I first discovered yoga about three years ago, prior to which I had only been involved in meditation.
At the age of 18, I began to dive into the physical, mental, and spiritual practice. Although I knew people my age that did practice, the majority did not understand. Many saw it as a workout fad that was sweeping the nation. They assumed my only reasoning for getting involved with yoga was to get in shape and get flexible.
I began teaching almost immediately after I started the practice. I got a job at a local heated yoga studio and spent my non-teaching and non-studying hours practicing there and on my own.
After about a year it was time for me to move on. I wanted to deepen my practice and teaching skills on my own in a different environment. I transferred colleges and began to teach yoga at my school for easy access to students and a very short commute.
Teaching students of a similar age has led me to several different realizations. The idea of yoga being something to get flexible and in shape was much more present amongst this age group. Prior to this I had been teaching college students, but also mothers and grandmothers. This was new territory to me.
Although I had several loyal students who maintained the practice to connect mind and body, I also had students with ulterior motives.
These motives were a challenge for me to face.
Instead of reacting negatively, I decided to examine yogic teachings for explanations of both their attitudes and my own.
The following ancient teachings allowed me to understand situations I encountered on a semi-regular basis.
1. Perception of our true nature is often obscured by physical, mental, and emotional imbalance.
As with many people, I’ve suffered from some form of mental disorder throughout my life and struggled with it. This is one of the reasons that I became involved in yoga. It allowed me to empower myself and find peace even in the darkest of times.
This has also led me to understand my students more. It has allowed me to see into their lives, including the stress of finals, personal issues, and everything in between. Being a yoga teacher is like being a counselor. You try your hardest to be there for those you teach and those in your life. The path to healing ourselves starts with allowing our imbalances to balance.
2. Knowledge embraces personal experience, inference, and insights from the wise.
Many people ask me about my life and what I have learned what led me on the path I am on. They ask me how I have a constant smile plastered on my face and if I’ve always been this way. But I’m not a perfect yogi. I’m not immune to society, pressure, and feelings.
This is where experience and insight from the wise come in. The majority of what I teach comes from advice from others, teaching of ancient practices, and personal experiences. However, this does not mean I am all knowing. It is up to each student to guide themselves and see their own personal insights. Now to some of them I am seen as “the wise” however, I always tell them to interpret my guidance and teachings as they feel applies to their lives. Every soul and every being is different.
3. Misunderstanding comes when perception is unclear or tinted.
Teaching in a college environment I have struggled with the sexualization of my position. I’ve had many students take my classes in an attempt to become physically intimate with me. Some would speak throughout campus referring to me as “ the hot yoga teacher who can put her leg behind her head. This used to offend me strongly.
However, after studying the teachings further I accepted that there is a misconception with those who feel the desire to act this way and my true self. What others think or say of me is out of my control and the main focus I need is within myself. It creates a misunderstanding and a void between others who don’t understand my practice, however if they seek clarity, I will be there. If they refuse and continue on their path, so be it. I will continue to teach and hopefully inspire others.
4. Liberation is recognized in several ways.
We no longer feel the need for knowledge, to stay away from anything or anyone, to gather material things, or to act. Our constant companions are joy, faith, and clarity. This may be my favorite teaching from Patanjali.
I try and follow all of these traits but that doesn’t make me a perfect yoga guru. I still see a bag in the window of the store and think “I need that” then I check internally and come to the realization material things don’t define me. I try not to focus on my appearance but I still dye my hair blonde. I do sometimes act in a way to shield others from harm, not speaking my mind about issues to protect those I love. There are people I try to avoid and I try to avoid rejection.
However, throughout all of these struggles, I still find joy, faith, and clarity my constant companions.
What I have learned from teaching those my age is that they will often judge me for my actions—not all but some. They will watch my moves outside of the classroom. I had a yoga student tell me when I was out with my friends that I wasn’t a real yogi because I drank alcohol.
I simply responded by saying that the main teaching in my yoga practice is a lack of judgment towards others. If she felt that way, that was okay and I would not criticize her for it, but I’m not a monk. I live in a society and in an environment where it’s common to engage in drinking socially. I wouldn’t define myself as a “party girl,” I would define myself as a spiritual being with normal human actions.
I can use essential oils, mala beads, and oracle cards. However, I can still be me with a glass of wine, dancing, and listening to something other than Kirtan.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Katrina Myers
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Lisa Picard at Flickr