April 30, 2013

Remembering What We’ve Forgotten.

I used to think the job of a yoga teacher was exactly that—to teach.

But to teach implies that there is a transfer of knowledge where the student moves from a place of not-knowing to a place of knowing.

Hmmm. I’m not sure that’s exactly what’s going on, though.

The more that I do this teacher thing, the more I understand that my job is not to teach my students anything that they don’t already know. Sure, teachers might have some functional knowledge about how to align the pelvis and the sacrum so we don’t blow out our low-back spine, but if that’s the teacher’s only job, why don’t students just go to Wikipedia instead? Why do we consistently take time out of our day, change into movement clothes, make our way to a (sometimes inconveniently) scheduled class, and pay money to sit in a community and do yoga?

Because the point of yoga has never been to learn something new. The point has always been to remember things that we have forgotten. And that’s why when we practice and we download wisdom, it hits us like a ton of bricks and our realizations become just so….obvious.

Watch a child in a stroller cruising down the street, and notice how they interact and connect with the world around them. Unafraid to exclaim and move their bodies, totally uninhibited to make eye contact and gestures with strangers, and completely curious about the workings of the natural world around them, a child lives inside the space of connection.

This is how we all started out. And somewhere along the line, we taught ourselves to shut down, to close in and to slump.

The process of yoga, then, is to remind ourselves of our right to connect.

We know this because it just feels so fucking good to twist and fold and invert and shape ourselves. It feels good to watch ourselves open and grow and expand. We remind ourselves of how good connection feels, and it starts at the most basic level of being able to connect palms together and connect elbow to knee to move into a twist.

Inside of us we all know these truths. It’s evidenced in the fact that we have these systems inside of us–we have a respiratory system that provides nourishment on the most basic level, a circulatory system that builds and maintains our strength and our movement, a digestive system that refines and purifies us every second of the day, a nervous system that ignites and creates us…and the beauty is that all these systems function together. Highly connected, highly communicative, highly functional, they work tirelessly and faithfully for us even when we don’t treat them well.

That’s love. We are so loved. And it is my right as a human being to find that love.

That’s not something I learned. That’s something I remembered.

So my job as a teacher becomes that of simply holding space–holding space so that these truths can become self-evident. And that’s important, because there’s a reason why we’ve forgotten all of this. We’ve forgotten our truths and our rights because of trauma, because of abuse, because of whatever, and we’ve developed blockages out of the need to protect.

When I enter into the contract of the teacher, I enter into the contract of creating more space, not teaching new things. And it is in the creation of space that our truths unfold themselves.

I don’t know about you, but I’m here to remember. And I will hold my space as a teacher of yoga, as a student of yoga, and as a human being as a platform to remember and to connect with why I’m here.

My right is to connect. My right is to love. My right is to get curious, elated, joyous, abundant, courageous and huge. My right is to be able to choose the thoughts I think, the activities I do, the feelings I have and the relationships I’m in because they simply make my life better.

It’s my right because I’m here. And so are you.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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