I can still remember the first yoga class I ever taught.
I vaguely remember the sequence toward lotus pose, some theme about flowers blooming in the desert post rainstorm, being really early to the studio and so nervous I walked around on my tippy-toes for the first thirty minutes of class.
I vividly remember, however, being devastated after class, crying in my car, face red and swollen, swearing I wasn’t cut out for this teaching thing.
I immediately emailed my mentor. I was twenty-five when I completed my first teacher training, and I was blessed to have had mentors who were equally as nurturing as they were knowledgeable.
The advice my teacher wrote back in response to my emotional email not only gave me the courage and confidence to continue to teach, but also radically shifted my understanding of what it meant to serve (after all that’s what being a yoga teacher is all about).
In answer to my complete panic and lack of confidence in my abilities, she suggested that I spend a few extra moments in my car tapping into the current of grace before going into the studio to teach class. Then once class was over and I was done teaching, to spend another moment in the car offering the class I just taught back up to the source…then let it go.
In other words, do your best, make your offering and release the outcome.
Don’t worry about it. And certainly don’t dwell on it.
I would imagine this brilliant white light flooding down through the crown of my head into my heart, filling my entire being. For the next 90 minutes I would be a vessel for grace.
Afterwards, I would imagine the light reversing direction, offering the class back up along with any attachments to my performance as a yoga teacher—after all, it wasn’t all my doing anyway.
In Anusara yoga we called it grace. Call it God, supreme consciousness, Brahma, the universe—whatever you like, there is a higher power, a bigger picture. One in which we are all apart of, a power that is simultaneously us individually as well as something bigger than any one of us.
That’s the tantalizing paradox of our non-dual nature. We are individuals, each of us unique, acting on our own desire out of our own will; yet we are all manifestations, and variations, of the same source—of the One. It’s really a beautiful thing.
We are free to be and do and create and express ourselves out in the world, yet we have the constant support of the universe, this omnipresent web of consciousness that holds us all.
We suffer when we get lost in the world of duality, forgetting the larger picture, our connection to source, believing it’s all up to us, as the doer, to get things done.
In actuality, what you do has little to do with who you truly are.
Believing that our own self worth is based on what we accomplish, what we do, is the result of the karma mala—the veil or cloak (not the beads) that shields us from seeing our true selves, creating an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, the feeling that we have no power to act and the belief that we alone are responsible for making everything happen for ourselves.
As an achiever from a very young age and someone who has been able to make a lot happen for herself, my karma mala is like a theatre curtain blacking out my connection to source: I am the doer. It’s completely up to me to get it done, and if I can’t then, well, I must be fucked. (Can you see how overwhelming that might be?)
The antidote—make whatever it is that you’re “doing” an offering and, by default, it can’t be all about you. Offer it up. Then let it go. Whatever it is. Whatever you’re feeling conflicted about, a relationship, a performance, a job, a piece of work, anything, turn it into an offering; make yours and move on.
Teaching yoga is my service to humanity; each class an offering I make to my students. When I spend time worrying about my performance as a teacher, I make it about me. If teaching is my offering, once I’ve taught I’ve made it. It’s done. What else is there to do but to let it go?
The same goes, or can go, for your yoga practice. In Anusara yoga, we were taught to look at the asanas as expressions from the inside out, a literal offering of who we are; an artistic offering so personal to you that the external form of the pose is secondary to what’s on the inside being expressed out. I like to remind my students of that.
Their practice is an offering of gratitude for this body and breath. When they truly embody that concept, their practice transforms into something twice as meaningful — something much bigger than whether or not they nail a certain pose.
So the next time you’re on your mat, especially if you’re being particularly judgment of your practice, remember to make it an offering. Lay everything you’ve got out on the mat and then let the rest go.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Emma Ruffin / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Provided by Author