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March 2, 2013

Touch My Heart Before My Butt. ~ Amy Taylor

Source: google.com via Katie on Pinterest

See, the true gifts of teaching yoga don’t come in the form of packed classes or four-digit paychecks. The real gift is the opportunity to set an intention that can ripple through the hearts and lives of students.

Reflecting back on my negative experiences with touch in yoga, I realize that I didn’t feel a connection with the teacher. In fact, I felt a frustrating sense of separation.

I wasn’t clear on the teacher’s intention.

Why would you think it’s okay to touch me when we’ve just met? How can you miss that I’m shaking with distress?

It’s tempting to blame ego. It’s hard not to buy into the dynamic of power imbalance when you have been charged with educating and enlightening others. When your limber form has graced the cover of Yoga Journal more than once. When you are a Yoga Rock Star.

You probably have some ambivalence about it (or maybe you don’t), but hey, you’ve worked hard and we all have to eat.

So maybe you struggle with ego. So do I.

I also struggle with a sense of unworthiness.

And to be honest, I have been part of the problem. I sought your advice as if you were some kind of reincarnated deity. I gazed upon you with worshipful eyes.

I obeyed when you said, “Follow me, don’t do your own thing.” I wanted to please, to get an A, at least for effort.

I followed your instructions, and allowed you to push me farther, even when my body, heart and mind cried, “Stop!”

So you and I have played this game that hasn’t served. In fact, it has severed any chance of a real relationship.

Granted, in a workshop of 70 people, it’s hard to make a connection with all your students. It takes unusual self-awareness, humility and grace. It’s unrelated to the ability to perform fancy yoga stunts.

Recently, I was reminded why students come to my yoga class. It’s not because I am some amazing teacher or human being. They come to practice yoga. At least, that’s the appropriate, healthy intention to foster.

This intention may not sell books or fill classes. But it has changed the way I teach. And I believe it can change lives.

Yesterday, just as I was about to begin my morning class, the studio door opened and four thin, lovely young women slipped inside. As I set up mats and props for the last-minute arrivals, I heard another student squeal.

“You’re the dancers!”

Turned out the lithe beauties were professional ballerinas who had performed the previous night.

My heart began to beat faster. How could I teach women with such immense talent and grace? The poses I modeled would look clunky and amateur.

Although I was the instructor—the rock star apparent—my unworthy self began to take over.

My face flushed and my hands shook against my thighs. When I spoke, my voice squeaked.

But the energy from that swath of mats on my left was peaceful and serene. The ballerinas didn’t try to sparkle, swoon or show anyone up. They knew they weren’t on stage, and were probably grateful for it.

They had come to my class to practice yoga.

All I needed to do was create space for them to do that, and permission to be present in their own bodies, hearts and minds.

So, I set the intention of gratitude, of recognizing our blessings and then offering our gifts up to the world. I encouraged students to explore the subtle terrain of body, mind and mood and meet what they encountered with compassion. I reminded them that the practice was their time to be present, aware and grateful. To find that buried sense of peace. To welcome healing and renewal.

After class, the woman who had recognized the dancers gushed about how much her daughter had enjoyed the show. She insisted on paying for the dancers’ classes and they graciously posed for pictures.

All day, I basked in the glow of gratitude.

See, the true gifts of teaching yoga don’t come in the form of packed classes or four-digit paychecks. The real gift is the opportunity to set an intention that can ripple through the hearts and lives of students.

There’s no longer room in my life for worshiping rock stars.

But they are always welcome to join me for practice.

 

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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