September 30, 2012

How Usher Helped Me Find My Freedom as a Yoga Teacher. ~ Gina DuBois

Photo credit: David Berkowitz

The following is dedicated to all the yoga teachers who think they have to force themselves into a specific mold in order to be valued and to anyone else who thinks that being yourself is not enough.

Are you familiar with the song “Yeah!” by Usher? It’s ok if you aren’t. It’s a great R & B song that narrates a hot girl trying to seduce Usher with her dance moves in a club. It completely oozes over with sexual energy, scandalous lyrics and great beats and I was totally grooving to it at the gym the other morning.

There I was nodding my head, swaying my shoulders all while peddling on the elliptical like I was being chased by a rabid dog. In fact, I completely forgot that I was in a public setting and that people might be watching me.

Then smack, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Crap! Where am I? Are people staring? What must they think? Was I singing the words out loud? Do I know anyone? Do they know me and know that I am a yoga teacher? That roommate of mine that lives in my head was rambling on like a 7-year-old jacked up on too much sugar and caffeine.

As a yoga teacher, I have often been conflicted on what that should look like to me and to the outside world.

I absolutely love my chosen profession. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. It fits me like a glove.

But, sometimes I struggle with the many sides of my personality and how to blend that spiritual, enlightened side with, well, for lack of a better word, my more “spirited” side.

I love talking about topics like spiritual awakening and the evolution of the consciousness. I dig learning about Hindu Gods and Goddesses, singing the ancient Sanskrit chants and mantras and studying the Yoga Sutras. My personal daily mantra is to be kind, forgiving and compassionate and to continue to evolve as both a human and spiritual being.

Some of my favorite things are my statues of Ganesha and Buddha and my copy of the Untethered Soul, a guide on how to journey through life on an enlightened path. Oh yeah, I am also a self-proclaimed groupie of the Dali Lama.

Have I proved my yogi-ness yet?

How does all this spiritual, enlightened mumbo-jumbo to which I totally and completely subscribe mix and match to the many other sides of my personality, and what does that mean in regards to my chosen profession?

Does it make me less of a yoga teacher because I love listening to the rapping of Kanye and Nelly and the smooth, seducing lyrics of Usher? Is it wrong to want to sing their often inappropriate lyrics out loud? Is it improper and unbecoming of a yogini to put on a hot outfit and go out and move, writhe and gyrate around the dance floor?

Should I instead be dressing in long, flowery, bohemian-style dresses and protesting for peace outside my local government office? Does it make me less spiritual and somehow less believable as a professional yoga teacher if I enjoy a bit of social drinking and have on rare occasion over indulged?

(I can now see the disapproving looks and hear the tsk tsk from many of my fellow yoga teachers and students.)

Let’s explore my personality a bit further…yup. I have even been known to drop an f-bomb here and there and uncontrollably laugh at a dirty joke. Should I not?

Are we yoga teachers only supposed to be very modest, veggie-eating, non-drinking, non-cursing, platonic-minded folks talking only about love, peace and how to grow our own sprouts?

I have gone down the vegan road, am now (mostly) a vegetarian but will on occasion eat turkey or a meatball if the mood strikes me. After all, I am an Italian yogi. After studying the yoga principle of ahimsa or non-violence will I be branded a hypocrite if someone sees me partake in a bite of a chicken wing?

And okay, I’ll fess up—I’ve read the Fifty Shades of Grey books and loved them. Am I now completely doomed as a yoga teacher?

Hmm, but then…do I really want to be perceived as imitating a monk-like yoga guru, seemingly out of touch with “real life” and spouting out coined phrases like a PEZ dispenser? (No disrespect meant.) Wouldn’t I much rather be relatable and authentic to who I am?

So who am I as a yoga teacher?

I am a yoga teacher who is absolutely passionate about the ins and outs of yoga and want to share it with every human on the planet. I am a teacher who is addicted to the feeling of being in the poses and how that feeling can totally transform a bad day. I am someone who may not have mastered all the really difficult poses but continues working on them and can relate to her students struggles in learning them, too.

I am a yoga teacher who is emphatic on proper alignment in order to keep her students safe and free from injury. I am a human and spiritual being who is continuing to evolve, one who has made many missteps but has learned valuable lessons from them and chooses to pass those insights along to help another. I am a relatable teacher to my students because I am experiencing and living a similar path.

I am a teacher who loves to teach how yoga can help balance out the stuff we do that maybe isn’t always the best for us. I’ve indulged in way too many chocolates around Easter. I’ve woken up with the headache from a hell of a lot of tequila. I have experienced the loss of a parent, dealt with a serious illness and have used yoga as a lifeline through it all. I’ve done it.

I’ve experienced it and I throw my students that same lifeline because of it. I help them negotiate through their ups and downs from the perspective of maneuvering through my own. And of course, I show them why yoga is probably the best damn thing they will ever learn to help keep their sanity intact.

In the words of the late Steve Jobs,

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

In fact, I’ve realized I only want to live mine. Being me is enough. All my experiences and all my lessons learned have shaped who I am today…a 40-year-old professionally trained yogi who likes to eat, drink, dance, sing about sex and laugh at a dirty joke all the while walking an enlightened, spiritual path.

Can you do both? Yup. I’m living proof and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m me—a valuable yoga teacher. A teacher right for the world we live in. I have something to offer, something to say and those who recognize my gifts are drawn my way.

Those who don’t, well, there are a plethora of other yoga teachers out there drinking your kind of Kool-aid. Find one that fits you.

I can only be me.

So it’s back on that elliptical tomorrow, free to sing out loud, sway and shimmy my way to slimmer thighs—in the prophetic words of Usher, “Yeah!”

Gina DuBois is a self-proclaimed 21st century yogi who enjoys the blending of her spiritual, enlightened side with her good-time girl persona. In addition to the role as owner of Hidden Haven Yoga Studio in the Hudson Valley, NY, she also holds roles as a wife, mother and writer off all things interesting. Her passions include helping her students find their own inner yogi, grooving on the dance floor, gourmet foods, fine wines and generally anything that will make her laugh out loud.

Editor: Jamie Morgan

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