Patience is one of the virtues you must develop if you take up a regular yoga asana practice. Of course, if you practice yoga you must eventually give up forcing the outcome of a posture, or goal of a posture, at some point. You learn to allow the body to unfold at its own pace and time. This can take years to develop. It is a patience not taught to us in the world outside of the studio and not pictured or documented on Instagram, where everyone looks gorgeous and naturally bendy.
But even more, a yoga instructor must display the utmost patience as they lead class after class. It is one of the main reasons I believe that you should have been on your mat for years, not weeks or months, in order to teach or pursue a life as a yoga teacher. Patience. If you don’t have it for yourself and your practice, you won’t have enough of it to bring to the lives of those you teach.
Last night, as I led a group of students through yet another hot and humid Bikram Yoga class, I was amazed at the progress of the students before me. Students that I had taught for years were doing things I had never witnessed them able to do before. And more than one student in that class were taking corrections where they were not open to correction in the past, but would simply plow through the posture without noticing they might be ready to hear and do more.
It was a good night for this yoga teacher. I knew these students would get to where they were on the mat, but I didn’t know when, and I knew it wasn’t up for me to decide or to push them to this place. I gently prodded, or shone a light on where the next steps for them would be, but I practiced the patience I had learned on my own mat and allowed it to happen for them in their own time.
A few months back I had a student come out of class and ask me why I had let another student, as they put it, “get away” with doing their postures as they had. First off, I asked why they were so concerned with the other’s practice? Only to have them reply that they knew they wouldn’t have gotten away with doing the postures that way in my class.
“Yes, that’s right. But we have been working together a long time and I know what you are capable of more and it’s my job as a teacher to hold you to that. The other student will get to your point eventually, but they are not there now. Now, they just need to show up, listen when they can, and do what they can. When they start to show they have more knowledge of the practice and of themselves, I will give them more to do, but until then there is no point in possibly pushing them to the point where they don’t want to practice.”
The student that I was having this conversation with understood after that, having already put endless hours into their practice.
Everything I do as a yoga instructor is to get people on their mat and once they are there, the work is to keep them coming back to it – not because my class is easy and I’m a pushover, but because it’s tough and challenging and I expect everyone to be working at their best. BUT, everyone’s best is different from the next. I want to be my student’s partner and ally, and give the best of me to that relationship. It can be a tricky balance sometimes.
To be a yoga teacher is to hold a space for every one of my students. It is to look out on the students and see the huge potential that is in the room, not only for their practice, but for their lives away from the studio. Within that space is every possibility. There is no time limit in that space. There is no, if they don’t get into standing splits in Standing Bow Pulling Pose within ten years, I give up on them. I will never give up on them. The space that a yoga teacher holds is a space where everything has already happened, where all potential has been realized. All the students have to do is catch up to that time and space where they, too, realize how limitless they always have been and always will be.
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