What am I really teaching?

open-your-heart-textMy own teacher’s professional biog has something about him teaching to affect head and heart. I don’t remember the exact words but I do remember the wonder I first felt in his classes, still feel very vividly even a few years on. In my own practice I’m still very much figuring out the power of āsana, the strange alliance between sweaty, twisty movements and the invitation to plunge headlong into the very essence of life. I often feel mentally (as well as physically) turned inside out and upside down by my yoga, and the world strikes me afresh each time I roll up the mat and step out into life. But I’ve still no idea how this happens!

So much for my own practice.

But now that I’m teaching, a whole new dimension to yoga presents itself. What do I want to teach? What’s really important to me? And what do I think is really important about yoga? Could I ever hope to teach people this: how to become more fully alive, how to explore their world anew — starting with a simple forward fold until they find they’ve dived headlong into some new possibility, some space they never thought existed?

yoga heartSometimes the teaching challenge seems insurmountable, as I stumble over my words, feeling self-conscious in the role of teacher, unpractised in offering succinct physical cues, and ignorant of basic anatomical actions. And now I find I have this big ambition in my teaching, embarrassingly big. No wonder I don’t feel equal to the job!

And you never really know how stuff is going down in class, whether you’re successful by any conceivable measure. Until this week that is, when I got some personal messages a couple of days later from my two girls, both clearly affected quite deeply by their experiences. And now, despite me desiring to touch their hearts and offer them something more than instructions on executing a passable Tree Pose, I’m left feeling strangely shy that I might have done so even just a little.

So suddenly the place where I am in my practice and where I might support others starts to take shape, there begins to be a relationship between my yoga and their yoga, that goes beyond which āsanas I feel competent to instruct. On my own mat I practise over and over to be the observer of whatever arises, to maintain equilibrium and balance, to see the guru in all shapes and emotions, especially the difficult ones. In teaching I suppose I apply this in the service of others, holding space for them, allowing them to explore as they will. I must trust that if I teach something I believe in, others will find their own meaning there if they want to. And most of the work really will be theirs, I’ll just be creating the space and hopefully offering a little inspiration.

And I realise on a different level the importance of one’s own practice and of grounding oneself, finding one’s own steadiness before reaching out to others. I learn this too from my own āsana practice: if I stop to think I freeze, but if I just keep moving everything is always OK.

So on to teaching class again next week. And I’ll just do my best, whatever that means. Non-attachment to outcomes, right?


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