To Teacher With Love
I knew it was going to happen. It wasn’t a surprise. When you sign up for a yoga teaching training program, the time will come when you teach a class of your own. Most of what I was feeling in the day and hours leading up to that first class wasn’t a surprise either. I was nervous, so the butterflies and the constant feeling of the need to pee were normal. I spent my formative years on a stage performing for judges and audiences. It may have been over 10 years since I’ve performed, but they were symptoms I was all-too familiar with.
The feeling that I needed to cry, the tears that would form behind my eyes and the lump in my throat that I would try to swallow around … well, that was a completely new feeling. And I couldn’t find the words to describe why I felt that way. Nerves? Sure. Maybe a little bit of fear? Definitely. I am not a risk-taker by nature. I plan everything out and I don’t plan for failure, and there was a distinct possibility that my first class would be a failure, that it wouldn’t go as planned.
So, maybe that was it.
Or, maybe it was something else.
All in all, I felt my first class went well. I didn’t pee, throw up, or crying during it, so success! I felt my voice was low at first and I stumbled over some words with nerves. For some strange reason my brain wanted to merge the phrases “big toe” and “ball mound” and I kept saying “big toe mound.” (No, you won’t find my name on any anatomy or physiology textbooks anytime soon.) But I just kept going and I felt I found a groove, a rhythm, and I even felt comfortable up at the front of the room, like I belonged there.
And yet, on the drive home, I found that release my body had been craving for the past 24 hours. The tears came. I couldn’t stop them. And with those tears came a sensation of my heart bursting open, not with pain, but with love and gratitude.
Yeah, it was definitely something else.
I felt adrenaline rushing through my body, a feeling of excitement from having taken a risk. I had put myself out there, taken a chance by trying something new, and also sharing a side of myself that, prior to that class, had been completely private. My first teacher referred to students’ mats as “their own private island.” And sure, as a brand-spanking new beginner I would peek over to my left or right to see what other students were doing and make sure I was on the correct side or in the correct pose. But with time and practice I stopped peeking, and though my eyes may be open when I am on my mat, my mat is my safe space and I mentally shut out everything but the teacher’s cues, my practice, and what I am feeling in my body that day.
But when you teach a class, your practice is no longer private. You are sharing what you’ve learned not only in training and from books, but you are sharing your personal experiences from the mat. You are sharing a very private part of yourself in a very raw way. There is no setting up your mat in the back row. There is no looking to your right or left at the students next to you to follow along. There is just you on your mat, what you’re feeling that day, and sharing that with your students to guide them through their own practice, just like your teachers have guided you.
And what I felt with those tears, with my heart bursting open, was love and gratitude for every teacher who had stood in the front of the room the past five years and guided me through a practice. I am grateful for my teachers, that they’ve had the courage to stand at the front of the room and share their own practice. I now realize that I am just as much a part of their practice as they are of mine. It’s an honor to unroll my mat out in front of them each week, an opportunity and experience that now has a whole new meaning.