As I roll out my mat, palms to heart, I inhale deeply, setting my intention. I center myself and place my focus inward, preparing to guide a yoga class for the next 75 minutes. Trying to breathe through nerves, I think about what exactly I will be guiding.
My hope is to guide openings: open hearts to flow more freely, heal, and take in more of what is needed (more beauty, more hope, or more love). I hope to guide bodies to find more strength, release tension, and gain flexibility. I hope to guide the release of tension in the mind.
I hope to guide a journey—a journey that has changed my perspective about who I thought I was and what my body-mind connection was capable of. Yoga has healed me and given me the self-love to kick a nicotine addiction, as well as an addiction to feeling like I’m a wounded person.
I hope to ignite that same self-care in others.
A Shift of Focus
When we practice yoga, we’re guided to focus only on ourselves, not looking around or noticing what any other yogi is doing.
We breathe through our own practice. The audible breath sounds have always been comforting to me, somehow. It is as if I can feel the class’ collective strength, which manages to feed my strength with each inhalation and exhalation.
As a teacher, though, we’re there to notice the other yogis. We’re no longer paying attention to our own practice, but tuning into the practice of others. We look for alignment, deep breathing, possible strain, or notice where space can be created for deeper engagement.
The perspective has now shifted, and we have an opportunity to teach, to guide, and to be part of the physical and spiritual expansion of another person.
As class comes to a close and everyone lies in Savasana, I am moved by the beauty of meditation. I notice the progression of the new practitioner who seemed so uncomfortable being in stillness during her first class, now welcoming this opportunity.
With deep respect, I understand that this resistance to stillness humanizes us. I’m fully aware, as I watch the rise and fall of bellies and chests in meditation, that every person who enters class is trying to be better in some way. I’m inspired by their efforts and I see myself in all of them.
The walls that have been constructed to keep us safe come down with each breath. I’m more conscious than ever of the connectedness between us.
I Bow to My Teachers
These yogis are faithful to their practice and to their bodies. Some days, their practice seems effortless as they gracefully flow and hold balance. Like in life, on certain days we show up as the best version of ourselves.
On other days, as class ends, they express their fatigue and how class felt harder. I completely understand them because these are the days when we simply feel weaker and have less to give, but we show up anyway.
There are empty classes at times. I resist the urge to feel down about it because I remind myself that there are days, I too, don’t have much to give or time to carve out for self-nourishment.
When they do come back, I guide them as best as I can and am humbled by their commitment to heal, to grow, and to find strength. I realize that I’m also guiding myself—remembering to honor every phase of my own humanity.
Showing up Is the Hardest Part Sometimes
Some days, we claim rock star status; on others, we struggle just to keep moving. I may stumble on my words during certain classes, while others seem to flow effortlessly, as I remember every bit of dialogue and even infuse some of my own humor, inspiration, and voice into it.
As I guide each practitioner to forget about what they needed to do to get to class, releasing thoughts of anything that they might need to do after class, we place our hands in prayer and begin breathing together. We pretend that I’m teaching them.
As we say our goodbyes, however, I’m fully aware that it has been the other way around…for me, anyway.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~ Mahatma Gandhi