A few weekends ago, I returned to Scottsdale, AZ to teach at Yoga Village, an Anusara yoga studio run by Barbara Adams. I met Desiree Rumbaugh, John Friend and eventually, a world-wide community of practitioners and teachers from my very humble beginnings taking classes and workshops in Scottsdale over twenty years ago. I felt happy and more-than-a-bit nostalgic, upon returning to the area.
In each session of my weekend workshop, students I had taught in the first year of my teaching were in the room, many of whom are now seasoned teachers themselves. In any given session, I looked out and saw people I had known for twenty years sitting with students I was meeting for the first time. I saw long-time students from my Anusara yoga days and folks I had met since terminating my license to teach Anusara yoga, with whom I have weathered the aftermath of that tumultuous time.
And while the landscape of teaching and practice has shifted considerably over the years, and every year in front of the room seems to bring some new challenge or shifting narrative — from social concerns to personal finances and everything else in between, observing the many ways that yoga is still knitting us together inside ourselves and with one another continues to inspire me.
As I have written before, I have made just about every mistake in the book as a yoga teacher. My learning curve has been long and pretty steep at times, taking me through the terrain of my own self-centeredness, anger, jealousy, and insecurity, while also offering me glimpses of the deep humility that lives at the heart of being able to witness other people grow through yogic principles and practice. I often joke (although I am 100% serious about it) that God made me a yoga teacher, not because I was so well-suited to the task, but because I needed to live close to the teaching in order to grow into the position I had been given.
In the words of Papa Peter Rhodes, “God doesn’t choose the qualified, he qualifies the chosen.”
How is one chosen to teach yoga? Essentially, we raise our hand and say, “I will help.”
The way I see it, we live in dark times and the waters of hope, faith, compassion, personal growth, accountability, and service are muddied by competing cultural narratives, unexamined psychological patterns, and even larger cycles of nature. If I were God, Supreme Consciousness, The Universe, Spirit, or whatever name you have for the ALL THAT IS, I would look around and see how much pain there was, how much oppression, injustice, and fear existed in the hearts of even good people and I would give as many jobs as I could to anyone willing to work on the side of Light — be that the light of awareness, the light of generosity, the light of honesty, the light of compassion, the light of well, you get my point.
And while every year brings with it a new specialty within the world of teacher training and a new niche of service to explore and in which to get certified, the path of “getting qualified” of which I am speaking is an experiential training program that anyone interested in helping can enter. Each of us who teaches starts from where we are— full of wounds, projections, hopes, dreams, shortcomings, and talents. And we meet our students where they are, full of the same.
And then the messy magic happens. In the midst of such a meeting, in the field of all of what we are and are not, of what we can do and can not yet do, we hold one another in an uncertain Grace. I say uncertain because this is not the Grace of easy promises, of no hurt feelings, of always being and feeling understood. The teacher-student relationship is as likely to go wrong as it is to go right because while we learn and teach the subject of yoga— from philosophy to posture, from mantra to meditation— we are all just ordinary people, which always makes for a bit unpredictability.
I am not as passionate about big back bends and long, sweaty practices as I used to be, preferring a different approach to asana as I turn 50, than the one I had at 25, 35, and 45. I no longer think that every year I am practicing will bring with it some new asana achievement or some new “next level” of accomplishment. And while some of my students are upset my interests are changing, others like the new direction, happy at last to stop pushing so much. At any rate, as with any relationship, we do not always grow together, grow in the same way, or grow at the same time and none of that means something is going wrong.
One thing I love about getting older is that I am more aware of the long-term game we are playing together than the day-to-day ups and downs inherent in the messy Grace of learning and teaching yoga. Whether our students practice with us over the long haul or find another teacher with whom to share the journey, whether we are on a personal up or down-swing, the opportunity to live alongside the practice and the teachings is a blessing of Light in a time of darkness. Whether our classes are packed or sparsely-attended, whether we make a living as a teacher or not, and whether or not we feel resonant with the latest trend in the industry, each of us raised our hands to help, got chosen, and are spending our days and years getting qualified.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Keep the faith.
Follow This Blog
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."