The Lotus from Within: A Reflection on Teaching

Lately I have been doing a lot of reflection and watching of my teaching and how it affects my students.  I’ve been keying into the subtle aspects of it that exists beneath the larger movements and the sequencing.  A sense of awe and wonderment has begun to manifest within that these living, breathing, people listen to my guidance as I lead them through a practice.  They take in my offerings be it through a centering and words of inspiration or quotes and suggestions on how to adjust themselves on the mat.  They allow me to touch their bodies, guiding a hip forward, or a shoulder to open up a little more.  It amazes me that these virtual strangers allow such intimate contact and trust.

At times these students laugh at my corny jokes and even allow themselves to play with a pose such as Thrashing Bug, arms and legs flopping around on the mat in a release of the binding stresses of adulthood.  I watch and bear witness to the blossoming of postures from what is at the core and at times this brings up a choked sense of gratitude.  Whether they realize it or not the asana practice dissolves the layer of armor that so many hide behind and offers up a true vulnerability; A chance to see what is human and radiant.  This is the lotus that we all have inside.

All yoga postures hold beauty regardless of the body or level of practice that it comes from.  An opening of honesty, truth, and love.  Hearts forward, shoulders back, strengthening and stepping forward into life and possibility.  Here I am.  Me.

I never imagined that I would be writing these words. I stepped into  teaching yoga thinking I was just the leader of an exercise class.  Perhaps I was going to know more about stringing the poses together but that was it.  I didn’t realize that all I was seeing was the surface film of what teaching yoga really entails.  An offering and experience of my entire energetic being, a playful see-saw of how much to give and how much to keep within; finding my own delicate balance.

I marvel at this juxtaposition to my few years of teaching high school.  A stark contrast in comparison.  When I was teaching what I gave was never enough.  There was always more be it at the request of the students, or more likely at the request of the administration or the system.  Students who didn’t want to do what I asked and a refusal to step into even a moment of stillness, the paying attention to the single focus of what we were doing in class.  Cell phones silently chirping away beneath the desks and doodles being drawn on paper.  A wish for instantaneous gratification.  At times the constant negative feedback and attacks from the students still stick with me.  I worry that there will be a constant replay of all this, momentarily forgetting that life has moved on and so have I.  No more harassing phone calls from students to my parents, anti-semitic notes left on my desk, or students cussing me out.  I’ve forgiven, but haven’t forgotten and those experiences have taught me about life and the many ways that people are forced to live theirs.  What we so often see on the outside is not a direct representation of what is going on in those moments, but rather what is going on in a bigger sense: family, friends, or within.

As I step onto the mat today I will continue to grow in awe of those that are before me.  Ready, listening, opening, and trusting.