Not quite half a decade

Last month my local yoga studio sent me a sweet email acknowledging our anniversary! Apparently I’ve been going to class there for four years now. This is only a little less than the total length of time I’ve been practising. One of the teachers then messaged me with the breakdown of my ‘stats’ — how many hours and classes I’ve clocked up. It’s funny looking at yoga practice in such a measurable way, to reduce it to hours on the mat. It looks so little! Even if I tell myself the real work happens outside of class, time spent finding one’s own practice, not being led through in a group. But even so — no wonder I feel I don’t really know anything yet. Isn’t it 10,000 hours to gain mastery at something? Whatever ‘mastery’ of yoga would be…

Reading through the bios of the teachers at the studio gave me some sobering perspective, with their practice (and even their teaching practice) often measured in decades not years. No wonder we were told after TT that we were like new-born babies!

So I’m trying to find where I am in my teaching at this point in my yoga life. What skills and understanding do I have? What improvement to my teaching would benefit my students the most — and how would I develop that? Or perhaps the question is less tangible: how to cultivate a patient but diligent mindset to continue offering what I can, be content that it is enough, yet be open to always learning?

I’m not sure how to think about this. But the questions feel a lot like my own practice, so that’s reassuring. On the mat I try to find a balance of effort and ease in my attitude as much as in my body. Finding contentment and joy in how my practice is each day, letting my expression of each asana be enough — provided that I bring my best care and attention to it.

In finding my feet in teaching, I’m trying not to hanker for that golden time before formal TT programmes when your teacher simply said you were ready to teach, and that was enough. This is already ancient history in the yoga world, but it’s how my other teaching gigs came about. As a graduate student I taught undergraduates because my supervisors encouraged me to, now as a professional I manage a team because my boss delegated this responsibility to me once I’d proved myself capable through years working alongside him, watching and learning. In yoga I must be more self-reliant. There is no-one to validate me, only a certificate that proves course attendance more than any particular ability. So I look to the faith I have in myself — and what I see in the faces and bodies of my students who show up to my classes week after week. That and the rather unexpected joy I feel in teaching! 🙂 It if feels OK, I guess it is OK.

But I’m getting a bit better at asking for help in thinking through the big yoga questions and seeking inspiration from others who have a more mature perspective. So I’ve asked to meet with one of the studio teachers to talk about her progression as a teacher and see what advice she might offer me. Creating a ‘subtle master plan’ as she so nicely put it.

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