I was speaking with the love of my life who’s about 2,000 miles away from me. Let’s call him S.
“Sometimes I wish that I could live my life the way I teach my classes.”
The question went the way I crafted it to – S asked “why?”
“When I teach, I step into class, most of the time only with a general theme. For example, a peak pose, a particular muscle group, or maybe a particular movement. Sometimes, I simply set an intention for myself. For example, to slow my speech down, or to simply be aware of what the students in this class needs.
I don’t plan my classes in detail. I step into class with that intention/theme, greet my class, prepare them for what I hope is yet another right-on-point-exactly-what-I-need yoga practice. I switch on the music, and there we are, flowing through a mini metaphor of life.
Teaching yoga has taught me that setting an intention for whatever we do in life could be the one thing that makes all the difference.
Sometimes Titibhasana (a pretty advanced arm balance) lingers in my head as I step into class. But as I ask my students about any existing injuries, I find out that three of them are dealing with wrist injuries. Being in a class full of arm balances isn’t exactly the best idea if you have wrist injuries.
I could either
- Stick to my plan, or
- Throw my Titibhasana plan out and trust that I am still able to teach a right-on-point class safely”
Teaching yoga has taught me that being present is more important than having a plan. Because plans can fail, but being present is just neutral, there’s no failure or success. You are just, you know, present to respond to whatever might come up.”
At this point, I could hear the excitement in S’s voice. An excitement that I missed, an excitement that I have not heard for so long.
I’m a planner. I hate uncertainty and I always have difficulties dealing with uncertainty. Sometimes it gets into my relationships. I could hear it in S’s voice. He was thrilled. I’m not sure over what, but I think he was thrilled to hear the articulation of my desire to translate this mini metaphor of life into actual life.
But I was frustrated with myself. For being able to do it at work, but finding it so challenging to be done outside of the studio.
I continued my monologue.
“During times like this, sometimes I have to deal with a mini panic attack. I wreak my head, thinking ‘what to teach what to teach what to teach?!’ All these while very calmly instructing my class to ‘inhale deeply, exhale completely’
I allow myself to breathe with them.
As I take long deep breaths, I am present, my nerves are calmed and my brain starts to work under less emotional influence. With a few more grounding breaths, I am able to hold space for others and offer myself from a grounded and calm place, rather than a frenzied and anxious place.
People appreciate calmness because how much calmness do we actually experience during the course of our days?
When I lead my class through a series of poses, I don’t have the luxury of hours and days to contemplate the next pose. The best that I can do is to think slightly ahead and make decisions then and there. Sometimes I make bad decisions, sometimes I make a bad move and the transition gets a bit awkward. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of my career. It’s not the end of the class. It doesn’t turn the class into a bad class. It’s just a mistake I made and I can always turn things around. Sometimes I switch my creativity button up a notch and deal with it beautifully. Sometimes I apologise and then proceed to take a better step instead.
Teaching yoga has taught me that making decisions don’t have to be hard. There is no absolute right or wrong decision. When you make a decision, you and your environment can and will work around it.
Because of the nature of the yoga studio that I teach at, until the moment I step into class, I wouldn’t know the mix of students I’ll be teaching. Sometimes I face a power class full of beginners, sometimes I have advanced practitioners in beginner classes, sometimes I have a mix of beginners and advanced students in a single class.
These ‘unpredictable’ classes forces me to walk in the shoes of my students, not pre-judge them based on what I see. As I practice empathy, I am able to offer better options to cater to the needs of different students and not leave anyone feeling under or over Om-ed out.
Teaching yoga has taught me to empathize. Especially empathizing with people who struggle. It leads me to ask myself, ‘what can I do to make things better for them?’ As I ask, sometimes it’s hard to not follow up with action.
Never underestimate the power of empathy.”
I adjusted my earpiece and took a sip of tea from my oversized mug, smiled through the camera to that beautiful face smiling back at me, wondering when we would meet in person again.
I gathered my thoughts,
“When I first started teaching, I used to give certain cues and expect a certain result in the bodies that I see. Sometimes it’s frustrating because certain people simply don’t respond to certain cues. As I allow myself to approach the issue with curiosity rather than having fixed expectations, my route to the desired result becomes a lot more pleasant.
Expectations of how other people receive information from you will inevitably lead to frustration if the results don’t match your expectations.
Teaching yoga has taught me to let go of expectations, and approach situations with curiosity, and know that there is no one fixed route to where I wish to be.”
S and I continued our conversation late into the night. His voice was what I wanted to hear as I drift off into sleep. As I fell asleep that night, my heart tugged at me, telling me to do something…