December 5, 2013

4 Reasons I Stopped Teaching Yoga.

Several months ago I completed my 200 hour teacher training after many, many years of working on it and also with five years of teaching experience already underneath my belt.

I’ll spare you the gory details (or, rather, I’ll probably eventually share them within another blog, if I’m being honest), but I will tell you this now: I decided to take a hiatus from teaching after finally becoming an RYT.

Okay, I didn’t actually stop.

I am on local studio sub lists and I also enjoy teaching private sessions. What I did stop doing, however, was having a regular time slot with my name attached to it. This was not an easy decision.

For months I weighed the pros and cons and continually came out confused and saddened at what I knew my heart was telling me: to stop teaching yoga. (Well, in this aforementioned sense, of course.)

And for someone who, for the last five-plus years, taught several classes a week and loved nearly every second of it and who had to call off her 6am power yoga class in order to give birth (which was me, in case you haven’t figured it out), this was the farthest thing from an easy realization to own up to.

And I’d like to tell you why, for the time being at least, I’ve stopped teaching yoga:

1. I want to practice.

Scratch that—I need to practice. Need.

My own body craves the movements, flows and coordinated breath that I so enjoy teaching to others. After all, if I can’t have my individual practice, then what kind of teacher could I possibly be, besides a bad one that is?

You can absolutely tell which teachers practice and which don’t. It shows. 

I only want to be the former because, in the simplest sense of an explanation, I want to be authentic when I teach, not some shiny, phony veneer of a pretty tights-clad yoga rock star. I want to rock out a class from actual experience—which means that with my limited free time—I have a toddler, you know—I have to choose being a student myself over standing before them as their instructor.

If you teach yoga, please don’t ever use this as an excuse for why you don’t practice. Trust me when I say that this reason is not good enough.

2. I’m enjoying being at the bottom of the pyramid.

Or food chain.

You know what? Go ahead and fill in whatever word choice you prefer for not being one of the head honchos at the yoga studio. (Although, that’s arguable, isn’t it? Seeing that classes exist for students. But I’m talking in the ego-swelling, teacher idolizing sense of this yogic pyramid.)

This explanation might receive a negative reader response, and I’m okay with that because I’m being genuine when I tell you that women are not always the least complicated people to work with.

Read my other articles: I absolutely adore women

I love being a woman. I love female friendships. Still, I’ll be the first to admit that we can be a competitive, catty group, at least from time to time and even with sticky mats involved.

Luckily, I happen to practice in a studio that makes me feel welcome and happy whenever I walk through the doors, and this is why I keep taking my fleece jacket off and placing it inside one of their cubbies.

On the other hand, anyone who’s being forthright will concede that when you get a large group of women together, you’re bound to have at least a little bit of drama and, let me tell you, I don’t miss being inside of that situation.

Raising a three year old has just enough drama for me at the moment, and I’m more than fortunate to be able to stay home with her—and since I want to raise her to equally adore and love other ladies, it’s critical that I spend these formative years surrounded by a positive female environment and, even though we might wish it otherwise, the yoga community is unfortunately not immune to gossip and bad interpersonal relationships.

So I’m choosing to stay on the peripheral.

3. As a dear friend says, “I need to put on my own air mask.” (You know, plane etiquette. I digress…)

In life, it’s paramount that we take care of ourselves first so that we are available to take care of others—and sometimes this means taking a step back from our responsibilities if we are spreading ourselves too thin.

I haven’t been feeling well. 

I just had sinus surgery, which was the product of a long time being ill. While we surely teach through illness—because we have no choice or because we can offer up a healthy class environment despite our own issues—we also need to know when to rest. To stop. To pause.

And if I’m choosing to be genuine, then I’ll honestly admit that I am—and have been—exhausted.

I don’t have much more to give and many days feel like a struggle just to push through. This is not the way that I want to nurture and create a yoga class environment, and much of my subsequent decision to take time off comes from a place of, I guess you could call it, sick leave.

Yes, in life we push through because we’re adults and, frankly, that’s what big people do. Regardless, if you choose to teach then make sure you’re regularly checking in with the energy and presence that you’re bringing into the classroom with you—and that it’s enriching for everyone involved.

 4. I want to see other people. (People being a poor analogy for career shifting.)

I mentioned that I struggled with making the official decision to back out from teaching on a consistent basis.

This involved having a lengthy, open discussion with the studio owner where I had planned to begin teaching as well as with my husband, and it involved figuring out what the hell I was going to do with myself if I didn’t teach.

As I said, I live a full life caring for my child, but I also declared that I need to put on my own air mask first. For me, my air mask involves thinking and using my overly active mental energy (I know I’ve shared with you that I’m blessed—and I mean that sincerely—with ADHD). 

Yet if I am checking in with myself, then I’ll find I love teaching yoga because I am a perpetual student and I appreciate that I will never truly learn all the lessons that a life of yoga study has to offer.

Oh, and I want to write. 

I want to do this—sit in my bed with my laptop clickity-clacking away on computer keys with a Santa-shaped coffee cup nearby and the sound through the bedroom wall of my little yoga room heater warming up my quiet, cozy space for afterwards.

So I spoke with my husband and then with the studio owner and I told them my impractical career choice: I planned to be a writer.

I work at my own convenience, no sitter required (if I get up butt early or stay up too late) and I can get out my thoughts and continue to grow and expand myself mentally and hone a skill that’s just as subjective as a good teacher, only without the reliable paycheck. (Bonus: I still get to wear my yoga pants.)

Yet there’s a fine line between doing what you love (and never having to work a day in your life) and putting a roof over your head and food on the table. For creative people, though, life cannot exist happily, or sometimes even at all, if you don’t live your passion—and for me, my most gut-wrenching, soul-baring, heart-and-head-happy passion is…writing.

(Another bonus: I can write about teaching…so there’s that.)

And the reality is that life doesn’t always give us  the obvious answers that we think we desire.

No, much of life—we come to discover as we live it—lies in the words between the periods and in the grey unknowing between the black-and-white questions and corresponding conclusions.

In short, we reach not only a fork in the road, but one with multiple tines—and more than one road leading to bliss or to success. But let’s not forget that success, like good writing and teaching, is likewise subjectively defined.

So, for now, I’m choosing to write my own definition, quite literally.

What will you do?

Will you have the courage to again become part of the crowd and remember all you have yet to be taught instead of always pretending that you are the only one with something important and educational to offer outwardly?

Because being a student again isn’t necessarily the easiest choice. (Ask my husband; he changed careers and went back for a second Master’s degree—which worked out wonderfully, I might add.)

So, yes, I have stopped teaching.

For the moment. Maybe forever. (Although I doubt that—forever is a very, very long time.)

In the meantime, though, I should probably get going—I can almost hear my yoga mat calling my name in the warm, adjoining room—and I’m thankful that I’ve found the space within me to be okay with not knowing exactly where this road is headed.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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