Teaching Yoga When you’re having a bad day

Theres something interesting about the profession of teaching yoga. That when you show up to teach, you assuringly have to leave your baggage at the door, in an attempt to maintain the “holier than now-guru-peace and love rules all- mentality. I can try to do that. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not. I’ve always been a sensitive being, wearing my heart on my sleeve with a face that cannot even minutely hide my true feelings.

The other day I was experiencing anxiety in a way I never had before. Things had been building up and I completely broke down. All I could do is cry. I had just minutes before yoga students were going to walk through the studio doors to attend my evening Hatha yoga class. I was mustering up everything I could to try to conjure up the yoga teacher mentality I have practiced as a life style for years now. But I could barely keep a straight face. I could barely breath. And I had to teach a yoga class to a room full of students. Anticipating the dreaded questions of “how are you?” when there was no way I could look them in the face and respond “great-fine-,etc” and not be completely translucent. I’m all about authenticity in my practice, and I preach it to no end when I teach. It would be inauthentic to tell a student I was fine when I was near an anxiety attack. What I could do is be honest and say it wasn’t the best day, and proceed to use whatever energy I had to create a good practice for the students who showed up.

I feel like this is a situation that us yoga teachers can find ourselves in more often that most people would expect. The thing is, just because someone is a great yoga teacher, or has an admirable practice, a great philosophy and attitude towards life, doesn’t mean they have it all figured out. Yet we are expected to smile and praise sunshine and rainbows when shit gets hard. We are all initially drawn to the practice of yoga to better ourselves, and the deeper we go into the practice, the more we dig up, and its not always pretty. It can be downright challenging, and scary, and very painful. As teachers, we use our own lessons to pass on to others. Allowing our students to know that we don’t have it all figured out could go both ways; they either respect and connect more to us, or they feel let down. I choose to be real. News flash- just because you spend your life practicing yoga doesn’t mean you don’t still have afflictions. Practicing yoga helps us ameliorate our afflictions though, and emerge into greater more enlightened beings. But never will any of us be perfect.

My good friend attended my class that evening. She held me in her arms as I cried and then I splashed my face off with cold water and went into the practice space to teach. I felt like throwing up the whole time, as I told my students to let go and be present and breath. After class my friend and I were walking to our cars and she told me it was an amazing class, one of the best hatha classes she has ever been too. I told her that was odd to me because I felt like I was going to throw up the whole time and she responded surprised and just gave me a hug and told me that my rawness and sensitivity is what makes me such a good yoga teacher, and to embrace that in myself.

Your yoga teacher doesn’t have it all figured out. But they are on the path to it, and respect them for sharing that path with you, and wanting you to find that awareness as well.

The light within me honors the light within you. In darkness and in Light.

Namaste.

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