The root of my disdain for teaching yoga was my own insecurity.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or new about this admission.
The imposter syndrome, I’m told, is quite a common and widespread phenomenon. Many of us, at some point in our careers or our relationships or our creative pursuits, imagine that to simply believe we are capable is a wildly excessive exaggeration. We’re convinced that we don’t belong and will be eventually ”found out,” and thrown out.
This idea, of course, is not much more than a nice little safety net we create for ourselves—enough of this type of thinking and we’re bound to give up altogether, saving ourselves the ridicule and judgment we’re so sure exists on the other end.
And so for a long time I indulged my own uncertainties, grasping at any number of senseless self-deprecations: If I don’t have Instagram photos of myself in challenging and inaccessible postures, am I really a teacher? If I have imperfect skin or split ends, am I even allowed to teach? Part of my (unspoken) job description is to be luminous, is it not? Do I know enough postures to purify muladhara? Do I tell my students to tuck their tailbones or to never, ever think for a second about tucking their tailbones? I spent a good majority of the time convinced that I was one wrong alignment cue away from losing my job.
And yet, I kept teaching.
Because all along I knew that this business of teaching wasn’t about me at all. I knew it, but it took time to arrive there.
Of course, when I did arrive—when I let go and started teaching from my intuition—that’s when I began to love it.
I remembered that when I am entrusted with a yoga class, I’m given a unique and blessed opportunity to show others love and, more importantly, to show others how to love themselves. How many of us, really, are loved enough, touched enough, seen enough and nurtured enough?
Experience teaching shows me that the great majority of us are not—not even close.
Because those are the types of things I see from the teacher’s mat. The things we try to hide, from ourselves and from others? They reveal themselves in a yoga practice.
I see it when a student discovers what it feels like to breathe—really breathe—for the very first time. I see it when a student learns how to let go of that tension in her temples she didn’t even know she’d been holding or that habit of clenching his fingers he’d forgotten about because he’d just been doing it for so many years now.
I see it when I bring my students into a posture and then tell them that all they have to do from there is exist.
So, no, teaching yoga isn’t about whether or not I can handstand or side-crow, it’s not about how I look in my stretchy pants, and it’s not even about how much I know about anatomy.
It’s about shepherding those who come to class, seeking, through the process of exercising their vulnerability, fine-tuning their bravery and honing in on their honesty.
It’s about sitting with fellow beings as they sweep out the corners of their physical body and discover new edges of their psyche—that fear in Ustrasana, the surrender in Child’s Pose, acute focus in Tree, determination in Virabhadrasana II.
At the end of a practice, everyone is transformed.
The brand-new students, the regulars, me—we all shine with a little more clarity.
Since I’ve been able to breathe past my own confused uncertainties, the reality I’ve found is this: the chance to teach others yoga is a precious gift, an opportunity to gaze upon yes, this! What humans really look like when we drop the habitual and rediscover what exists at our center.
And the view from the mat at the front of the room is gorgeous.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard