I have always wondered what to call myself as a yoga teacher. I have never felt like I was teaching anyone anything. Leading students through their own journey is what I do. I do not, personally, have the ability to teach anyone anything about their own body, how their body moves or what feels right for them. It always felt a bit pretentious to even consider calling myself a teacher.
Even when I “teach teachers” to TEACH class. What was I doing? I was offering them information, a tiny bit of information, from the tip of this huge iceberg we call yoga. Personally, I feel like every time I learn a bit more, there is this gigantic mountain of information that leads me down yet another rabbit hole of learning. Then I need to seek the knowledge from another yogi, who perhaps has been on the path longer than I have, to work on learning more…and so it continues.
A week or so ago, a friend who recently moved to another state, sent me some links to yoga studios in her area. She was looking for a new place to practice and was seeking my opinion. Although difficult to tell from a website, the site of one stuck out to me. They call the folks instructing the classes “guides”. I love that. That is truly what we do! I simply guide the souls that come into my studio to find their practice. I encourage them to explore the limits of their bodies and to engage in a mind/body connection that no other activity has offered me until I found yoga.
Also, in my own practice today, as I followed an amazing guide through the practice, I found myself reaching new limits that just a week ago seemed outside the realm of possible. She was simply offering me places to reach to help me create my own practice that would work for my body today. It felt amazing to not consider her my “teacher”, but to know that she too, knows some things, but nothing about ME. She knows what happens within her own practice, and she shared her knowledge with me from her experience. It was amazing to listen to her offer her words, minimally, to get me where I needed to be. She asked several times for us to slow down, hear our breath and to find our pose. There was no judgement, no “that looks good” or “good job”, there was just a gentle nudge to perhaps go a bit deeper, or sometimes to back off a bit. It was as if she could see when frustration got a hold of me and she would offer that gentle push. Sometimes there was that gentle pressure on the lower back or hip to offer perhaps a depth I hadn’t considered. Never a push, just an offer to deepen.
As is said in the book The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, we are each living in our own dream. We each create our own reality within our dream, so to imagine someone teaching us anything about our own reality doesn’t sound right to me. I think we need to discover it on our own.
I also feel like I learn as much from the people standing in front of me, listening to me guide them through their practice as they learn from me. Actually, I might be learning more from them. Perhaps they are the teachers and I am the student? That is an interesting concept! There is so much to learn from someone seeing the practice of yoga for the first time. There is so much to gain from helping people to see their limit, but to also guide them gently back when the try to push too far into a space perhaps their body may not be ready to go.
So from now on, I will call myself a guide on the journey of yoga. A gentle voice in the front of the room offering the people in front of me the opportunity to seek their yogic path. It truly is, simply what is happening on your own mat. It is no one else’s experience but your own. It isn’t about being “good” at yoga. It is about finding the place on your mat, in your body, to truly experience life in your own reality. To find peace and tranquility in that space. To secure the level of ease in a pose, where you could hold it forever, but if you went one tiny smidge deeper, it would be too much. To feel your personal edge without worrying about anyone else in the room. To be the best YOU, you can be in that particular moment from whatever perspective of “best” works for you today.
As I often say in class, one day a pose may seem easy, a balance a breeze or a forward fold comfortable. The next day, may be completely different and that is ok. It isn’t about being able to “do” a pose. It is about being ok no matter where your practice takes you on a particular day.
So, won’t you join me for a journey through a yoga practice soon? I would love to guide you to your place on your mat.