August 21, 2016

Teaching Yoga with a Broken Heart.

Courtesy Rebekah Zimmerman, not for reuse

The first time I ever taught yoga with a broken heart was a 10:30 a.m. Deep Stretch class on a Saturday morning.

I remember because I thought it was the worst class I ever taught. I felt hollow and empty. Instead of planning for class, all I could ask myself was, “What could I possibly offer right now? How am I worthy of taking the seat of the teacher when I feel as though I’m falling apart?”

Five days prior to teaching this class, I watched my grandpa slowly die over three days. It struck me, shook my soul and relentlessly threw me back out into the world. I could have gotten a sub to teach the class, but I chose to teach with my broken heart wide open. I chose to show up anyway.

Flash forward five months later.

As I prepare to teach a sunrise yoga class, I find myself in the same dark cloud. After class, I’ll drive to Michigan to take my sister to a recovery center where she will live for the next 45 to 60 days. Those same questions popped into my head. I wondered what I could possibly muster up when all I want to do is somehow take away what I know will be one of the hardest journeys she’ll ever go on. I was supposed to save her.

And now I’m getting ready to teach again—my heart broken.

The duality paralyzes me. As I sit in front of my students, I close my eyes with them and pray. Each breath I ask them to take, I’m gasping for one myself. When they exhale, it’s a reminder that I should too. Each step I take and cue I give feels like it might bring me to my knees, but I look at them before we salute the sun and ask for acceptance.

Please accept me as I stand before you, broken but here to teach and most of all, learn. Please accept this offering that I am pulling up from the bottom of my heart. May it reach you.

The vulnerability in knowing that I don’t have it all figured out is transparent—the stories and intentions are made up of my own pain, real and dripping with the embellished truth that sometimes life is incredibly unpredictable, dark and turbulent. We don’t always have a choice in the details of when and how these moments will take place.

However, we can choose to show up and be a part of the journey no matter how high the highs or low the lows. This is where we do have a choice. Teaching with a broken heart was a profound reminder that there cannot be light without darkness.

This is my life’s work, a unique blend between light, dark and shades of grey. It is all beautiful and it is all necessary.

My students move, I speak, we breathe—and for 60 minutes, I forget about the drive I’ll need to take after class. Heart pounding, I let the present moment propel me forward. One by one. Second by second.

In savasana (our final resting pose), tears stream down my face at the front of the room. A quiet offering in its own right, I invite them to release with me. I ask them to rise up into a comfortable seat and without saying a word, I can feel it, the message loud and clear.

We are not alone.

Everyone is grieving in some capacity. Everyone is moving through great change, great happiness, great sadness, greatness. I can feel it in their practice.

Teaching yoga with a broken heart is the most human thing I can possibly do. It is when my students turn into spirits finding their way home—not just physical bodies moving to each cue. A trust begins to form, between myself and them. I realize they don’t have it all figured out either and we’ve joined together on the path to get closer to ourselves. To understand and uplift one another.

I began to trust the words coming out of my mouth. No longer questioning my intuition—I discovered how to step aside and let it guide me and my students. To pause. Relish. Breathe deeper.

I bow to them in gratitude that I’ve been given the gift of sharing the light and the dark.

Teaching yoga with a broken heart has taught me how to ride the wave and navigate the landscape of my imperfect and beautiful life. This life that is full of wonder and heartache and happiness and adventure. I realized that my life as a teacher does not have to be separate from my life as a human being.

I am forever grateful for listening to the quiet “yes” at the bottom of my heart that Saturday morning, the one that told me to walk into the classroom anyway.

May we remember that we are not alone. Everyone is grieving in some capacity. We have the choice to show up for ourselves and for each other.



Author: Tori Washington

Image: Courtesy Tamia Hurtado

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Tori Washington