We don’t step into the yoga class or training and then in a Clark-Kentesque fashion, become bead laden spiritual, yogini super heroes.
Instead, we come to the mat the same way that we come to everything off the mat, with the skills that we have.
Emotional intelligence and agility builds over time and although yoga is one of the most powerful healers I know of, its benefits come as part of a process. So in that regard, it is very easy to understand how it is possible to use a healing practice, like yoga, to deepen the grooves of our damage.
It takes a strong teacher and an interested student to identify the habits that cause us pain. And it takes a brave student to open to the possibility that pain does not have to be a constant companion. If pain has become a steady presence in our lives, saying goodbye can be a very scary prospect.
Have you ever clobbered somebody with 12 step or spiritual dogma? Have you ever done a pose that was terrible for you or without breath? Have you ever spent a whole practice talking to yourself in a way that is cruel? Lashed out at the people trying to light the path? Have you withheld the kind of treatment or support that you know you need for yourself?
When we do these things it’s not because we are innately bad people, we do it because this kind of acting out makes it possible to avoid change, to isolate and to attempt to solidify the wounds.
For new teachers especially, there is often confusion around the idea of principals and ethics. What I have often heard from teachers is that they don’t have a good feeling about where a student is headed, but they are afraid or not sure how to proceed without being a good yogi. They have confused doing nothing with being kind and compassionate.
I learned the hard way, after many mistakes, that prioritizing someone else’s need to act out over doing my job, which is to facilitate healing, is not actually kind or healing for the client. It’s a way of reinforcing that the most important thing in the room is the biggest monster, the darkest shadow. For students and teachers who have suffered trauma or abuse, that can seem like home and as a result, like a good idea. No matter where we are, we are all seeking home. So if chaos is home base, we will do our best to create that everywhere.
It’s essential as teachers that as we evolve on the path that we encourage each other to let go of the idea of what it means to be good yogi/teacher/human and instead, help each other to notice our attachment to pain, our woundology.
Doing yoga is not enough. Teaching yoga is not enough. Getting sober is not enough. Losing weight is not enough. Going to therapy is not enough. These are all important parts of our support system that in the ideal situation, help us to live out our dreams, to have meaningful work, a warm place to sleep and connected relationships. But they are just tools.
The real work, the way I see it, comes once we have cleared some of the debris and begin to move with authenticity through our days.
When you do find yourself playing in the mud, rehashing the story of your own wound or enabling your clients or friends to repeatedly hurt themselves, stop. Take a very deep breath. Take a look around the room, absorb the beauty of the day and let that infuse the moment and you’ll know what to do.
Don’t bite down on the hook by going into the story of the students. Instead teach, so they have space to practice and heal. Model real compassion by preparing your classes well and then have the courage to have fun while you do it.
Your confidence and playful attitude will infuse the room with joy and churn up spiritual substance; that really blissful energy that helps us heal. It will also work like kryptonite on people who are not right for your classes. They will leave and save you years of stress.
If you are a strong teacher (of anything) with clear ideas, not everyone is going to like you. If you are in a training of any kind and you are in your comfort zone, you are not actually being trained. Our obsession with being liked creates a roadblock to our development. It keeps us in the pack. When we are in the zone, working from a confident place and doing our best, that’s our path.
There isn’t any map for our lives except our visions, gut and desire.
Teach from that place. And then listen up because the conversation you are having with life is about to get really juicy.
For those of you who like the numbered lists, here are the steps to breaking away from habits that reinforce the story of your woundology:
1. See the hook, don’t bite down on the hook.
2. Take care of yourself by giving yourself the support that you need to heal.
3. Take care of your teaching by working on it and in this way you will be taking great care of your students.
4. Breathe deeply.
5. Have fun. That’s the biggest one. The whole time, have fun.
‘The thing that women have yet to learn is that no one gives you power, you just take it.’ ~ Roseanne Barr
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Apprentice Editor: Cami Krueger / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own