Teaching Yoga: On “getting right” with not being “right for everyone”
I was speaking with a fellow teacher friend of mine last week during our advanced studies in Vermont. Amidst the stunning backdrop of the changing New England foliage and our semi-delirious post sadhana bliss she told me with a bit of the zing of an unexpected memory “You know what? I remember telling a class last week to ‘fold their sh!t over their sh*t!'” She continued further to reflect on how this response offered some interesting reactions- from laughter, to glances of “what the heck did she just say,” to those miraculous “a-ha” shifts in the room.
I had to laugh, because while those specific words have never (at least to my knowledge) left my mouth I know the scenario all too well. It is the scenario i’ve found that takes a teacher from the happy mix of trying to appease everyone, to the side of honoring the seat of the teacher. As carriers of these powerful and ancient practices, as vehicles of lineage it is our duty to not shy away when it comes to offering our most authentic voice. We practice daily (well..that’s a whole other topic, but I hope you practice regularly if you teach), approach our demons and bask in the glorious light of our true nature so that we can make shift happen within ourselves. Why then would we think we have any less of a responsibility to our students? It is our responsibility, and has been since we took up the title “teacher,” to hold space, be bold, to see, assess and RESPOND… and if it takes suggesting to someone to fold their sh*t over their sh!t, to stop deluding themselves, to stop powering through, or to stop believing their limiting beliefs then guess what amigos…in some way that message needs to come out. It may take a lighter tone some days, a more intense one others, sometimes the message doesn’t even come through words, but at some point we have to be OK with upsetting someone’s ego. At some point we have to let that student cry on the mat and not run over to mollycoddle them. At some point we have to gently stand with a student who’s dripping sweat in a gentle flow class and remind them with a touch, a glance, a smile that it’s OK to be still. And at some point we have to laugh at ourselves when we realize how ludicrous the truth is that comes out of our mouths, because often it comes from a reflection of our own experiences shining back from those around us.
Here’s the thing. If the person is not ready to hear, observe, feel our reflection then they will seek out the place they are ready for. That may be with another teacher, studio, class and that is more than OK. There is no judgement around that, and if there is CHECK YOURSELF because it’s now becoming about your ego. It’s a pretty good sign that you too (you lovable human you!) might be due for a bit of challenging perception and perspective. You too may need to sit and observe your perpetual ways of avoidance, stasis or momentum so that you can recognize and tend to them in others you guide.
We humans are not perfect, but we do have a duty to stand in our brightness as we clear away the bulls#*! that tints our own experience. If the concept of speaking your truth to your students or in general is uncomfortable or debilitating the practice is their for you to explore those barriers. If you need a guide (again, a whole other topic) then I recommend finding a dedicated and experienced teacher STAT. One who resonates with you. One who will stand with you, be true, and be steady with you (notice I didn’t say FOR you).
I write this post knowing that these words too may not be for everyone right now…but i’m cool with that, because they are right for me and for those I share time and space with. Respond as you will. It’s all as it needs to be. Just take a moment today to breath, observe and maybe fold a little bit more your… well you know. 😉