January 3, 2015

Teachasana: Showing Up is a Practice Too.


I have a confession to make. I have a slight love/hate relationship with my yoga teaching days.

The yin and yang quality brought about by a full day facilitating minds and bodies has a remarkably intense effect on me.

Sometimes when my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. I want to roll over, throw it against the wall turn it off and go back to sleep.

Sometimes I just want to be told what to do for an hour, instead of the other way around.

I like it when someone else does the thinking for me so I can just get myself there and practice. No deliberating. No planning. No talking even, maybe. Just an arrival.

But that’s just it—the arrival. Teaching yoga is when I arrive.

It’s my job to show up for someone else, and that’s a pretty big responsibility. It’s also pretty awesome.

I teach as few as four and as many as seven classes in a day, which means, basically, that at the end of the day I’m a little emotionally exhausted.

I’m happy. And light. And grateful. But also, I’m f#cking tired.

While it certainly isn’t physically draining, it requires an emotional strength, balance, and presence that is entirely different than any other kind of tutelage I’ve yet to experience.

Teaching yoga isn’t so much about the asana, the alignment, or about doing the poses “right,” at least in my book.

It’s about awareness.

There’s no trophy for holding Running Man longer than your neighbor and if you can get into Bird of Paradise and hang there for a full minute, good for you. If you can’t, well, then good for you too.

Yes, the asana matters. Absolutely. Yes, the sequence of poses matters. And yes, of course each one offers your body a unique and powerful wealth of benefits if they are done correctly. However, “correctly” looks different on every body, every day.

We work with the bodies that showed up on the mat today. What helps one yogi open their hips may not work for another. The way you access the blocks in your heart chakra is not identical to the way your sister does it. Or your friend. Or your teacher.

You see, yoga is not perfect—it’s a practice. A practice of breath. A practice of strength. A practice of restraint. A practice of grace. A practice of growth. A practice of presence. A practice of non-reaction.

Yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit, whatever the state of each of those happens to be at present.

It’s a workout, I suppose, but from the inside out rather than the other way around.

As such, as you might thus conclude, guiding students through that isn’t a simple task. Teaching is hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s a gift to be given, over, and over, and over again, to the world. All day. Every day, and in every way.

Sometimes I wonder how much of an impact I’m making though. Am I really “doing” anything besides calling poses? I am becoming the kind of teacher whose class I’d want to take? Am I offering not just a physical practice, but also one of emotional and mental clearing? Am I saying the kind of shit that matters, that people remember and connect with on a deeper level?

I don’t really have an answer.

Regardless of my doubt, despite my self judgement, and irrespective of my uncertainty, I show up, always.

The three alarms I set for that first class—I’ve yet to find myself still under cover by the third ring.

People are waiting for me. I have a job to do. There is a vacancy that I get to fill, and that helps set me on my feet every morning.

Sometimes class is messy. I forget a side, I skip a pose during flow, I talk too much, I talk too little, I accidentally say ridiculous things like “press your thigh out toward your leg,” or my playlist suddenly skips to a Lil’ John song that was intended for a group fitness class.

Shit happens.

But you know, nobody dies because of it. Lives are not lost because I called Warrior One on the right and then Virabhadrasana Two on the left. I’m going to acknowledge the mistake, move on, and be back tomorrow to try again.

Authenticty. That’s what it looks like.

Perfect is not as important as presence.

The best gift a yoga teacher can offer is to be there each class to hold space.

And so I do. I am. I will.

And so will you.



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Author: Michelle Sweezey

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Provided by Author


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