10 life lessons I’ve learned from being a yoga teacher

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Chaturanga dandasana demo in action

This post might sound premature- after all, I’ve only JUST finished my yoga teacher certification and started really teaching. However, I wanted to explore this fleeting feeling of being totally new and fresh at something so I can memorialize this exciting and terrifying point in time.

One of my “gurus” once told me that in order to be a good teacher, “you just gotta get up there and suck, and then eventually you’ll start sucking less”. That’s literally the best advice I can give ANYONE about starting ANYTHING new. Don’t let fear of “the suck” stop you from pursuing something.

sucking at something

So, without prefacing it too much, here are the conveniently-numbered summaries of my burgeoning yogi philosophy.

  1. Everybody is in their own head.

I’ve learned to stop wasting time worrying about whether my voice sounds like an alien or offering 8 extensive cues for a pose or wondering if the yoga pants I’m wearing are the ones with the hole in the butt. People are usually too busy trying to stay balanced/not pass out/hold in farts. This whole concept holds true off of the mat- people are often too worried about themselves to give a damn what you said/wore/wrote. Your own internal critic is usually the harshest, so stop worrying that people are silently judging you for being inadequate and just keep doing your thing.

do your thing
Sorry that the last paragraph had two butt/fart references.
  1. What you see isn’t always what you get.

Yoga bodies come in all shapes and sizes- it’s impossible to judge someone’s ability  based solely on his or her appearance. Forming opinions about people without having the whole picture is silly, short-sighted, and a waste of time. Taking a glance at someone is a terrible way to get a sense for what they can and cannot achieve.

  1. You can’t please everybody all of the time.

I always ask for feedback when I’m talking to students after class- I want my students to know that I care about what they have to say and I try to tailor the class to what people want. HOWEVER, if some people can’t stand that I put Biggie Smalls on my yoga playlist, then they might be in the wrong class. It’s okay to be accommodating, but don’t lose yourself. This one goes out to all of my people-pleasers and approval-seekers: BE TRUE and you’ll find that you attract people who love the most authentic and unique parts of who you are. If you dilute yourself down, you might offend less people and cast a wider net, but you’ll have a lukewarm audience (and you won’t get to listen to Biggie while flowing through your vinyasa, in my case).

biggie
BIGGIE 4 eva.

4. You don’t have to fit a stereotype to be legitimate.

I sometimes feel guilty about eating the occasional hamburger or getting tipsy at taco Tuesday- things I feel are contrary to this yogic, sattvic lifestyle that I’ve idealized. I have a big butt, a sassy mouth, and I drive a turbo-charged car. But guess what… those things don’t make me a worse yoga teacher. This type of thinking disempowers people by shaming them into silencing their own voices, or worse, conforming until they fit the expectation of their role in every regard.

waffles
You can be a legit yoga teacher and still eat these delicious waffles. I know, because I’ve done it.

5. Preparation is key.

Doing everything you can to prep yourself for teaching a class pays off SO AWSEOMELY. You get your timing down, you work out any weird kinks in the transitions, and you might even perfect your playlist. When I’m prepped for class, I allow myself to be in the moment rather than worrying about where the hell I was going with this sequence. In life off the mat, set yourself up to kick ass by knocking small tasks out of the way before you absolutely have to- iron a shirt the night before work, finish your article a few days before it’s due, and pick a restaurant for date night before you’re starving.

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Plan your shit, people! And then give yourself the option to be spontaneous and throw it all away. This class ended up evolving into something totally different.

6. Slowing down is okay.

I have to be aware of when people need better explanations for postures, when the class has a calmer vibe, or when it feels like a good place to slow it down and give some juicy adjustments. I might’ve had “Power Vinyasa Super Fire Flow X-Treme” planned for class, but being a good teacher means being in-tune to your class’s energy level and general vibe. It’s okay to call an audible and make changes, and slowing down doesn’t mean you’re getting anything “less” out of class (or your day, for that matter).

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7. There is no panacea.

There is no miracle cure, no “one CRAZY trick!” that will cure your back pain/depression/nearsightedness/bitchiness whatever. Because it’s such a compelling story to proclaim something a TOTAL MIRACLE, I’ve heard way too many yogis who sound like infomercials for certain ayurvedic practices/diets/supplements/etc, probably because believing in miracles makes us feel warm and fuzzy. That’s fine. What sucks are the people who prey on the desperate, scientifically illiterate masses who want a quick cure to whatever’s ailing them. People who prescribe these types of cures are probably lying to you and selling you something. Do you ask the barber if you need a haircut (or the Chiropractor if you need an adjustment, for that matter)? I try not to overstate the benefits of yoga because, while I believe that it has aided me in SO MUCH development and healing throughout my life, it’s just basically breath and movement. Don’t rely on quick fixes to cure multifaceted, layered problems that have accumulated over years.

8. There is a lesson in everything.

Do I believe that everything happens for a reason? Sure, if the reason is that you’re able to learn from it in retrospect. Let’s not tempt the universe to create “learning experiences” disguised as terrible struggles.

9. Your self-limiting beliefs are obnoxious and should die.

Kenneth knows.
Kenneth knows.

Everyone carries around this list of things they “could totally never do”. I had this list (and sometimes I still do). It included things like teaching a yoga class, doing a pull-up, or writing a blog. I still can’t really do a pull-up, but I definitely believe that I will soon. Fear, self-doubt, and the repetition of these self-imposed limits keeps us in a state of underachievement. Believing in yourself is a total act of vulnerability, because it opens you up to the assholes who think they know your own limits better than you do. “Haters” (as the kids are calling them these days) are just unhappy people with their own lists of shit they feel they can’t achieve. Empower yourself to do cool shit and your positive energy will inspire others. In a yoga class, try that crazy pose that scares you. You might really surprise yourself.

This is only slightly terrifying these days.
This is only slightly terrifying these days.

10. When all else fails, give a really good Savasana adjustment.

I’m not suggesting that you give people massages in an attempt to win them over (however, if you’d like for me to be your friend, I have this reeeeally tight spot in my upper back…), but the point is that people remember how you made them feel. Leave them on a high note, nurture them, attend to them.

Puppy Savasana
Puppy Savasana

What’d I miss? Let me know. Love you all!

2 Comments

  1. On my second yoga class nobody showed up…I was both glad and mad at the same time…I eat everything…listen to hard rock and curse like a sailor at traffic…am I a “proper” yogi? Who made the rules about that answer??

    Like

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