Teacher, Teach Thyself

“Only one who is finely attuned to the inner guide can inspire the awakening of the inner guide in another.” – Swami Rama

My practice has moved home the past several weeks.  I’m in this strange and unique place of being a part of a group of teachers that will be a part of a studio.  The building is still under construction.  So, I am finding myself a yogi with no practice space.  Well, I do have a practice space.  My home.  At home I have the same challenges to practicing that every other yogi does:  Being uncertain about what I’m doing, wondering if my practice was enough, inability to find private time, and the tendency to get distracted.  So, my living room has become my studio again, just like it was my sophomore year in college when I first began my practice.

I am teaching a weekly class to palliative and nursing home caregivers.  When the yoga studio is your main gig, you can get accustomed to the magic of a group class:  boomin’ playlists, fancy transitions, the vibe of the room.  This class at the hospice doesn’t have the studio glamour, but yoga is definitely still happening.  Every week we move all the furniture out of a tiny conference room, do some asana,  breathe, rest, and move the tables and chairs back.  Whether it’s a group or just one person that show up, I leave feeling positive and grateful.  Maybe it’s because this particular class reminds me of my own beginnings in practice: on my living room carpet, no sticky mat or moisture wicking athletic wear, trying to figure out how to deeply breathe and be in Warrior I at the same time.

My home practice and my hospice class have reminded me that yoga is enough on it’s own.  When it’s stripped of pretty patterned leggings, sound systems, and beautiful zen-garden-like surroundings, it’s still as profound as ever. It’s difficult for a full-time yoga teacher to say that.  If everyone were to stop going to studio classes and practice in their living rooms, I would be out of a job.  The world still needs quality yoga teachers.  Sure, you can learn like I did: floundering around from DVD to random studio class for years trying to figure out what yoga is.  Speaking from experience, it’s a confusing process.   It’s easier to have a good teacher, and those good teachers can seem hard to come by.   I’ve noticed that some of the things I used to judge a teacher on (their bodies, asana ability, number of students) didn’t necessarily mean they actually had any knowledge about yoga.  Maybe a quality teacher is someone with a well-grounded practice (as defined in Yoga Sutra 1.14: “well-attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm.”)  Maybe a good teacher is just someone making an earnest effort to live the teachings.

When I lost my studio practice space, I didn’t lose my practice.  Does that make me a better teacher?  Hell, if I know.  But it did show me that I had everything I needed to live everything I teach.  It showed me that the teacher I needed in this moment was in the mirror.  I still have a lot to learn from me, and all I have to do is carve out some living room time, show up, and listen.  I cannot begin to teach, until I can connect and listen to all that I have to learn.

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