While shackled to a mirrored podium, a sense of freedom is rare. Self imposed of course because I chose to be there. ‘There’ being a Bikram teacher born out of ignorance, because in the beginning, ignorance is bliss. Time changes and so do we if we’re up for the challenge and for me it’s been just that, coming to understand what it is I’m doing and if I’m doing it justice. I wouldn’t comfortably call what I do teaching yoga, at least not with my hand on my heart but sometimes I glimpse what it could be like and aspire to put my hand there someday.
Some studios allow you some freedom, others are scared of it. Both have success in a way and I’m not going to proclaim I have the experience to know better, even though such feelings surface above the frustration of not knowing enough. But if we’re going to call ourselves teachers, shouldn’t we find a way to actually teach rather than parrot? We learn from experience but sadly our experience is curtailed so we develop slowly, most often not reaching our full potential. If we’re passionate about teaching yoga then why are so many experienced teachers just reciting, repeating and regurgitating the same tired lines? Yeah I know, it works and sure there are some definite standouts but are they teachers or showmen? Add the shame that all we teach is asana these days, not self-realisation that a complete practice in yoga could bring about. Going there is a whole other blog post in an area I’m only just beginning to explore.
While teaching the other morning, I felt a sense of pride guiding a small class of five in their asana practice. Their postures showed all the traits of yoga but I could read on their faces something more and more continued throughout the class. What I was observing were students practicing with an added element of experimentation, not just moving in automatic as can be the case in a Bikram class. I was happy that I could inspire and create a space to take someone beyond their yesterday and for them to inspire me to practice tomorrow. The flow on from our practice, be that asana, pranayama or meditation into our daily life should be why we practice so we have to make sure we get that flow on effect and as teachers endeavor to awaken it in our students.
So how do we become better teachers? By continuing to be active students of what we teach. For me this has meant not practicing more hot yoga classes but actually learning about the philosophy of yoga, opening up to another tradition and yes, more practice. In this case an individualistic, therapeutic practice which is addressing specific idiosyncrasies my body and mind has. It’s blowing my brain and I’m finding contradictions everywhere. But in the process I have to accept, validate or repudiate each one or both and isn’t this what learning and becoming more aware is all about?