It’s unbelievable to me that this fall will mark 9 years from the first time I stepped into a Bikram Yoga class. And I’m very aware as I take the podium day after day how much I remember, not only from my first class, but every class in between then and now. There’s not a teacher I can’t recall, as each one has left an indelible impression on my practice and how it has developed over the years. No two classes are alike and each teacher has their own gifts and energy to bring to the 90-minute session that are uniquely their own. Some like to lead a quieter, more meditative class, whereas others are loud and somewhat bawdy in the way they get the masses to move from posture to posture. I’ve had teachers that focus more on the spiritual, while others are all about the benefits. There have been instructors that concentrate on the breath, with others urging me to release distractions. The class may include the same sequence of postures, but it truly is never the same as you are never the same and neither is the teacher and this is legitimate of any yoga discipline, Bikram or otherwise.
This being said, there are certain teachers that I have fallen in love with throughout the years and would move heaven and earth to make sure I hit their class at least once a week when I was in their area. These instructors are peppered all over the U.S., as I would try and hit classes while traveling throughout my performance career. And as I reflect on each sweaty session I realize that every single one of these teachers all had traits that I admire and try to embody as best as I can in any given moment. These include, but are not limited to:
Being Passionate. There’s nothing better than being in the same room with a passionate person. They are magnetic. Passion for what you are doing, what you are saying, and what your students are achieving is key.
Having Compassion. Yoga class is not easy. Life at times is not easy. To truly feel compassion for others and their journey, not only during a session, but also in life is something every teacher should strive to cultivate.
They Are a Constant Seeker. A yoga teacher should be in constant pursuit of more information and understanding of the yoga and themselves. They use multiple sources and inspirations to help them on their journey. A teacher is never complacent.
Practice, practice, practice. It does not matter how many classes a teacher instructs each week, they have to practice. As a teacher practices they learn more about the yoga, they continue to be compassionate towards their students, and demonstrate to the students that there is always more to cultivate on the journey.
Having Their Own Voice. Each teacher has their own message about the practice they want to share with their students. When you find your own voice there is no need to pretend to be someone else. These teachers are their authentic self and able to express this through their class.
Interested in People. If you teach anything you must be interested in people, and not only people, but in their growth as well.
Able to Laugh at Themselves. It is imperative that teachers never take themselves too seriously. No one wants a perfect person to take the podium and lead them through class. They want a real person, with flaws and life experience. Laugh when you can and apologize when you should.
It is often said in the Bikram Yoga class that you are your own teacher. You are cheering yourself on, tackling each posture, and listening for each adjustment. If you consider yourself a student, no matter who is taking the podium, you are the one in control of your practice and your experience. As you look at the list above I hope you take these traits into consideration and as you gaze in the mirror at the eyes of your own teacher open yourself up to becoming the passionate, compassionate, seeking, practitioner, able to express their own voice, interested in others and yourself, all while keeping it real and not taking your yoga, or your life, too seriously.
Everyone practicing yoga is a teacher. Everyone teaching yoga is a student.
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