Updated: Dec 23, 2020
I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training this year and am now teaching classes (online for now, because of the Covid-19 pandemic). In doing so, it's challenged me in new ways and a few things have come up which I wanted to write out in a blog, as perhaps this will stimulate thought for others or provide a new perspective on their own experiences.
1. My ego still needs work.
When advertising that I'm now teaching yoga, somewhere deep down I cared what other people thought. This felt odd and worth exploring. The things I feared they might think included:
*Sigh*... Another white woman contributing to yoga's lack of diversity in and cultural appropriation
She's too smart to be a yoga teacher
Oh. I didn't take her for one of those hippy 'yogi' people...
She must really fancy herself!
I'm glad I've taken time to process these thoughts because it simply highlights some of my (or my ego's) own insecurities. And I've taken time to dissect these.
For example: Do I really think that all white, female yoga teachers are ignorant and contributing to the cultural appropriation problem around yoga? No. There are many who are fully aware of the issue and actively trying to address it, including myself. This is a complex topic and requires a blog in itself, which I will write soon.
Another example: Do I think I'm 'too smart' to be a yoga teacher? I was ashamed of this one... So arrogant! A) It doesn't matter whether one is smart or not smart - it doesn't make you more or less worthy of anyone's respect, or any better or worse a yoga teacher. B) Some of the smartest people I know are yoga teachers - including digital engineers, civil servants, anatomists, bankers and police sergeants - so this is a completely unfounded thought.
And anyway, there is no way of knowing what people actually think, and does it even matter anyway? No. If people make a judgment about me being a yoga teacher without knowing my motivations, opinions and beliefs around it, that's on them.
What have I learnt? Stay whole, don't crumble due to others' possible (not even definite!) perceptions. Stay true to your Self, not your ego.
2. There are many ways to use yoga for good.
My reason for becoming a yoga teacher was purely practical at first. I wanted to be able to work anywhere, have a 'backup' profession if, when I moved country, I couldn't get work in my other profession as a social impact business consultant. I'm almost ashamed to admit this as that's a ridiculously privileged reason to become a yoga teacher!
However, as my training progressed and I became immersed in the yoga community and culture, I soon knew that my teaching meant more to me than that. I learnt more about about the culture of yoga, the philosophy and ancient history of it, and the anatomy of the body, too. I became more aware of how the appropriation of yoga in the West has excluded people of colour from the yoga community - intentionally or not - despite India being the place of its origin. I started to see that teaching yoga is a channel to have positive social impact in lots of different ways.
There are lots of ways I want to go with this, including doing what I can to make my teaching inclusive and accessible, and incorporating some of the things I’ve learnt about life, health and wellbeing along the way into my classes, perhaps offering a new perspective and helping people understand themselves a bit more.
What have I learnt? Yoga is an accessible practice, and perfectly positioned to make a positive impact.
3. Teaching yoga online can be brilliant.
Having both attended and taught online yoga classes, I've observed some positives and negatives for both students and teachers. For example, online, it's hard to recreate the 'atmosphere' you might get in-person - which is a potential turn-off for the student. Equally, as you can't do hands-on adjustments there's a risk you miss out on a helpful part of attending a class. On the flip-side, online classes appeal to a broad audience, such as people who are unable to attend a yoga studio for whatever reason. They are also easy to record, share and make available beyond the class itself.
I do think there is something in online yoga. There are so many ways you can make an online class brilliant (look out for my top tips blog soon!) AND, as I say, it's also more accessible for many people. Even beyond the pandemic, I will keep up the online teaching because it's a good way to spread the joy and benefits of yoga to those who don't want to travel to a studio.
What have I learnt? Don't wait for things to get back to normal / the 'perfect time' before you start realising your goals. Be flexible, learn, adapt, share.
What have YOU learnt from yoga, or teaching yoga? Let me know in the comments!