The truth about being a new yoga teacher, is that no one tells you what’s its going to be like to be a new yoga teacher. The truth about being a yoga teacher, is that once you finish teacher training, you go back out into reality. Maybe you teach, maybe you don’t. I’m a brand new teacher. I’ve taught yoga for three whole months. I say that sarcastically just FYI. I’ve learned a hell of a lot; and I’ve learned a lot of things I wish someone had told me.
So here’s me, telling you. Wether you’re almost a certified yoga teacher, are about to teach your first class, just became an instructor, or are thinking about it- this is just a little bit of my wisdom. Take it for what it’s worth. Leave it for what its worth. I know I still have a lot to learn…a lifetime of learning actually. This newness of being a yoga teacher is just the tip of the iceberg. Please be aware, I am not telling you I know all there is to know about being a yoga teacher. Not even close. Thinking that I even know a lot would be pure ignorance. I don’t. I learn every day- that is something I love about yoga. It is always changing me and challenging me.
You’re not special or more enlightened than anyone else just because you chose to become a yoga teacher. Being a yoga teacher is a trend right now- everyone’s doing it. You are not better than anyone. A yoga teacher is not better than a Zumba teacher at the YMCA. A yoga teacher is not better than a cycling instructor at a little gym. What you are is incredibly brave and committed. You said YES to one of the best, but most difficult things in your life- teacher training. You spent many many hours looking at the deepest parts of yourself, being humbled, screwing up, and being uncomfortable. Be proud of that. Damn proud. But don’t forget where you started. Anyone remember that sweet video of a dad talking to his little girl in the mirror before they start the day? “You are not better than anyone else”, he tells her. “No one is better than you.” You are that little girl looking in the mirror. Always.
Just because you’re a new teacher, doesn’t make you less important. Less knowledgeable, sure. Less experienced, yes. But if yoga means unity, and the goal of yoga is one-ness, like you learned, everyone is equal. Don’t be discouraged if you bomb your first class, or even your first few classes. It’s inevitable! But that does not make you a lesser teacher or student. Do not let teachers above you make you feel small- and remember this carries over to LIFE too. In the same breath, don’t make others feel small. Especially when you teach. If you teach, you will have people of all levels in your classes. Speak to them all. Each and every one of them. Watch the bodies in front of you. You are all equal. They are as important as you are, even though you are in charge and they are on their mats. Teach that way.
The yoga world can be catty. Ok, it is catty. It’s competitive. It’s full of egos. It is full of pride. This truth has been a hard truth for me to learn. I didn’t want to learn it. People I thought were in this business to do good showed me their true intentions were selfish. From personal experience, I have been denied the opportunity to teach a karma class at a studio for a great cause, for reasons unspoken. I did not train at that studio, I do not teach there, I do not belong teaching there. And so pride outweighs desire to do something for the greater good. Turning to another studio in hopes of teaching the class there, I was again denied because “we don’t know that person.” And so yoga becomes about “who you know” rather than “how can I help.” I was told by a mentor and fellow teacher that I was not a peer- simply a student- implying there is a hierarchy in this practice and I am among the lowest. I was told I was attached to truth and it was a problem for our relationship. I was told I was dramatic and gossipy. And so “I am in charge of you” replaces “how can we talk as equals.” Things that were known about my true character were taken and used against me like darts, and I learned that not all intentions are out of love. The thing is, just because yoga preaches peace and zen and love in no way means it is made up entirely of those things. We are human. We hurt each other. It is our nature. We are flawed, we are selfish, we are scared, we are insecure. WE ARE SCARED. That doesn’t make any of us exempt from the standard of being kind to one another. When I think about those situations, I actually don’t feel much anger. I feel sadness, because the world needs all the kindness it can get- but the bottom line is, life is about business. It is the world we humans have created for ourself. We will continually sacrifice love and compassion for money and the need to be right. I am guilty of this also. I am not the exception. Just because I write about it does not mean I practice what I preach 100% of the time. But I do my best. Some days I’m a rockstar with it, and other days I fail miserably. Freaking miserably. Always have, always will. I am not better than anyone else.
Don’t believe in too much magic- but believe in some of it. Find a balance. Find those moments in your own practice where you are completely swept away in your own breath and movement. When the rest of the world is just that- the rest of the world. You don’t care what anyone else is doing or saying. You are fully present. Teach to that magic, even if it feels silly. It is your truth, it is your reason for yoga, it is your light to share. Find the teachers and students and classes that remind you how yoga works. Learn from the people who light not just you up, but others also. There is a lot to be said for those who can see beyond themselves and teach that way also.
Lastly, if you aren’t consistently feeling joy when you get off your mat after your practice, step away. Yoga will be there. It always was. The practice that you maybe long ago came to with wonder and adoration will always be there waiting. No one can take that from you, not even yourself.