Practice what you Preach: Taking Yoga Teachings off the Mat
It’s early morning, it’s raining, the alarm wakes you up all grumpy. You bounce off the bed to go to your class and you’re the teacher so you really can’t be late. And still, as you rush up on the street, you find out the bus is late and you’re standing at the bus stop, nervously waiting for the bus to show up. Now you know you’re going to be outrageously late to your class. Finally, the bus appears on the horizon, but it’s literally packed with people, and you desperately pray for the traffic to simply fade away. Nope, no chance. You’re stuck there and you’re getting terribly anxious and annoyed.
Then you finally glimpse a mirage from afar: it’s your studio, you’ve made it. You get in, apologise to your students who are already patiently waiting on their mats. You’re soaked in sweat, breathless, exhausted, and quite embarrassed for being late. Then comes the toughest part: you need to get on your mat, try being present, radiate bliss, remember the sequence and most importantly, you have to teach. Which is not exactly like a walk in the park, right?
Let’s face it, we all got through this at least once in our lives, but who would’ve ever thought that being a yoga teacher could be this stressful? After all, life can be challenging for anyone at times, and we yoga teachers are no exception. In the end, we’re all human beings, but I oftentimes find myself wondering if I’m truly coherent with what I preach in my classes.
We all teach our students to be patient, calm and self-conscious, but can we honestly say that we apply the same teachings into our everyday lives?
Yes, we all know the struggle. The thing is that sometimes it’s incredibly hard to keep a zen mindset when our life is full of distractions and drawbacks. Yet, we try to cultivate non-violence, truthfulness, and calm, but we sometimes get so caught up in our daily humdrum that we end up forgetting to apply these valuable teachings to our daily lives. Sounds familiar? Well just know that you’re not the only one here.
Sometimes, I wish that back to when I was on my YTT someone taught me how to take the wonderfully deep and meaningful philosophy of yoga off the mat. But I guess it’s something you learn the hard way. However, there are small, but meaningful actions that can make a whole lot of difference if applied correctly into our everyday lives. So, if you feel like you want to actually live yoga, rather than just passively lecturing your students on its values, you may need to come to terms with the fact that you ought to change some of your old habits in order to change your mindset. All it takes is an open mind and together, we will try to shed some light on several aspects of yoga you might haven’t considered so far…
This way, you can really embody the true essence of this beautiful ancient practice and hopefully live your life more in harmony, because in the end, your actions will speak louder than your words.
This is probably one of the most important Yama that we should fully try to embrace as yogis. But this is oftentimes also the most misinterpreted Yama. The real meaning of kindness -aka ahimsa -is quite multifaceted as a concept itself.
When we learned about ahimsa, we learned that it translates into cultivating a non-violent, non-harming behaviour towards any living being, right?
But really, this concept is actually way broader than we might have considered. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t simply mean that we need to go plant-based so as not to kill animals or to have a kind and compassionate behaviour towards our students. In fact, we should learn how to apply this behaviour to ourselves too.
Do you ever feel like some asanas are not good for you? Do you ever get frustrated because you cannot properly achieve those perfect, Instagram-like handstands? Well, then consider seeking out help from another teacher… Asking for help is never a bad thing and that doesn’t make you a less capable yoga teacher! After all, try to always keep in mind that yoga has really nothing to do with perfection or with competition. We should never compare ourselves to others, because as you know, each body is different and everyone’s following its own path, and that’s probably the real beauty of humankind!
Ahimsa means showing compassion towards ourselves, listening to our body carefully, respecting and honouring it. Hence, we should always try to protect ourselves, our energy and to do this, sometimes we need to learn how to say no, set boundaries and stick to them.
It does help us visualise the things that truly matter and makes us feel grateful for what we have.
Connected to the idea of non-violence, goes the value of authenticity. Based on my personal experience, I could say that I’ve frequently noticed that some of us tend to hide our personalities behind the mystic allure of the blissful yogi.
And I must admit it: sometimes I did the same because I wanted to make a good impression on my students. I was only offering a version of myself they expected me to be. Whereas all it takes in these cases, it’s just to press the pause button of our lives and simply understand that we need to manifest our true persona, instead of creating an image of ourselves that is far from our real nature.
But in fact, only by embracing our nature, we could give meaningful classes, which may leave a mark on our students’ memory. So, if you’re goofy sometimes or you simply feel like you have to keep up appearances, remember that we don’t have to impress anyone, least of all our students.
Try instead to let your true colours shine. Because it’s only by embracing our real selves that we could say we’re actually practising yoga, and authenticity is what makes your classes unique. And probably that’s what will keep your students engaged in your classes.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep a positive mindset when chips are down. Especially if we have a hectic life, we may get caught up in a tangled web of deadlines, bills, continuous commute and might feel pretty overwhelmed by stress. The bottom line is, that the humdrum is part of our lives, whether we like it or not, we simply need to learn to cope with that.
What we really need to do here, is try and really become the observer of our lives. Not the thinker, not the feeler, but the witness of our existence. All it takes is just a shift of perspective.
So, whenever you’re down and feel like drowning in your daily preoccupations, try to simply unplug, sit down, and make a gratitude list. It does help us visualise the things that truly matter and makes us feel grateful for what we have.
Think about it. Even just the idea of teaching yoga should be added to your list. We’re living our dream and making a living out of our great love for this beautiful practice is definitely a thing we all should be thankful for.
Along with this idea, goes that of setting an intention every day. Just like we do before a yoga class, try to set a Sankalpa every day. Because when you do this regularly, you can start your day with a specific focus in mind, leaving space for clarity and helping you become more goal-oriented.
Bottom line is, to try and live our life without expectations but with a purpose and gratitude can be a really soul-nurturing habit we can cultivate each and every day.
Because in the end, as the great Ram Dass once said: “It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”