Teaching Yoga Without Ego.
“I could take my top off?”
“No!“ Two hundred yoga teachers in training shouted in unison.
At her wit’s end trying to figure out how to create an expression of authenticity, our fellow teacher in training had offered to bare her breasts. It’s a bold move that might bring a chorus of hoots and, “Hell, yeah!” from a crowded pub, but not from this world-class yoga teacher training. We were holding a space for a deeper, more meaningful disclosure.
We were there to grow, to become more open and accepting. Our measure of success was our ability to be more authentic—to teach “naked,” to be vulnerable, and trust the process with awareness that we don’t have a point of view—we are a point of view. We were instructed to liberate ourselves from our past conditioning, and practice teaching from an unfiltered source.
Avoid embellishment. Be present; be original. The fact that our
fellow participant would rather expose her breasts than her heart is testament to how difficult naked authenticity can be. I felt a herd of butterflies stir in my tummy as I realized that I too would be getting naked.
I found it to be both terrifying and exhilarating to get that naked.
Not the naked that is used to sell everything from toeless socks to ultra-light beer, but a deeper, more authentic transparency of self.
To get that naked required my unraveling of past conditioning. An undressed ego has nothing to prove, and my teaching became a sharing rather than a performance, a way of being rather than an assignment.
Getting myself naked has been painful, messy and worth it. I found the bones of a much bigger man under my façade. Once liberated of the armor that I thought was protecting me, I found the courage to teach. Beneath the carapace of cynicism, I discovered the heart of a hopeful romantic.
My arrogance is slowly dissolving, revealing a wounded inner child that can finally laugh at himself. As I continue letting go, an invisible weight is lifting. I find myself humbled by the beautiful, and comforted in the realization that everything is happening exactly as it should be. Something tells me that this is only the beginning.
How naked can I get?
In my experience, yoga has nothing to do with nudity, physical flexibility or an extensive repertoire of difficult poses. I will not find happiness, insight and wisdom by twisting my body into a Patanjali pretzel. My level of loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy is not determined by the number of difficult poses I can do.
As it happened, our fellow yoga teacher kept her clothes on. She found a new and powerful way of being by sharing from her naked heart. As for me, I’m as naked as can be.
J.P. McClellan is a true renaissance man. He began studying yoga in 1985 with the Self-Realization Fellowship created by Paramhansa Yogananda. He has traveled the world to expand his understanding of life through Yoga, Zen and Ayurveda. He is a certified Baptiste Power Yoga instructor. He earned his certification as a Sivananda style Yoga instructor while living in India. He has also studied in Plum Village, France with Thich Nhat Hanh and considers himself a member of the Order of Interbeing. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Ohio University. For 10 years, he taught in the wilderness of North Carolina, leading expeditions with the North Carolina Outward Bound School. His style is one of experiential wisdom tempered with a light heart. J.P. believes in the power of relationships and finds yoga an excellent medium to build them. He lives naked with his beautiful wife and daughter in the mountains of North Carolina and insists “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” They are the co-creators of Go Yoga Asheville, a Baptiste Yoga Studio.
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Assistant ed.: Moira Madden/Ed: Brianna Bemel