June 5, 2013

5 Things I Learned from Teaching Yoga that I Thought I Knew Before. ~ Andrea Jacobs

When yoga can give you what you don’t even know you need.

What compels people to start practicing yoga? What do they feel they are missing that yoga can give them? Flexibility? Stress release? New friends? A hot body?

Yep. But they have no idea about the hidden agenda yoga has in store…

Most people begin their yoga practice with some basic goals or intentions; my goal was to stay fit and find something I was good at, superficial goals obviously, but hey whatever gets you there.

After practicing yoga almost everyday for a year, I felt ready to become a teacher. As I prepared myself for teacher training, I was certain I knew the yoga postures, and that my humble and patient personality would help take care of the rest.

A few months into my new career, I found myself in complete shock of how little I actually knew—about yoga and about life. I was getting asked questions I had no idea the answers to, felt like I wanted to cry when people looked bored or sad and felt frustration towards people who appeared not to be listening to my instructions.

What an ego I had!

Through teaching hundreds of classes to hundreds of bodies and abilities, traveling to studios and seminars, and researching and discussing the postures, my knowledge of the postures deepened to a new level.

Meanwhile, I was learning so much more than I sought out for. Here are the main things, of which I hold just as important to teaching as the knowledge about yoga postures.

1. Kindness

Realizing all of the different kinds of people in this world and how many of them are suffering was sad and overwhelming at first. It is my purpose to share yoga with them and I figured how to recognize the good in each person, regardless of past judgments or of their behaviors.

2. Sympathy

Before, I only knew the postures for one body—mine—but you can’t teach to your own body. I realized that certain instructions that once helped me might be ineffective to the class. Having never experienced injury myself, it was difficult to understand why a student would not take my instruction. When my dad’s arthritis prevented him from doing several postures fully, it helped me understand that students have so many things going on in their body and that I needed to recognize that, not resent it.

3. Tolerance

There are certain aspects of yoga that students aren’t ready to address. I learned not to let students’ bad habits steal my peace as a teacher or steal my energy from the rest of the class. Taking a moment to think back to my early practice, I suddenly remembered that I also did some wacky stuff in class that I was not yet ready to detach from. I realized that acting like a drill sergeant was not the environment I wanted to create. The fact that we are all here trying yoga is all that matters.

4. Gratitude

I am thankful for my practice and I am thankful for yours. No if ands or buts! Even if a student is difficult to “tolerate,” no—especially when they are—the bottom line is, I’m glad you’re here and I hope you’ll be here tomorrow.

5. Ego

Who knew that even with a history of low self-confidence I could have such a big ego? The way that students practice is not always about the teacher. So, why would I take personal offense? I have no idea what their day was like, what is happening at home, and what is going on in their body and in their mind. Taking offense or feeling ignored as a teacher is the ego responding; their behavior may have nothing to do with me.

Teaching is a humbling experience.

Sometimes, I can recognize the presence of my ego but not always. Knowing this, I try to surround myself with more experienced teachers, to remind myself that I don’t know all the answers and to keep an open mind.

I realized in my teaching career what had happened: after yoga gave me what I originally wanted, it gave me what I needed. The lessons were so profound because they caused me to rethink previous attitudes and beliefs.

As you open your life to a yoga practice, understand that yoga can provide you with everything that you need in your life right now. More importantly, understand that you might not even know what that is!


Andy Jacobs is a full time yoga instructor, currently fulfilling her dream of traveling the world, while teaching along the way. So far she has visited over 60 studios worldwide and taught on four continents. Meeting so many healthy and progressive people along the way, she has great resources in developing a balanced and sustainable lifestyle. Learn how she did it on her blog, Andy Pandy Living.

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Assistant Ed: Edith Lazenby/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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