Very soon, it will be a year since I began my yoga teaching career in earnest. Looking back over this year, I have learned an enormous amount about living life as I’ve tried to discover my unique voice as a teacher. I’ve become much more of a teacher to myself than I had been for a long time. That is wonderful and needed. I know it is work that will continue for the rest of this lifetime. And now, I’m ready to have some other students, please. Ha. But no really, I feel like I’ve had a great year, and I am ready for more. After a year, I am committed to expanding as a yoga instructor more than ever before.
So now what?
Sometimes, phrases or concepts or images will buzz around like bugs in the summer. Do you ever get that? Something will circle around my head over and over until finally I have to pay attention to it. One of those things lately has been the idea of discovering my own unique voice as a teacher. What do I wish to say and how do I wish to say it?
I became a yoga instructor for the love of it and its ability to deepen my understanding of life. But I can’t just tell my students or anyone who will listen to do what I do and expect them to receive the same kind of benefits that I do. What is it about yoga that has captured my heart and imagination for so long and how can I translate that as a teacher?
My first step, I decided, would be to go back to where the love affair began- my mat. Like I often say, “I forget the question, but yoga is the answer.” So, I’ve gotten on my mat more faithfully than I have since before my son came along. My practice is stronger than it has been in more than 5 years. It’s not just more advanced, it’s richer.
My focus grows day by day. I am relearning my body. Not everything is where I left it, so the experience is that much fresher. It’s like a whole new world. I see its ripples out into other areas of my life, too.
So, that’s all great for me, personally, but what does it mean for me as a teacher? What about this experience do I want to share?
If I had to distill it into a short answer, I guess I would choose: learning to approach life from the heart-space. Or shorter yet, witness consciousness.
I have not only been practicing more “advanced” postures, I’ve also been exploring in the other direction, balancing vigorous vinyasa practices with restorative ones. I’ve discovered that my sense of the beauty of yoga can be experienced in a challenging arm balance or the most lulling restorative pose. The ways of getting there may be different, but when I’m “doing it right,” I arrive at the same place-the stillness of my heart.
From there, I am able to witness the big picture more fully and objectively- without getting caught up in the mental gymnastics that my ego finds irresistible.
It was a breakthrough for me the day I realized that I did not need to silence my stream (sometimes cloud) of thoughts. Rather, I could just give up paying them so darn much attention. Turn down the volume, as it were.
The more I acknowledge my thoughts and let them go, watching them float by from my heart-space, the more I adept I become at approaching the present as a witness rather than an ego.
If there’s any part of my yoga practice that I hope to share in my teaching, it’s that. It’s not the most complicated asanas or transitions. Approaching the present moment with an open heart, regardless of where your limbs are positioned and what your mind might want to say about it, and witnessing a bigger picture.
Lucky thing for me- when you teach from that place, you are much more able to teach about that place. So, I am staying faithful in my asana practice and striving every day to practice the qualities that I want to be able to teach to others. I must say- I’m looking forward to the next year. I feel positive about what experiences it has to hold.
Want to connect more deeply with your heart center right now? Sit in a comfortable seated position. If you are in a chair, place the soles of both feet flat on the floor. Hands can rest in your lap. Focus all of your attention on the area of your heart. Take 5 slow, deep breaths, matching the length of your inhalation and exhalation. Feel as if you are able to gently draw the breath in through the heart center and release it gently through the heart center.