The worst thing you can do as a yoga teacher is to try to be a yoga teacher.
A dear friend of mine told me recently that you can decide how long you are going to live. “Pick a number!” he said. “That’s how long you will live for!”
I asked him, “How long are you going to be here for?”
He replied confidently, “125!” I said, “Ya know, I think 125 years might be just long enough to get this whole thing right.”
To me, it’s been a long road. But those who are “on the path” and have come before me would probably just laugh and say, “Sharon, you’ve only just begun!”
And it’s true. My humble beginnings of becoming a teacher started only 12 years ago. Still not finished, I continue onward to obtain my 500-hour certification as a yoga teacher. Every once in awhile my husband asks, “When does all this training end?” I just smile at him and say, “It never ends.”
Up until last year, I’m was feeling pretty good, I was in a good teaching groove, getting good teaching gigs, learning, growing, all that good stuff. Then I signed up for a five-day training in Montana with the founders of Live Love Teach, Philip Urso, Stacy Dockins, and Deborah Williamson.
I have not been the same since, and neither has my teaching.
What I learned about myself was that I was teaching from fear. I was teaching from a place where I would hold myself completely hostage with thoughts like, “I hope they like me, I hope I sound okay, I hope I don’t suck, I hope I don’t screw up the sequence.” So, you could call that a blind spot in my teaching. I had no idea I was doing it, but these three very loving, compassionate teachers showed this to me without making me feel self-conscious about it. Their disarming approach took out of the way all of the personal attachments I had about myself and about my teaching. They helped me to get out of my own way. They showed me how to teach from love.
“The worst thing you can do as a yoga teacher, is show up to class and ‘be a yoga teacher’,” Philip said.
“The best class comes from seeing what’s in front of you,” Stacy said.
“Give up caring what people think about you and instead just care about them. That’s where the magic is. And this simple shift is actually a skill––a skill that can be taught, practiced and cultivated. It will transform your teaching, and your life.” Deborah said.
In other words, all of this time, for the past 11 years, I have been showing up with these false expectations of what I think I should sound like, act like, and be; everything except to be myself, exactly as I am. I was not seeing my students, but hiding behind my own fears. Wow, what a bummer! But wait! One of the Live Love Teach principles is called “instant forgiveness.” Whew, I love that one! I need it all of the time!
When I returned from Montana after the training, I felt fresh, with no fear and new tools in my teaching tool belt.
And then, I unleashed myself.
As I called out, “Bridge to Wheel,” I could see hesitation in more than half of the class. The bridges were lacking in enthusiasm, and maybe one person went right up into wheel. Five labored breaths later I said, “Take Happy Baby. And rock side to side, and be … happy-ish.” Laughter and ease filled the room. I said, “I sense a story around this pose. What is it? Let’s hear it!” One student shouted, “Pain!” Another shouted, “Nausea!” One more said, “I can’t do wheel!”
I said, “Okay, alright. I hear you. All that stuff is the same physical sensation as excitement and fear. It’s just energy. Now, who would you be without that story? What could you do, right now, without that story?” I can still see their faces, their expressions of pondering the possibility that maybe––wow––who would I be and what could I do without that story?
“Now, right now, go to bridge. Press down through your feet. Hips high. Plant your hands behind your shoulders, wider than your shoulders, and press up only to rest the crown of your head on the floor. Now, you are in wheel. Stay here, or there is an opportunity to straighten your arms. Go up, go up, go up! Everyone went up into wheel. The breath was powerful. They were doing it. They were in wheel. Even the ones who “don’t do wheel.” It was beautiful. “Now come down, and take supta badakonasana.” Big sighs of relief and accomplishment filled the room.
“We all have a story. We give our stories so much meaning. So much attachment to them. And they aren’t even true! And we are the ones telling ourselves these B.S. stories! You all just went up into wheel! We all have pain, we all have nausea. So, so what? Rock back and forth five times and come up into boat. You need to unload all that B.S. cargo now.” Then there were big, big smiles. And happy, happy students. After class, one student came up to me and said, “Holy sh*t, Sharon.”
And I said, “Have you ever been to Montana?”
Sharon Marie is a yogi, a writer, a blogger, a Harley girl, and a CO-FIT Facilitator for Live Love Teach. She is happily married with children, two goofy dogs, two cats, friends, and a fulfilling teaching career. Her Path is loving God, cleaning house, and helping others find peace and grace in the process known as Life. With 14 years of practice, and 12 years of professional experience in the fitness industry and the healing arts, Sharon has been able to blend all that she loves into incredibly simple, powerful, transformational, life changing programs and workshops for people of all ages, all walks of life, all over the country. Here’s to another 80 or so more years! Follow and Friend Sharon at @SharonMarieYoga or on Facebook. And look for trainings with Live Love Teach.
Editor: Alexandra Grace / Brianna Bemel