All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.
As I sit upon the precipice of packing up all of my earthly possessions and stuffing them in to a box to be stowed away for two weeks while I moon with my honey in Greece, I can’t help but sit and reflect-slash-procrastinate.
If this was my usual Monday morning, I would have been up with my alarm at 4:45am, in the car by 5:40, and leading Power Vinyasa at 6am at the TownLake YMCA, where I have lead everything from Gentle to Power flow for the last (almost) 4 years.
This morning was different, however, as many mornings will be for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t my alarm that woke me, but my three year old boxer-mix-mutt, Doozer, pounding on the bedroom door to be let outside and fed some breakfast, PLEASE and NOW. And it wasn’t 4:45 but 7am (that’s sleeping in!).
After a week (or many) of pouting and feeling sorry for myself for all of the various reasons we can think of when we get in those kinds of moods, I woke up this morning and decided it was time to embrace the change.
Thanks to the internet and the 50+ yoga studios in Austin, all I had to do was flip open my laptop and search for classes that were happening near me this morning. And then it dawned on me; there is a studio almost literally in my backyard that, although it has been open for nearly 5 months now, I have never stepped foot inside. Deciding to embrace the change, I grabbed my mat and hopped next door to Sukha Yoga Austin.
Upon stepping into the space, I immediately regretted the last five months of my life. This studio is breathtakingly beautiful and perfect in every way, from the smell, to the colors, to the spaciousness, and natural light. Jenn Coats, who was leading the class this morning entitled Sukha Flow, was welcoming and nurturing and led us through the perfect mix of vigorous and gentle flowing asana. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt like a student again.
One of the first things that they tell you in a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) training program is that once you begin teaching, being a student is never going to be the same again. For the past four years or so, I've understood that to mean that being a student in a public yoga class is never going to be the same, and while that’s true, that's definitely not all there is to the story.
When you begin teaching yoga and learning all of the intricacies of leading a public class like wording, sequence strategy, and the emotional and physical safety of students, it’s even more difficult to turn off that inner voice and critic; “I wouldn’t say it like that," "I wouldn’t have chosen this music," "I should be able to do that," "I’m a teacher, why can’t I do that?!” etc. But really, that inner voice, that inner critic is there no matter how long you’ve been practicing or teaching. Sure, maybe the narrative is different for different people at different times, but its existence is a guarantee for everybody all of the time. The practice of drowning out that inner critic is a practice for us all.
No, the journey from student to teacher and back to student again is much more subtle. When you step on your mat for the first time, your practice is all about you. It’s about learning who you are as a whole being, stepping out into your own light, and having the courage to follow your path. For those of us who make the choice to become a leader of light, guiding the path for students, our focus changes from ourselves to our students. Even when I’m not teaching, every time I step on my mat I’m focusing on my practice solely for the purpose of teaching my students. When I go to public classes or attend trainings, I’m getting a change in perspective, a new way of teaching or a new pose to teach.
What I’ve realized though, is that I’ve not just been learning for my students, but from my students as well, and it’s there that teaching changes you back into a student. If I give a cue and half of the people in my class do what I mean them to do, and half do something totally different, I’ve learned that I need to sharpen my communication skills. If I give a direction and someone does something different, or have a student in class who is just kind of doing their own thing regardless of me or anyone else in the room, I have my own inner dialogue and narrative to sort through; “Why does it matter so much that people do as I say?” “Why does it matter so much that they like me?”
Where my physical practice used to be the fuel that lit my fire, now it’s teaching. I practice for my students, but I teach for me.
Of course I teach for my students as well. I know that, at least for me, the path of yoga is the path of light and truth and I want to be a shining beacon guiding them on their journey of self-discovery. But teaching also makes me really, really happy. I know deep down in my bones that it’s what I’ve been called to do, my “life’s purpose,” at least right now in my life. And it’s coming to that realization that has made the inevitability of this move to a new city where I have no guarantee of ever teaching again that has made me the most apprehensive.
Thank you of being on this journey of light and truth and self-discovery with me, and learning right along side me. Tell me, is this your experience as a student and/or teacher, or no? How do you embrace the change in your life? As always, I’d love to hear from you.