Six years ago, I boarded a plane and headed to the jungles of Costa Rica to take a Yoga Teacher Training. I suspected teaching yoga wasn’t for me at the time, but I wanted to deepen my yoga practice and thought it would be a worthwhile investment in my personal health & wellness. But I ended up teaching yoga anyhow.
And, after six years of teaching yoga, I have only recently discovered that teaching yoga really isn’t for me.
Now before you jump to conclusions, keep reading.
I started my yoga practice to help myself heal from an eating disorder. My practice became my lifeline, a safe place to show up to when I had lost hope and desperately needed to connect with myself. I strongly recommend that anyone who struggles with food begin a yoga practice. Healing will happen on your mat.
Even so, the healing that happened on my mat did not keep me from powerful fears and anxiety about teaching yoga. As my yoga teacher training approached, I was filled with the excitement and dread of the unknown. Would this investment lead to my lasting health & happiness? Had I practiced long enough? Was I ready? And I had my share of superficial questions. Was I fit enough, skinny enough, confident enough, flexible enough, strong enough… ENOUGH?
During the Yoga Teacher Training, I discovered teaching yoga was for me. I loved it. When teaching yoga, I felt ah-maze-ing. I felt strong and powerful, non-judgmental and clear, loving and open. Perhaps most of all, I discovered even though I wasn’t perfect, I could still teach yoga. Maybe I was enough, after all.
Then, returning home, I started teaching in my community. Teaching to beginners as a beginner was hard. I struggled to truly see my students and meet their unique needs. Perhaps most of all, I found myself riding an emotional roller coaster after each class wondering how I did.
Then, in a turn of events, everything changed.
Perhaps each of us has rare moments in life when such a powerful experience happens it feels like the self that emerges on the other side is transformed on a cellular level. Becoming pregnant with my first child was such a moment for me. It gave me much needed, hard-won perspective.
With equal excitement and fear, I began pregnancy… only to have it end in a devastating miscarriage. The loss tore at my heart and I let myself fall apart. Falling apart was not entirely new to me, but this time was different. This time, for the first time, I both witnessed myself falling apart and had a healthy toolbox of emotional resources to piece myself back together.
Once again, yoga became my lifeline, a safe place to show up to when I had lost hope and desperately needed to connect with myself. I strongly recommend that anyone who struggles with fertility begin a yoga practice. Healing will happen on your mat.
Several years later, becoming pregnant with my second child was another moment for me. This time, the miscarriage I feared never happened. As my son’s cells divided and he took shape inside of me, I watched my belly and body grow to support this new life. Meanwhile, I practiced and taught yoga. And, for the first time, I began to truly observe students as I taught. Not just their postures, but all that they brought to their mat… their courage and presence and joy and sorrows.
Teaching yoga while becoming a mother sparked an epiphany. Looking out at my students, observing their capacity to show up week after week and be with themselves on their mats changed my mind: teaching yoga wasn’t for me.
I realized that, as a yoga teacher, I had been completely selfish.
Being a yoga teacher wasn’t for me. Becoming a yoga teacher isn’t about my happiness, we teach to spark joy, inspiration & “yoga”—the yoking of mind with spirit—in someone else. A student’s awakening helps awaken us. Even more importantly, we teach yoga to create community. Not to shape the community based on our own ideas, but so we can be part of the creative and powerful unfolding that happens when a group of people gathers with openness, love & authenticity.
And so, as I became a mother, a new mantra came into my life, something I can remember when I struggle to show up as I am:
“Teaching yoga isn’t for you. It’s about the people who show up as students in your classes.”
TEACHING YOGA ISN’T FOR YOU
In the recent months since giving birth to my son, the students who join my classes have given me endless gifts. Alongside the sleepless nights, lactating breasts, and disappearance of my core muscles, emotions have been raw. When life gets hard, no matter how beautiful it is to have a newborn baby, I tend to turn inward separating myself from the world. Then, when I show up to teach yoga, students greet me with their multitudes. They share their presence and joy, depth and sorrow, peace and energy.
I realize now that maybe after all, teaching yoga is for me… AND the students who show up to my classes. Because giving always gives back. I think that’s the blessing of all relationships, the blessing of being human. True love gives.