Thursday, November 3, 2011

6 things that sadden me as a teacher

At the risk of sounding depressed and down I thought I'd share a few things I've heard repeatedly that really make me sad as a yoga teacher.

In reality, I've been pretty happy about my classes and students lately. A recent rice-bag making party gave me an opportunity spend time outside of class with some of my students. It filled me with joy that my students would come together and cooperate to make some much longed-for props for the studio. And have a blast in the process.

I've also loved watching the community that has developed out of the studio lately. Several students have reached out to embrace a new student who recently moved to the area. They've taken the time to familiarize her with the area and offer her their friendship.

These examples of kindness warm my heart but that doesn't mean that there aren't still things I wish I could do more to change.

Experience has taught me that sometimes I need to gently nudge my students when they tend to slip into one of these six traps as I like to think of them. Unfortunately, many of the people I've seen falling into these traps aren't my students in which case I don't have a right to nudge at all. It's then that I take a deep breath and blog my frustrations in hope that they might reach the eyes and ears of those folks I wish I could nudge or rather push.

So here are the six things I've heard that sadden me as a yoga teacher:

1. "I don't want to take up all of your time during class or be a burden." This statement kills me. I teach because I want to help. It's part of what lead me to become a yoga teacher. I also know that this statement isn't made out of consideration of other students so much as the person making it doesn't want to feel like they need help. We all need help at some point and if I'm spending time with you it's because it happens to be your turn right now. I'm not ignoring the other students. I just happen to see that they can manage on their own at the moment. On a different day it will be their turn so don't feel bad.

2. "I tried yoga a few times but I wasn't good at it." No one is good or bad at yoga. It often takes years before you get comfortable enough with it to feel like you know what you are doing. Don't give up on yoga just because you stumbled your way through a few classes. Everybody does that in the beginning. Of course you feel stiff and tight and sore the next day. That's why you need yoga. Keep trying.

3. "Why aren't there more men in yoga? Is it more for women?" No! Yoga was actually invented by men for men. We women of the west have taken more of a liking to it than the majority of the men here and for that reason have probably crowded out the guys. That doesn't mean yoga is for women and that men can't do it. Men need yoga just as much if not more than women. Men often tend to prefer bulky muscles and weight training as opposed to leaner, more flexible muscles. However, inflexible muscles create a greater risk of injury. So come on guys, get in here and represent.

4. "Isn't yoga some sort of mystical, New Age, cult practice?" Unfortunately, yoga got a bad reputation in the 70's as being a stereotypical-hippie practice. Because yoga has been influenced by Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, it tended to draw those interested in Eastern religions when it first became popular here in the west. However, yoga itself isn't a religion and has become much more secular and fitness based in the last decade or so. You are just as likely to find lawyers, doctors and executives in a yoga class as artists, vegans and commune dwellers. Yoga is for everybody.

5. "I don't don't think I have the right body type for yoga." There's a right and wrong body type for yoga? This wasn't something that was taught to me in teacher training, I'd better go back. The idea that only thin, fit people can do yoga is simply wrong. Props were made to make poses accessible to all different kinds of people, from thin to overweight, young to old. Your poses might not look like the pictures in the magazines but that doesn't mean you can't do them.

6. "I'm fat, old and ugly and my stupid joints don't work anymore." I really hate hearing people berate their bodies. Calling yourself fat won't solve your weight problem, just as calling your joints stupid won't make them more flexible. Simply accept where you are at and figure out what you can change. If you have an injured body part, don't shun it. Treat it with kindness because it's endured enough abuse already. It will heal faster if you care for it, not push it.

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