As you probably know by now, I’m a yoga teacher and I’ve been at it for a few years. When I started teaching, I worked really hard to come up with stuff so that I could keep my students happy and the classes interesting. It was both invigorating and a little exhausting to develop classes, design themes and then perform them each week. I approached teaching with the idea that “I” had to create something and “I” had to keep it going…as if the teachings came from or originated inside of me. You know all of those annoying hybrid, trademarked yoga creations that keep popping up? I felt like “I” would have to be at the center of the what I offer: Yogamanda!!!, Amandoga ™, Yogreenda-Blissssss, and I’d have to be super clever and marketing savvy and hire an IP attorney to make sure that my teaching was successful.
That pressure that I put on myself at the beginning faded with time and experience. I think some of that is just part of the process. But the other day, I understood something else so clearly. Teaching yoga is less and less about me more and more about the wonderfulness of yoga and the relationships it fosters. This week, I was in a private with one of my regular students and I was so absolutely filled up by what was I could see. After a few short months of yoga, this student is able to move through a sequence of yoga postures and breath practices with ease and grace. She has less pain and greater range of motion than when she began. The two of us have talked about how these changes are great and have made a big difference in her life, but that doesn’t really capture the essence of the experience that I had there in the room with her. The thing that struck me in that moment is that this practice of yoga is working in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. There is ease in the way she carries herself, and in her way of being. I can see it in how she sits down at the start of class and I can sense it when she talks about the things that are going on in her life. It is so lovely. And it is so clear that these changes didn’t come from something I did.
Sure, I am involved in the process. I have a dedicated practice and a relationship with my own teacher. I show up for every lesson. I listen, pay attention and care a lot about this student. I make sincere efforts to offer appropriate guidance based on my experience and knowledge of yoga. This student brings a willingness to practice, faith that it will work, and openness to the process—even the uncomfortable parts. She’s willing to be vulnerable and honest. These aren’t small things. They at times feel sacred. But I’ll tell you what. The yoga I teach isn’t my creation and it isn’t me who is making someone better. There is something beyond what my student brings and the efforts she makes.There is so much that is at work when a student comes to practice. Yoga is intimately connected to the wisdom is knitted into our bodies and breath and our mind, experiences and thoughts. When we cultivate attention and a quiet mind, there are wonderful things to be discovered, like the sense that there is something beyond ourselves that we connect to when we make efforts in the right directions. And that can happen in such cool ways. My role isn’t to try and know everything or make something happen, but to be present and sincere and open to the things that move through me.
It is so clear that I’m not the source of the material, I’m not coming up with anything brand new and I’m not even being particularly clever with what I know. Accepting this has changed my relationship to teaching and has deepened my faith in the practice. If the time isn’t right for a student to continue, then I can trust that they’ll find what they need. If someone wants to practice with me, then I can trust that there will be something to offer. I’m coming to understand that the change and transformation that I observe in my students again and again is a part of the very beautiful relationship of teacher and student coming together with yoga and this is a big part of what facilitates change. Thank goodness yoga and the student/teacher relationship works so well. It will surely outlive any Amandoga ™ scheme that I could ever come up with.