May 6, 2021

The Dark Underbelly of a Yogi Mind: Confessions of a Yoga Teacher.


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A post shared by Beth Stuart (@bethstuartyoga)

After I quit my snazzy job with one of the leading beauty and fashion magazines in the country, I signed up for yoga teacher training.

Continue to rise and shine! This was the idea, essentially.

Here’s what I imagined my future to be: I drop 20 pounds in a flash, switch to veganism, sashay into a power-packed studio, teach an exceptional flow and watch people walk out with a glow that almost resembles post-coital bliss. Over the weekends, I head out to a tropical retreat to teach a delicious hips and hammies sequence.

(Not) to everyone’s surprise, my dream shattered quicker than the ice in the polar sea, and I saw myself crying like a sea bird. There were exactly two people who came to my first workshop (one my mother and the other my BFF), there were zero registrations for the “yoga by the beach” (a swimsuit ad would’ve created the ripples), and I wasn’t waltzing into a studio—I couldn’t afford one.

From reviewing chic spas and rubbing shoulders with the beau monde, my life had taken a nosedive. It definitely wasn’t all about Child’s pose and chamomile.

However, after four years of tough practice and tattered mats, bruised knees, and bakasana face-plants, not to forget a closet full of Brummagem yoga outfits, I finally feel that I’m beginning to gather trust (and without the swimsuit).

Having said that, there’s a side of mine—the dark underbelly of a yogi mind (just like every throbbing cosmopolitan)—that I want to talk about here.

I’m not as super serene as I appear to be.
I could be asking you to focus on “slow, soft, extended breaths” and be breaking inside. Heartbreak or period cramps? Even I don’t know. Not to mention the digital stress of teaching one class after another, talking (because Iyengar teachers and their incomprehensible discourses), demonstrating (because you forget how adho mukha svanasana is done even after six classes), and correcting (because I’m obsessed with rolled-out shoulders and an extended spine). The bra is itchy and suffocating, the scalp is soaked and the throat is parched, but the show must go on.

I lose it. More often than you think.
When you complain about not being able to nail an arm balance in your second class, when you grumble about your unnerving migraine not waning after exactly five unmethodical rounds of alternate nostril breathing, and when some random aunty tells me that I don’t look like a yoga teacher. With trolling being the universal religion of the digital world, I’m still learning to let it all go.

But it concerns me when your movements don’t slow down after a long and engaging restorative class. Now that’s when I truly lose the game.

I try to be available, but forgive me if I’m not.
As a good teacher, I like to be available for my students to address issues beyond class hours. But there are times when I want to close that door, light a scented candle, and cleanse my own energy—or light a cigarette and make myself a stiff drink. I’m hormonal, wildly hormonal, with thoughts bouncing in my head like a bunch of mad kids high on candy. But, but, I’m still your healer.

Some days I just don’t want to teach.
There are days when you complain about the soreness in your shoulders and thighs, but my body is sore every single day and every single night. Students can miss a class without informing, but a teacher has to show up on the mat. Then there are times when I’m oh-so-unprepared and blank that I forget the Sanskrit name for Warrior II. Thankfully, it’s the big energy of the class that keeps me going on such occasions.

I have wept when you have slept.
And I’ve got my period the very next day. I have also timed my tears because I had exactly 10 minutes before your deep meditation ended. Could’ve been that deep heart-opening camel demonstration, but I’ve salvaged, sometimes rebuilt, a crashing world in those 10 minutes. I haven’t experienced a more cathartic release ever, and my heart feels better than your hammies.

Even after all these years of teaching, the tropical retreat is still a long way. I have neither shed 20 pounds, nor made a complete switch to veganism. But what I have shed is the idea of a perfect yoga teacher.

A flawed teacher will all her physical blunders, emotional turmoil, and spiritual transgressions will nurture you with more compassion and kindness than anyone else in the world.


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