What Teaching Yoga Has Taught Me

Photo by Laura Hughes 

Photo by Laura Hughes 

*This was originally posted in May 2013. As I prepare to teach my first class since moving to Seattle, I found my old yoga books and journal entries that took me right back to teacher training and all the feelings related to actually having students! Years later the words still resonate. I still carry the fear of not being a good teacher, I still feel the pressure to create an ethereal experience for everyone, and I still possess a genuine enthusiasm to share the gift of connecting breath. 

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in joining an outdoor-donation based yoga class, email me at leslie.schipper@gmail.com. 

I'm only two weeks into teaching and my head is spinning with new insight.

First of all, teaching is SUCH a humbling experience.  I'm am still dealing with the innate feeling that I need to be "perfect," that I need to create this mind blowing sequence & class that will leave everyone in tune with their breath, feeling heavenly in their body, and blissed out of their mind.

My saving mantra is: I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

No one is expecting perfection, why should I?  Teaching yoga, (teaching anything really) forces you to swallow your ego and open to vulnerability.  I know that I don't know everything, (Google usually has my back though) but I do want students to trust in my ability to guide them through asana, pranayama, meditation, the whole kit and caboodle knowing they are in good hands.  Yoga is a personal experience, but people are paying both monetarily and with their time to unroll their mat and take my class.

That's where my own pressure comes in and my rational thoughts go out.  My mind says, "these people are taking 60 mins out of their busy schedule to unify their mind, body, and breath. And they are looking to me for a little bit of guidance."

Which leads me to my second insight... it's not about you.  No not you... It is about YOU, it's not about ME.  Yah, I'm there and doing most of the talking. I'm sequencing and enhancing and telling you where to put your leg and when to inhale and exhale. But really I'm just providing a safe space for you to practice and play on your mat.  I've been lucky enough to immerse myself in the practice and learn incredible amounts from my training, but there is always more to learn and I'm clueless as to how you are interpreting what I am saying. Yoga is a personal experience, it is about YOU.

Remembering that takes a little bit of the pressure off.  Which leads to my last insight... as long as I'm teaching for the right reasons, and speaking from an authentic place, I can walk away from the studio and class at peace. I don't need applause (why do people do that in hot yoga?) or students telling me the class was amazing (although encouragement and constructive feedback is always appreciated).  I will see it in yogi's faces and feel it in their energy.