Who are you? Teaching Truly
We live in a celebrity-driven culture. Some people get famous for what they can do (talent), others for their ability to make others do what they want (power), and still others for their knack for accumulating lots of $$ (wealth). Reality TV introduced the at-first refreshing, gradually nauseating idea that anybody could be famous without necessarily being able to do anything.
As yoga teachers, we put ourselves in the spotlight daily, sometimes many times a day—whether in a crowded Equinox class or a private lesson in someone’s home. So it’s worth asking yourself, calmly, deeply, curiously: Who am I?
Too many well-intentioned teachers flounder on the twin rocks of:
- Self-Doubt: Lacking confidence, these teachers constantly self-efface, apologizing, speaking too softly, giving physical adjustments too tentative to make an impact. And/or they strive to be as impersonal as possible, and end up disconnecting not only from themselves but from everyone in the room.
- Self-Indulgence: These little darlings assume that because students came to their class, they are interested in every little detail, every up and down of the teacher’s personal life. They say too much, get too personal, and don’t realize (until their classes thin out) that maybe not everyone what they think about Breaking Bad.
Ideally, teaching yoga is neither purely personal nor completely impersonal. We want to share the teachings (impersonal) but in a way that is authentic to each of us. Without the teachings, which we did not create but received from the tradition, no yoga. Without personal conviction, nothing we say matters.
The trick is to scan the surface of your life and notice what stands out, what matters to you. Then plumb the depths of your mind and heart and ask why? Down there you will find the common ground that allows you to connect with your students. An example from my own life:
I like living in New York City, because every day I get to encounter all different kinds of people. But sometimes I also hate living in the city, because navigating all that variety can be exhausting and confusing.
To be human is to live the paradox that we are all similar yet each unique. Sometimes we savor the exotica around us, sometimes all we see are the differences, and we feel alienated and apart. Tantric yoga teaches us to see the sameness under the differences, so we don’t wash over difference but also don’t lose connection.
BACK TO THE CLASSROOM
So, in class today, I’d like you to remember that as you move through a wild range of poses, it is still always you doing the yoga. And as you look around the classroom, look first at how the same we all are (human bodies doing the same pose at the same moment), then take in what makes each of us unique. As my local tailor says,
“If we all looked alike, how could we fall in love?”