If the long-term weather forecast is anything to go by, it will be sunny on Wednesday coming. There goes my best excuse for postponing the inevitable. My professional debut as a yoga teacher is barreling down upon me and I don’t feel I’m ready to roll. Today when I was at market, I ran into my teacher-training classmate, Lisa, who was so encouraging. Her cheerfulness made me realize I just want time to go backwards, so that Wednesday is still a couple of months away and not a few days from now.
I am so NOT ready to do this and yes, I catch myself praying for rain.
A few days ago, YogaGuide wrote a column about “Enough” and reading it clarified the nature of this nameless nagging sense of anxiety that’s been lurking around the corners of my perception this past week. And now that I’ve had some time to think about it, at the core of it all is a sense of inadequacy. The central question is “Who am I to teach this thing called Yoga?”
Well, let’s explore that for a moment. I’ve been given a one-hour slot to teach a multi-level class for people from all traditions and no traditions. How much of this thing called Yoga can I possibly communicate in that time frame? Not a lot if I restrict my channels of communications to mere words and instructions. If I limit myself to those things I can put in the linear and logical format of language, with all its rules on verbs and subjects and predicates and verb-subject agreement, there’s not a lot I’m going to say about Yoga. I’m a new teacher and finding those words and phrases is still very much a work in progress. My intellectual understanding of yoga is my weakest point. I have a million books left to read. I have another thousand concepts I don’t fully understand. You could fill an ocean with what I don’t know about yoga and if nothing else, teacher’s training is a perfect way of reifying exactly just how ignorant a student is in the overall scheme of things.
Realistically, how many people are showing up to the Lighthouse on Wednesday evening for a doctoral dissertation on Yoga? I’m thinking “None” is the answer to this question. Have I ever showed up to a yoga class looking for that? The answer to that is decidedly “No”. I never showed up to a yoga class in my life looking for a lecture or a polished argument filled with footnotes and references. I showed up because I wanted an hour of my life that was free from multi-tasking. I wanted a place where really the most important thing on my mind was my breath. Inhale; exhale. Repeat.
It dawns on me that the people on Wednesday night are going to be very much like that. They’re looking for an hour of relaxation. They’re looking for a culturally acceptable way to stop being Superman/ Superwoman for 40 minutes so they can tune in and look after themselves instead of focusing on every other demand that exists in their life.
So where’s the problem? I’m both blessed and intimidated by the fact I have a wonderful teacher. In some respects, when I hear myself speak, I feel like a poor imitation of her. I know that I’m growing on my own and with time, patience and of course, practice, I will find my own voice. But at this stage, I feel woefully inadequate to the task at hand.
Do I detect the stirrings of ego? Truly, am I hesitant to teach for fear I might be negatively compared to someone much more experienced than myself? That’s starting to sound like it’s all about my competitive streak. The want – nay, the need — to excel is often a source of personal motivation but sometimes it hamstrings me when I let my self-induced fear of failure to restrict me trying in the first place.
Who am I to teach? Again the question keeps coming back to me. Is there any amount of knowledge I could attain that would sooth my jitters? I think not because it’s not a lack of knowledge that is making me edgy.
This summer I have focused a lot of my personal practice as a ‘return to my roots’. I’ve enjoyed exploring practices that I haven’t seen for several months. I’ve spent time exploring the particulars of individual postures. A lot of time has been spent on grounding myself and working with the issues of muladhara, the root chakra.
So I think right now, in these few days leading up to my debut, I need to concentrate on the most basic of things. Why did I want to teach in the first place? If I’m honest with myself, it wasn’t about feeding the needs of ego, about being the “best”. It came from a much deeper source than mere ego.
I named my business “Dharma Yoga” for a reason. As I moved through my teacher’s training, something grew inside me. At the start of my training, I was uncommitted about teaching others. I knew I wanted to deepen my own studies and would have been content to live my life as the teacher of a class of one. But as the months went on, I realized that I was being called to pursue this with great sincerity. As part of my training, I assisted in some of Kathryn’s classes and shall ever be grateful to one student who taught me the joy that comes from connecting with another human being. As I went through the student teaching process and the teaching evaluations, I felt clear and sure that teaching was my dharma – my life’s purpose.
Every step helped refine it but never did I waver from a clear conviction that I’m supposed to teach. This gift of yoga was given to me so that I would pass it on. The certainty grew as I though about what kind of teacher I would be. Some teachers teach pregnancy yoga, others teach kids and yet others work with seniors. You get the idea.
I felt drawn towards that large yet oft-forgotten group – the stithis – the householders. Those people who never get a break because they’re not students and they’re not seniors. This is the group of “all demands and little resources.” They’re raising children, balancing careers, and paying mortgages, saving for the future, and frequently, caring for aging parents. Yet, when they’re discussed socially or in the context of a demographic group, they’re frequently dismissed derisively as “boomers” or “yuppies” as if those labels were sufficient to render their needs invisible.
Just typing this, I feel that same passion rising in my chest. These are my ‘peeps’. And, damn it, I am passionate about these people. They need the support of yoga more than anyone I know because they’re the ones who are supporting the rest of the universe.
And there is the cure for my jitters. It’s not another book. It’s not another course. It’s not more time. The cure comes when I return to Source. Am I going to be nervous on Wednesday night? Of course – it’s called performance anxiety for a reason. Properly harnessed, it’s an advantage. It focuses the mind and keeps one sharp. It’s the motivation to do your homework, learn your lines and your blocking, before you hit the stage.
As for the über-question – who am I to teach this thing called Yoga? Maybe that’s the point. I’m not anybody special. I’m just another householder, trying to navigate this thing called Life, trying to keep all the balls in the air without neglecting any of my responsibilities. No, I don’t have the perfect yoga body. No, I don’t have the perfect yoga mind and attitude (however we may describe either of those in our fantasy realm). Maybe, truly, that’s all the Universe expects of me – to be just another clear voice saying “The route back to sanity starts by following your breath. Breathe in; breathe out. Now let’s work with that…”
Ishvara pranidana – surrender to the will of God. How often is it about letting go of ego’s demands and insecurities and just doing what you know inside you’re supposed to do? On Wednesday night, it’s time to take the plunge – feet on the mat, spine straight, chin slightly tucked in, breath in, breath out.
Weather permitting, of course… but now I’m hoping for clear skies.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,