodology, mythology, psychology, and physiology. It takes a lot of effort that we are grateful to exert, but it does come at a price. For me, burnout manifests as self-doubt and I had it in spades at the end of the first day. Burnout on the first day?!?!? Enter lesson #1 – STAY IN THE MOMENT. I was burned out and doubting myself like crazy at the end of the first day and felt like I couldn’t continue. How could I do 6 more classes like that? The answer is: one breath at a time. Getting all worried and stressed about the coming days wasn’t helping me relax, have faith, and allow the universe to guide me. Breathe Deep, Dive Deep, and let The Divine Light take control.
The 2nd day of my marathon found me teaching in the big room mentioned in this post. I don’t teach in that room very often, but it’s always a good experience when I do. The room is always full with no less than 24 students and the view out of those windows is always beautiful. Everywhere I teach is beautiful, really. I’m so grateful to have such amazing surroundings, but I think you’ll agree that, if you see the same things over and over again, you eventually stop seeing them at all. Enter Lesson #2 – OPEN YOUR EYES. In a room that big and with all those mirrors, there comes a time when you will inevitably end up teaching while doing on your own mat. It just happens (at least to me.) I have my mat in the front of the room so folks can see me and, at one such time during the class, I looked into the mirror and saw 4 deer in the field behind us. I mentioned it to the class and, as if on cue, all 4 looked up to the glass. I expected them to bolt, but they didn’t. They were there for a full 12 minutes, playing and grazing and doing their own yoga. I would have missed it if I hadn’t been open and aware – and I might not have been open and aware had I not gotten out into a different place. Enter lesson #3 – CHANGE YOUR YOGA STUDIO. I don’t mean go to a different studio forever, but maybe take a class somewhere else once in a while. Maybe do yoga outside. Or, if you’re not eager to leave your current place, maybe put your mat down elsewhere. Pick a different corner. Arrange your mats in a circle. Turn off the lights. Turn on the lights. Something. Anything. Change is good. Want to see the world differently? Change the way you look at it.
While teaching across town, I met up with a woman who had been in one of my classes before. In our brief conversation, I mentioned to her that I would be teaching hot yoga over the lunch hour the following day. I said this off hand without much thought, but sure enough, she arrived the next day with a friend in tow and we had a delightful class! This made me think about the use of my voice. I struggle promoting myself. It feels egotistical and slimy. Had I not mentioned it, however, she and her friend would not have made it to that class I was teaching and the class would not have been the same. One of my husband’s favorite songs says, “It ain’t braggin,’ Mother (expletive,) if you back it up.” I think there is a lot of truth in that. I started thinking about Satya and realized that it’s about a lot more than just not lying. Enter lesson #4 – SPEAK THE WHOLE TRUTH. Stand in the light of your own truth. Say it like it is. Be proud of who and what you are and let yourself shine. Smile with your whole face. Promote yourself as you’d want others to promote you. Believe in yourself as you believe in your heros and tell someone about it. How did your hero get to be your hero? Chances are she or he spoke up for themselves once upon a time. You might be someone’s hero someday – maybe today! – so speak up.
Speaking up changes your life. It just does, and almost always for the better, even if it doesn’t look like it at first. Occasionally folks will not appreciate, understand, agree with, or enjoy what you have to say. That is awesome – wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all thought / felt / behaved the same way? I always tell my kids that they are free to disagree, but they are never free to disrespect. Not everyone has learned that, though, which brings me to lesson #5 – WHEN PEOPLE SHOW YOU WHO THEY REALLY ARE, BELIEVE THEM. It is not necessary to accept unacceptable behavior. Eliminating unsupportive and negative energy from your life frees you up for miracles and bliss. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE – refuse to feed judgement and negativity. Put some good energy towards those harboring ill will against you, wish them well, and let them go.
It is impossible to deny the awe-inspiring power of positive touch. It’s not an easy thing for a new teacher to put hands on students. Some places refuse to let you do it, so it takes a while to get comfortable with it. Little by little, it’s becoming second nature to me to touch my students – alignment adjustments, massage, traction, counter pressure. I’m not all over them, but I certainly won’t shy away from laying my hands on lightly to lend a hand. Having spent years as a birth doula, I know that touching someone how and when and where they need it can make a huge physical change in a person, but I was unprepared for the changes touching a yoga student has made in me. During Savasana last week, I placed my thumbs on a student’s third eye and drew them across the forehead and down the temples. Suddenly a peaceful feeling glowed from my student, out of her skin, through my fingers, and directly to my heart. It was so powerful you could almost see it. Lesson #6 – WE ARE ONE. No doubt about it.
Finally, Lesson #7- TEST OUT THAT SHIRT BEFORE YOU TEACH. It doesn’t matter if the shirt stays in place when you do arm balances and headstands, it’s the Surya Namaskar that will get you. This goes for teachers, students, women, men and dogs. Just keep that in mind when you’re thinking of buying that extra cute strappy strap strap shirt. Do a sun salutation or two first, eh? And that’s all I’m going to say about that. 😉