The Lessons I've Learned As A Yoga Teacher while Teaching People to Stand on Their Head
When I think about what I have learned as a yoga teacher, I stumble upon the fact that all of the lessons are already revealed in the Yoga Sutras (YS). This book of wisdom offers guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life as a yogi.
While Patanjali is credited with this roadmap to a spiritual life in 200AD, the teachings still hold true today.
Here are 5 pieces of life guidance, captured as a yoga teacher while I was teaching people to stand on their head. As a bonus, I will also share the deeper lesson from the corresponding Sutra (thread):
1. Not Everybody Will Like You - Ishvara Pranidhana, "Trust in the Universe," YS II.45
It's just a fact of life; not everybody is going to resonate with my teaching, even if it is great some days. And that's ok; I need to keep teaching my way and be non-apologetic. I lead a spiritual type of yoga, and some people don't resonate with this, and yet, I wouldn't change my style for anything! There is so much yoga in the world now that each student will find his or her perfect teacher. Keep teaching what resonates, and the like-minded students come.
Trust in the Universe.
2. Walk the Talk — Satya, "Truth," YS II.36
I can't teach yoga and then be cruel to my dog. This would be incongruent. Yoga teaching has taught me to keep it authentic. Satya is the integrity that creates personal strength and self-realization. When one speaks, acts, and thinks the truth, it becomes the truth, my truth!
Anything I do is like Everything I do.
3. Keep Studying and Know Your Limits — Svadhyaya, "Self-Study," YS II.44
● Yogis are naturally curious. They want to ask "why" to everything, it's just in the yogi's nature.
So as a yoga teacher, I need to continue to study and be one step ahead of the students. It is ok to answer, "I don't know" when asked something perplexing, but I get back to them with answers. In the process, I have learned something new too.
Keep on studying the self and spiritual texts.
● I am not a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist or psychologist, but I do know one or two of each.
Through self-study, I have learned my limits. I keep business cards on hand for professionals that I trust in these areas. I won't get caught up in trying to guess why my students' (or friend's) boyfriend left them again, or why their knee hurts only sometimes. I let the pros handle it. I call these professionals my "extended faculty/family."
Know one's limits and know when to ask for help.
(Okay so I confess, this lesson took longer to grasp than the others.)
4. Give It Everything You've Got! — Tapas, "Inner Fire," Y.S. II.43
One must persevere on this path of self-knowledge and this journey called life. Some impulse is needed, which the Yoga Sutras refers to as Tapas.
This Sutra keeps me on my chosen path as opposed to me being pulled in all directions by my cravings or desires. Tapas, or right action can lead to transformation by offering a certain mastery over the senses that pull at a yogi.
Tapas is the "get up and teach" I need to move forward daily. There are days that I am tired, or maybe even doubtful. I wake up some days and admit to my husband, "I don't know what to teach today," (to which he jokes: "teach yoga"). I get up, and practice, chant some mantra (all are forms of Tapas as opposed to laying in bed and drinking tea all day), and then I teach what I know. I keep giving everything I've got. I won't get to self-realization (Yoga) unless I tap into the inner fire.
Teaching yoga takes practice.
Remember, nothing can be achieved without perseverance in your discipline. Eliminate your low self-esteem, your ego, your idleness, your inability to respond to an opportunity, your own denial of your spiritual heritage and your potential.
Eliminate the envy and jealousy of others who distract you from your purpose. Eliminate the resistance to necessary changes, the reluctance to break a pattern of behavior that prolongs suffering and the lack of faith in the Divine...
— Sri Lord Haidyakhandi Bhole Babaji ॐ
5. Treat Yourself with Loving Kindness — Ahimsa, "Non-harming," YS II.35
I used to travel all day between studios, and private homes to teach, and I confess, I had no time for my own practice and no time to get a massage, visit my bodyworker, or even make a healthy lunch. I was making money, but I was exhausted physically and mentally.
Being this busy may be glamorous, but it is not sustainable. We all need to practice kindness to ourselves in whatever form is appropriate so that we can be of service to others.
Now, I schedule a mental health walk with my dog, sit and have lunch with my husband, and enjoy time in nature. I am richer by far by taking time for myself. I have more to offer others.
By practicing Ahimsa, I can become an instrument for divine will and be of peaceful service to all.
Wouldn't you know it? What I have learned was there all along. These teachings (the Yoga Sutras), are available to everybody. How could you use them in your life?