Going from being a yoga student to a yoga teacher is no easy transition. As a student, you think you know what it is to take the podium. You think the person up there has decided to go to training, to memorize The Dialogue, and enjoys a good sweat. That, for a teacher, bellowing at someone to push that left should forward in Half Moon is their life’s dream. And although this is in some ways very true, there are quite a few things I didn’t understand until I took that first step up to the podium, looked out at my students, and started class.
Here are just a few of the things you may not realize about your yoga teacher:
They are not perfect. Your instructor is a person just like everyone else with their own insecurities, flaws, and faults. They are a student of the yoga in the exact same fashion that you are, but they became so passionate about the practice they absolutely had to share it. A yoga teacher works incredibly hard to be the leader you need them to be, but try as we might, we still get stressed out, depressed, and angry at times. Be assured that no matter what is going on in our own lives we decide to leave it behind to lift yours up during each class, hoping to inspire you to new depths not only physically, but emotionally as well.
If your teacher sits out a posture while practicing it’s because they seriously need to. Before I became a teacher, I was always confused when the instructor that tried to get me not to sit down or take a break would sit out a posture in a class I was taking with them a few days later. What was that about? But what I didn’t realize is how depleted you can get from teaching class. That instructor taking a break may have already taught two classes that day and may really need that time to get their breath and heart rate under control. A good teacher tries their hardest never to sit out a posture, as we are striving to lead by example, but sometimes its best for all of us to just take a seat.
Trust them. If you don’t think your teacher has ever cheated during a posture, drank way too much water, toweled themselves off every opportunity they had, or eaten the wrong thing before or after class, then you are gravely mistaken. It is only because we have had the experience of seeing how cheating during a posture only delayed it’s healing results, that too much water in the belly can make you feel ill, that the hand towel is more of an enemy than a friend making your body work that much harder to create sweat, and regretting that glass of wine from the night before, that we try and educate you on how to prepare your body for and during the practice. Yoga will never be easy, but you can make it easier on yourself by trusting what the teacher says. They’ve been there, they want you to succeed, they want you to grow and heal.
They are not picking on you. If a teacher calls out a correction to you during class it is not because they have chosen to make your life hard. It’s because they can see the potential in your practice, or the space that you may have acquired in your hips or shoulders over time will now finally allow you to go deeper. The instructor knows that when correcting the form of the posture, the student is on the road to creating further balance and healing in the body. We are cheering you on with each correction. Watching you adjust the posture to go past what you believe is possible for you, is one of the reasons we love what we do.
You’re putting your teacher in an awkward position (no, not the posture) when you talk or gossip about another student’s practice. I know that not everyone in the room during class is going to adhere to yoga etiquette or even be nice and considerate to those around them. That is not for you to worry about. This is your practice. When you come up to the front desk to complain or gossip about another yogi it makes your yoga teacher uncomfortable. The person in question may have other issues you are not aware of and it is the teacher’s belief that as that student continues to practice, these issues will drop away. If I can notice that your elbow is in the wrong place in Triangle Pose I am also aware of everything else going on in that room and will try and get that student back on track as best as I can. Remember everyone is trying their best in any given moment and everyone has to start somewhere.
Your yoga teacher thinks about you long after you’ve left the studio. That issue you discussed with your yoga teacher or posture question you had was not left behind as the teacher drives towards home. That evening your teacher opened every book, explored every chat room and available resource they have, to give you either the right answer, or to understand what you are dealing with, so they can better assist you. A teacher wants you to have the best experience with the yoga because they know what a powerful healing tool it can be.
No matter what your opinion is of any given teacher they are trying their best. Maybe you have an instructor you avoid like the plague. Have you taken their class lately? Usually the reason you didn’t like them at first will have completely vanished if you give them another try. As the yoga has changed you, it may have also altered your perspective towards that person taking you through the class. This is a job that comes from the heart and requires passion and oodles of energy. Your yoga teacher is there, so that you can become the light.
(Photo from Teacher Training Fall 2011)
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