This past week a yoga blog went viral on the internet titled, "13 things your yoga teacher won't tell you" by Emily Green. Several students asked me if I'd seen it and of course I had. Most of them thought it was rather funny and so did I initially. However, lunch with a fellow instructor made me realize how true, if somewhat harsh, most of it is. Ms. Green's stark honesty is a breath of fresh air and has inspired me to write a few honest observations of my own.
Yes, it's true that we instructors are more than just a little irked when students come late to class or project other annoying behavior. Most tardy students do a good job of coming in quietly and really, who hasn't run late on occasion? Even I sometimes find myself rushing to class or rushing to be ready on time. However, there are a few serial time violators who seem to think it's OK to come to class late regularly because they always have a good reason. These are the people that bother me most because I know that the other annoyed students expect me to "say something" to them.
Honestly, I hate being put in that position. I'm a terribly non-confrontational person. I've been asked numerous times by students to make yoga etiquette announcements in class about tardiness, perfume, cell phones, mat placement etc etc and it always makes me uncomfortable. Sure, it's my job to ensure that everyone has a sacred space to practice in, free of distractions, but often when we are in community other people's "stuff" tends filter into our lives. Yoga teaches us to tune out such distractions The best thing we can do when someone's behavior annoys us is make adjustments, speak our peace, and not let it ruin our day. I tend to pick and choose my battles and try to incorporate as much grace into my classes as I can. Just because I'm smiling doesn't mean I'm OK with it, it just means I'm trying not to let it get in the way of our relationship. Do try to come on time, please.
Ms. Green also writes that it bothers her when some yoga teachers try to act like gurus with all the answers. For me it's worse when I think students expect me to be the epitome of happy, calm and serene. I confess that there have been times that I've been so unsettled and anxious that I wondered if should even be teaching yoga at all.
A few years ago I was having a difficult time emotionally and was sleeping very poorly. I confessed this to a class and one student looked at me and said, "Really? But you're a yoga teacher!"
The reality is this: I'm a human being just like you. I'm not perfect. I sometimes have trouble sleeping, I worry a lot and I've taught more than a few classes smiling when I wanted to cry. I don't teach yoga because I'm some enlightened creature who wanders around in a perfect state of emotional and physical balance. I teach yoga because it makes me feel better and I want to share that with others. I also teach yoga because I want a career with less pressure and stress than my previous one but it hasn't always worked out that way.
Sometimes I give so much of myself I feel I have nothing left to give. Sometimes I'm so empty that my soul feels tired. These are the times that I'm in danger of exhausting myself to the point of being useless to everyone including myself. That's when I know it's time to back off a bit but I find it hard to say "no."
It's hard to say "no" when I there's so much need out there. There's so many hurting people; hurting physically, hurting emotionally, hurting spiritually. It can be overwhelming. I want to help every person and be present for everyone, but I find I'm limited by my humanness. I can't fix you, I can't even fix myself. Still I try and that's what get's any yoga teach into trouble fast. It's then that I've stepped out of my role of teacher and into the role of savior.
At last check I am still in need of a savior myself and will always be. And when I fall into the trap of to trying save or fix everyone and burning myself out in doing so, these words of Jesus come to my mind; "Come to me all of you who are wearied and burdened and I will give you rest." Then I take a deep breath, know that I am filled again and it's not my job to save the world. I am only an instrument of healing, not the healer.