We all have this idea in ours heads of what certain jobs are like. My husband works for Sesame Street and everyone immediately thinks that is the coolest thing in the world. Sadly, he is not sitting on the stoop of 123 Sesame St. hanging out with Monsters all day. People often assume things of me that could not be further from the truth and I know I do the same of others. Through my eyes, every teacher of mine walks around with a glow surrounding them and they face every obstacle with grace and compassion.
When I began teaching, I really had no idea what to expect. It all seemed straight forward, plan a class, teach a class, done. I’ve been working since I was 14 and while I’ve never had a job like this how different could it be right? Well shit, really freaking different! In all the other jobs I’ve had there is a task, it’s clear, there’s a formula. Depending on what you do there may even be very little interaction with others. It doesn’t even really matter if you like or get along with your coworkers so long as you do your job well. So far not much difference, right? Well here’s a few of the parts that were tricky for me.
The first class I ever taught with a student who clearly did not want to be there but was dragged by a friend completely threw me. It was like when there’s an accident on the highway and everyone looks over thus causing another accident. I couldn’t stop looking at her, my focus was completely pulled in her direction. I forgot what I was doing, kept tripping over my words and it was all I could do to not cry and run out the door. I’d love to say that happened only once but no. The gift of teaching which is unlike any other job I’ve ever had is that it comes with a whole lot of personal growth and self-awareness. I have learned more about myself through teaching and have been able to grow because of it. Perhaps others have experienced this in their jobs but for me a job has never done this. On occasion when I have students that aren’t into it I no longer react that way. I send them love and light and just keep on offering what I have to offer, and I don’t take it personally. Again, in some jobs it really doesn’t matter if people like you if you’re good at it. If you must hire a lawyer and she’s aggressive and argumentative well that’s probably a good thing. I can plan an amazing class but if you don’t like me you aren’t going to come. Ouch, that is personal and though it has taken time I am grateful I’ve learned to not take that way.
So, what other little things about being a teacher are kept hidden from us? Well if you practice yoga everything you have gone through your teacher has as well. Let’s just get this one out of the way first. Ya know that pose that you really don’t want to do because you know you’re going to fart and you’re just not sure if you can pull it off quietly or not? Yup, been there. Even worse though is if you’re standing in front of a class demonstrating the pose. I have learned to be more conscious about what I eat before a class just to try and avoid those moments but it’s natural, normal and yes, it’s funny. I don’t know why it’s funny, but it is. Isn’t laughter great though!
Here’s another fun one. Yoga clothing in the US does not leave a lot to the imagination. By the way, tight unforgiving clothing is not necessary. All you need is clothing you can move around in and not get stuck in when moving from pose to pose. What is necessary is to have clothing that covers and holds you in place. I made the mistake of purchasing a very cute yoga bra. I was so excited because cute stuff is rare in my size. I was feeling all kinds of sassy coming into class with a top that has a partially open back so you can see the crisscross of this new undergarment. Two downward facing dogs later as I began to choke on my newly freed breasts, I realized cute things are no match for gravity. I spent the remainder of the class using every forward fold the class was in as an opportunity to tuck the girls back in while no one could see.
Then there are those moments. The moments when I see a student having a reaction to the class. Sometimes it’s tears, the way they’re breathing or a look they give me. I feel my heart filling up with so much love and I focus all my energy to them and it’s all I can do to contain myself. Moments like that overwhelm me. All you can do is hold space for someone and teaching has given me that gift.
I think one of the things that’s still difficult for me is when people have no faith in themselves and have given up. I realize I have a hard time with this because I was like that in some ways. Students are a great reflection of ourselves and are often the best teachers. Sometimes it takes seeing something in others to realize you carry those same qualities.
Like any job there are obstacles to overcome. In yoga many of them (at least for me) are very personal. You are dealing with the public so you will not have the same views as all your students and believe it or not things come up either before or after class. Coming across someone who is racist, homophobic or prejudice in any way has definitely been a challenge for me, but it has also made me listen without reacting and discuss things much more civilly than I have in the past, thus being much more affective.
I love teaching. It is much different than I thought it would be and as it turns out so much better than I imagined. Writing the word job has been difficult because I never call it a job. I love it. To me the idea of work is something that you have to do, something you may not even love. It can be exhausting. Driving around from studio to studio, planning classes, making play lists and the time you are teaching you are giving yourself to your class. It’s physically and mentally draining but it’s also physically and mentally invigorating. Watching a student grow, spiritually, mentally, physically…. Wow, what a gift to witness that!! When I see a student go from fidgeting to calm stillness I turn to goo. When I witness the subtle opening of space in the body that wasn’t there before or witness that first headstand, my heart breaks open. I am truly blessed for finding my way here.