Okay, I suppose I shouldn’t attempt to speak for all yoga teachers, so here’s my disclaimer: This is my own personal philosophy on why yoga teachers aren’t perfect.
I think the basic argument is that yoga teachers are human. And while there may be some gurus who purport perfection and ultimate enlightenment, I won’t personally believe you’re perfect until I see you radiate light and heal the sick and make a loaf of bread become a hundred loaves.
But that’s more extreme than this post aims to be. I am not going to attempt to define enlightenment or try to get inside the head of a master yogi. What I do want to explain, however, is how I am a yoga teacher, and how I am far from perfect, and how my imperfection makes me a better teacher.
Before I really get into the meat of the post, I’ll tell you why I feel compelled to say this. One of my students (and sometimes blog reader, hello there!) was out at the Friday dinner the other night (every Friday after BodyFlow, do come!) and I had made reference to one of my less lovely qualities. I don’t remember which one it was. It may have been one of the past, or one I still struggle with, like gossip or the lure of a box of Chips Ahoy.
Whatever it was, he said, “But that was before yoga, right?”
Um, sorry, no. That was definitely A.Y. After Yoga. I almost went into a litany of all the things I have done that are very non-yoga in my years as a yoga student and teacher, but settled for saying, I am far from perfect. I have many skills as a teacher and some wisdom to share, but I am walking the path as much as anyone else, trying to find balance.
There are many days I get angry and frustrated. There are many days I feel sorry for myself. There are many days I fall into self-destructive old habits, and wonder what in the world I’m doing with my life.
I am human. I am not perfect. And I like it that way.
I think most yoga teachers, if they are honest, will say the same. We have found this wonderful tool for crafting our lives in a meaningful, purposeful way. We have learned skills to help us find balance in the mind and body. We have learned how to share this in a way that will help people along on their own journeys.
But most of us, we’re not yoga masters. Some of us diligently set out to teach, some of us kind of fell into it – all of us are the same people we were before we became teachers. We have the same families, the same upbringing, the same culture, the same egos we were born with. Yoga does not transform you into a divine being overnight. We don’t necessarily walk around all day in the same bliss we find in our yoga practice.
What yoga does give us, however, is the ability to accept ourselves just as we are. In accepting ourselves, with all our strengths and weaknesses, we have the ability to engage in our lives in perhaps a more graceful way than we otherwise would. We fall, just as anyone else, but perhaps we get up a little bit more quickly, perhaps we brush ourselves off with a little more tenderness. Perhaps we let it go a little sooner.
For myself, I see how much more resilient my yoga practice has made me. I got really bummed out late Friday night, frustrated and tired, then Saturday morning I broke a tooth and felt really sorry for myself. This sort of thing used to be crippling. It would bring on a darkness that could settle in for weeks. This weekend, though, I let myself feel sorry for myself for a little while, then I got up and went to BodyStep. I asked myself what I could do to change my situation, and made some plans. What I couldn’t change, I let go.
This, as I see it, is the path of the yogi. We don’t have terrible things happen to us and think, “Hooray! My tooth broke, that’s fantastic! All is peace and light!” But we do find a way to deal with the reality before us, and to deal in a way that doesn’t create more pain than is necessary.
Knowing our own imperfections, I believe, actually makes us better teachers. When we learn that stumbling, falling, is part of the process, we are able to help our students learn the skill of picking themselves up.
And that’s a pretty wonderful thing, right there.