Teachers Should Be Beginners

 

Most adults don’t try new things very often, that’s dependant on the adult of course, but in general we seem to stick to our routines. It has been told to us for years that failure is bad, and more recently that you shouldn’t post it on Instagram unless it’s perfect. Fear of failure is often felt when being courageous and attempting something new, say,  a yoga class.

Emotions such as frustration, comparison, jealousy, anger, and other similarly negative emotions are felt when our foot slides off our leg in tree pose and there is someone else in the class who looks like they could knit and do tree pose at the same time. I know this because I’ve felt it and I’ve seen it in my classes. In fact, it happens in pretty much every single class that I teach, I can’t speak for the emotions felt, but certainly not every single person can do every single pose in every single yoga class, myself and all teachers included.

That is why I remind my students over and over again to move out of the negative emotions and into a spirit of playfulness. Negative self-speak almost always creeps into our heads when unable to do something new and while witnessing someone else do the same challenging thing in a seemingly carefree manner.

Personal examples of things that I have tried in the past few years in which I have felt down on myself for struggling with include: learning to drive a standard drive, learning phrases in new languages, handstands, running, learning to swim better, learning to sew, etc. Luckily, most of those things I have learned with the guidance of my supportive husband. Sure, there were arguments, most notably during the teaching and learning to drive a stick shift, but mostly there was encouragement.

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As a yoga teacher I value those new experiences, even those outside of my yoga practice, because they put me into an uncomfortable state of fear, frustration, anxiety, stress, and doubt in my abilities which are the same sorts of sensations felt when trying half moon for the first time and during crow pose at almost every attempt. Facial expressions in class give me insight into what emotions my students are feeling and I try to lead them to positive optimism. I also remind students that difficult yoga poses are just that and take many hours of training and practice to achieve until the right muscles are built, awareness is learned, and technique is taught, then one day a pose will just click and will be felt for a microsecond until balance is lost, but the aha moment exists and suddenly the pose seems less evasive.

If you are a yoga teacher, or a teacher of anything to anyone – teaching your partner to salsa, your child how to read, you daughter how to knit; remember that trying new things is challenging and sticking to them is even more difficult. Walking into a yoga class and being unable to do 25% of the class might put people off from ever returning, which is why as teachers we have a duty to warmly reassure those that trust us to teach them that while many yoga poses seem impossible, with dedication and commitment the challenging can possibly one day become our realities.

Yoga teachers must be able to empathize with their students, but most yoga teachers have been doing yoga for a long time so forget just how much the thighs burn and shake in warrior two because it’s such a common pose that it can feel as easy as sitting in a chair to teachers. That is why being a beginner in other arenas or pushing your practice with new challenging poses for yourself is one of the best ways to improve your teaching skills. Empathize with your students in warrior two the same way that you would want empathy in tortoise pose.

 

 

 

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Falling for Yoga

The seasons are changing – weather is chilling, moods are shifting. It’s a time of transition, something that those of us that live in regions that experience four seasons go through four times each year, but each time still feels new and fresh. Sometimes excitement for cozy blankets and books, sometimes with sadness to lose the heat of summer. Likely a bit of both.

For me this change of season is a time to rededicate myself to my yoga practice. People are sometimes surprised to learn that my practice ebbs and flows. This is hard to admit. I know that I should, and need, to be practicing yoga daily, but like all other human beings living in our high paced, overworked, distraction filled modern times, I too have difficulty at times practicing as much as I should. Recently this has become more apparent to me via workshops and meditation.

As a yoga teacher I have been trying my humble best to give my students as much of my knowledge and genuine self as I can. I spend a lot of time studying articles and books about sequencing and anatomy, but what gets pushed aside for the book work and for balancing my time with my family, my full-time job, and teaching gigs, is my practice.

I have never totally lost my practice, it just gets smaller and smaller to where I am sustaining my flexibility and strength but am not evolving it. With this public post and inspiration from the falling leaves, I recommit to setting my alarm, abiding by it, and rolling out my mat. Making a habit stick takes time, 21 to 60 days at least, so I am hopeful that by the time winter rolls around that I will have made personal progress.

The primary goal not being to “land” or “master” certain poses nor to improve my Instagram feed – although if being totally honest, both of those things are benefits of a constant practice, sad as it is we live in a social media world; the primary goal is to have personal discipline and to learn my body more in-depth. By doing these two things I will improve my personal practice and my teaching abilities.

With the weather cooling down and the hygge setting in, I am ready to fall for my yoga practice again. To fall in love and to fall out of inversions. To heat up with vinyasa and to cool down with restorative. To be the forever student that I so love to be, not just a bookworm, but a student of the mat.