I had lunch today with a fellow new graduate. She wanted to talk through the questions she’s asking herself right now about teaching. It felt funny with her seeking my perspective on this. She has much, much more yoga experience than me (not just more years, but wider experience of different traditions) and her teaching experience is already significantly bigger than mine (multiple classes per week). So from the outside she seems self-assured with a level of experience that I will take years to reach.
And yet she asks herself many of the same questions I ask myself: about what I’m teaching, why, for whose benefit, how well equipped I am, whether I’m in the right environment. These questions don’t have good answers. In fact the more I practise and study the less I feel I understand what yoga is even.
I saw a blog post recently by the ever-thoughtful Matthew Remski in which he asked “Am I even teaching yoga anymore?” I could really identify with his description of the type of teacher who asks this — apart from the fact that I’m only 6 months in, rather than with 10 or 15 years of teaching under my belt! I’m feeling slightly precocious, and not in a good way! I don’t want to be cynical before my years. I want to dive into the whole yoga teaching experience and live that for as long as I can before any doubts come creeping in. But yoga has never been like that for me. It’s always been a matter of trial as much as trust. And I think that’s necessary. If I’m going to devote so much to this practice, I shouldn’t follow blindly. Faith can only exist against an element of doubt. Uncertainty is inherent somehow.
And in fact now that I’m teaching, I find there’s somehow a deeper sense of connection to my own practice. I’m aware of the solidity of my modest sadhana, even though it’s only a few years’ old. It already runs deeply through my life. People often tell me so. Another fellow grad asked me recently about my yoga FB page and how I came up with the content for it. She confessed to some jealousy. “You really live this stuff”, was her slightly wistful comment. Well, yeah! If my students put faith in me, I must have something to offer. I don’t need all the answers, but I think I need to have a care for the questions! I must take care to cultivate strong roots in my own practice. Or as Patañjali puts it (there’s me being precocious again! 🙂 ): “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness” (PYS 1.14).
Like Remski, I’m inclined to overthink things. So, like him, I take some solace in the rhetorical questions with which he finished his post. I am one of those he describes as practising “with equal parts of hope and doubt”.
I always have been. And I think that’s OK. I’ve never been one for mindless optimism. I’m worth more than that — and so are my students.