Why I love teaching yoga

My journey as a yoga instructor began as a student.

I took my first class at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver at the student Rec. center. I remember being nervous because I wasn’t flexible and had horrible balance. But after my first few vinyasa classes I was hooked. I felt that yoga turned me inside out – I left the class feeling fatigued yet buoyant, with a lightness in my stiff hips as well as my heart. Before I knew it I was an avid student of yoga – maneuvering my work and social schedule around classes that I loved and diving as deeply as possible into all the magical things this practice had to offer. I loved the way it toned and elongated my body; my posture improved and I found focus and strength in other activities like running. I felt so much more aware of my physical self: the way my body felt when I ate different foods, how my energy was affected when I interacted with people, and the way thoughts ebbed and flowed in my mind. I became aware of the energy of the earth and all the omnipresent vibrations traveling up through my feet. And I was able to look outside of my own head, my own ego, and connect with the true core of my being that is connected with all things. I remember waking up from savasana one evening overwhelmed with emotion. I was excited, awe-struck, joyful and terrified all at the same time. I hugged my instructor and began to cry. “I get it!” I said, “It all makes sense.” I still can’t describe it, but at that moment I understood what yoga meant to me. I know I had to keep digging deeper into my own soul through yoga in order to find what I’d been searching for all my life. And it was this “a-ha!” moment that was the first step on my path to become an instructor. I had to share this feeling with others, help them find it in the thicket of their own consciousness, lead them graciously and lovingly into their own clearing of self-discovery and wonderment. This is what the world needs now more than ever: enlightened, aware people. This is my purpose. Little did I know how amazing the journey would truly be.

When I finished my intense 100-hours of training with Nicki Doane, I was proud, happy, and…petrified. I had this certificate in my hands and enough knowledge of yoga to talk intelligently about it, but to actually teach a class!? I was frozen. The course required us to do a student-to-student training session, and instantly I clammed up, my heart raced and my mouth dried up when it was my turn to instruct a measly little sun salutation to the group. I could never teach an entire class, I thought, I wouldn’t even know where to start! But then a couple of my friends organized a free event in a local park for people to get together, play music, dance, and do yoga. And after some prodding and loving encouragement from my friends (ok, ok, she literally dragged me to the front of the group) I took a deep breath, and taught a shaky but successful class. It was scary and exhilarating, and also the most fun and fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Watching a beautiful crowd of people waking up from savasana in the soft early-summer sunlight was breathtaking. Everyone had this glorious, sleepy, happy look on their faces, and as they rolled onto their side to come back to seated I felt I was watching stones being gently turned by the current in a stream. I was so uplifted with love and gratitude I felt as if I would float away. And it only got better from there.

I then began volunteering at a rehabilitation center. At the women’s center, I teach in a room that is also a crafting/activities room. On one wall there is a table covered in painted rocks, construction paper, feathers, and glitter reminiscent of kindergarten art class. The walls are adorned with collages of hopes and dreams – vision boards for the future – many wishing for the same things I find myself longing for: health, happiness, love, and peace of mind. There were no fancy mats, no props (I once had a woman get into a pose by placing her elbows on a pencil box padded with tissues) and sometimes the shabby stereo would eat my CD’s. But I was completely overwhelmed with the response from my students. Their humanity and inner light blew me away and completely inspired me. Women of all ages and physical conditions would participate, some so delicate they spent most of the class sitting and listening. Other times the ladies were so thrilled to come together on their mats that I couldn’t get them to stop chattering excitedly. My favorite memory so far is when I finally got a talkative group to settle into savasana, they all held hands as they laid there, their mats close together in the small room, breathing together softly in the dim light. It was so touching, seeing these people who are trying to better themselves, banding together like tribeswomen, sharing an experience, finding strength in each other. When they awoke they thanked me for the class, but I don’t think they could ever comprehend how much gratitude I had in return.

The men’s center is no less amazing. Some barrel in and lay down a mat, ready to take on the class with machismo, others shyly peeking in the room, looking like children peeking curiously into a playground. After some coaxing and assurance that I won’t be too hard on them or make them bend like a pretzel, they’ll sit down and get into the practice. And after savasana, no matter how much they groaned when I made them do mandukasana or hold goddess, they look completely joyful. I’ve had nothing but thank you’s and when are you coming back?’s One older fellow told me about a hip injury he had before we started, and then after gently working him into pigeon and other openers he literally skipped out of class, telling me his hip hasn’t felt so good in 20 years.

And this is why I love to teach.

I don’t care if I ever make a cent teaching yoga, because it makes me so incredibly happy to do it. It’s the looks on faces, the smiles, the laughs, the tears, the tiny pieces of self worth I witness being picked up carefully like shattered glass, and the feeling that I’m a part of something bigger than me that keeps me coming back for more. The pleasure of being alive and of sharing this knowledge with others is more valuable than anything in the whole world. I can’t think of any other way to feel more present or fulfilled. In front of a class is exactly where I need to be. I never worry about teaching anymore because I realize that it’s not about me. I take every breath with gratitude and allow the universe to use me as its instrument. I imagine I am a violin, quivering under the bow of some cosmic master. The wisdom of the universe speaks through me, and I resonate with its infinite vibrations. My job is not to write the music, provide the motion, or accept applause at the end of the show. My responsibility is to stay well tuned and open to the harmonies that pluck my heartstrings. To allow the unmanifested to blow through me like wind through a flute, to pound me like a drum, to make a symphony of light and love out of silence and unconsciousness. I’m not sure how my path as a yoga teacher will unfold from here on, but I do know that it has to be. And when things have to be, the universe finds a way. And it is so beautiful.

Namaste*

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gigi
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:47:16

    Beautiful blog Carol.

    Thank-you for sharing your peace of the puzzle, it helps more than you know.

    Namaste.

    Reply

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