Teaching yoga is a more than a job; it’s a gift. It’s a calling. (Heaven knows most of us don’t do it for the money.)
For me, guiding others to and through the tradition I so love is a spiritual practice all its own. I learn while I teach. I soften. I heal.
And I get just as much out of each and every class as—I hope—my students do.
Here are 15 things I love about sharing yoga. The good news is you don’t have to be a teacher to do any of this! Each one of us can be a catalyst for these ideas in others:
1. Stirring an awakening within.
2. Helping others strip away unnecessary labels and begin to feel and see themselves in new ways.
3. Highlighting the distinctions between ego and soul, and inspiring a deeper understanding of where our fears, opinions and actions often come from.
4. Encouraging a softening—and ultimate crumbling—of the walls that separate us and an opening to the ways in which we’re all the same.
5. Opening eyes to the magic of gratitude, mindfulness and the releasing of judgment—especially the harsh judgment we often lay on ourselves.
6. Introducing the freedom that comes with practicing acceptance, forgiveness and loving kindness.
7. Facilitating the beautiful combination of openness and stability in the body. Expanding range of motion in the joints, releasing tissues, strengthening and lengthening muscles.
8. Preparing ourselves to sit comfortably for meditation, and, in the process, revealing the peace that comes when we are able to yoke together our insides and our outsides.
9. Encouraging the magic of stillness and breath.
10. Prompting the letting go of comparisons—of could’s and should’s and would’s—of what other people deem right and wrong, and instead sparking the courage to create lives of our own design, based on our evolving priorities and values.
11. Expanding our definitions of what we’re capable of and what is possible if we only try.
12. Empowering people to work toward the other side of their fear—to accept new challenges and give up old habits that don’t serve.
13. Reminding others that we get to choose how our stories play out—that we’re never permanently stuck in a place if we don’t want to be and that we have freedom, vision and will.
14. Awakening a new understanding of what we call God, and fostering the belief that God resides within each one of us.
15. Inspiring the deepest love of ourselves and others.
As I look back on this list, I’m struck by how little emphasis I place directly on the physical body. And yet asana is what I teach: vigorous, sweaty, challenging asana.
But what we learn through the study and practice of yoga—when we focus on all eight limbs, not just number 3—is that we can do more than power and contort ourselves into back-bends, arm balances and inversions. When we practice yoga off the mat we learn that we are perfectly imperfect, that we are infinite and that we can choose the lives we so desperately want to live.
How about you?
What draws you to the mat? If you teach, why do you do it? What part of your practice is so special that you’re called to share it?
Blessings to all the students and teachers out there. May we never get so focused on the “how” that we forget the “why.”
Author: Becky Vollmer
Editor: Toby Israel