Am I a Yoga Teacher?

I have had one toe dipped in the (tranquil, spring-fed) pool of teaching yoga for over a decade.  When I started teaching exercise classes 10 years ago I had been practicing my salutations for almost 8 years already and it seemed natural to add yoga to my list of class offerings.

The idea of sharing yoga appeals to me because it is a very important part of my life and, frankly, I am a good teacher.  Plus, all the cool kids are doing it.  (mostly, sort of, kidding)

And yet, in my gut there’s a persistent resistance to really delve into identifying as a yoga teacher.

Part of this resistance is because I have major reservations about what I have to offer, hesitation in answering the question “what do I have to add to the yoga world?”

Here are my reasons why I can’t be a yoga teacher!*

  • History is my worst subject.  Beyond the gorgeous Sufi mystic poetry of Hafiz and the like, I have little patience for sacred text or the what men in Asia were doing 4,000 years ago.
  • I’m not flexible.  Or good at inversions.  
  • I suck at meditating. My mind wonders, I try to get “things done” in my head, I almost always require an app or at least a timer to commit to sit.
  • My sanskrit is subpar.  
  • I am simultaneously terrified and turned off by the idea of being a spiritual teacher. Yoga is a spiritual practice.  Connecting the mind and the body, opening your heart and clearing your mind, and practicing compassion for yourself and others are absolutely spiritual acts. There is no way to be a yoga teacher and not recognize this as part of your intention, obligation, and desire.
  • I naturally rebel against routine. I have not and cannot ever imagine having a daily asana or meditation practice.

But wait, I’m totally a yoga teacher!

  • I have a decent knowledge and understanding of anatomy and alignment and find it completely fascinating. I am a wanna-be anatomy nerd and am always eager to soak up new information about bio mechanics.  Good form and alignment is not only invaluable for a physically healthy practice, it is also half of the difference between going through the motions and doing yoga, it’s the BODY in MIND-BODY.
  • I understand the value of respecting your limits, both by pushing them and working within them.  I am flexible for a pedestrian but not for a dancer or a yogi.  A 14 year old hamstring injury means I will never again practice Hanumanasana with my right leg in front.  Sometimes even my Paschimottanasana looks like Dandasana (this happened in a class of 50 recently and the teacher came over to make sure I knew what the pose was ‘supposed to be’, (in the end she respected that I was taking care of myself but at first she didn’t understand why my nose wasn’t shoved between my knees).
  • When I sit my mind may wonder 10, 000 times a minute but I simply let it go and come back to the breath.  Yes, I “suck” at meditation but I get it. I feel it. I believe it. I do it anyway.
  • I practice #yogaeverydamnday.  Not necessarily in the form of traditional asana or focused sitting meditation or specified pranayama but I tune into my breath, practice mindfulness, and the light in me salutes the light in you each and every day.
  • I’m a good teacher and a good student.  Both things support each other and both things are a lifelong journey that is best traveled with a beginners mind, a sense of humor, and an ego that is big enough to rebuild itself when blown apart but not so big that it’s invincible.
  • I understand that the best I can do is to show up with compassion and humility and simply share my practice.  This might include more English than sanskrit, this might mean that the practice is a quilt, pieced together from many traditions with my background in modern dance thrown in, this might mean that my students practice is physically “more advanced” than mine or that they attend classes more regularly than me, it doesn’t mean that I am not valuable, it does not mean I am not a yoga teacher. 

    I am a yoga teacher! I am invested and interested in sharing my practice but first and foremost I am me, a human on this crazy journey to live with grace and authenticity, a student in the school of life.

photo credit Elizabeth Giglio

*I have taught yoga classes and private sessions on and off since 2010.  My official qualifications are of the quick n’ dirty gym type certification programs. My unofficial qualifications are extensive kinesiology and teaching methods courses in my BFA program combined with nearing 2 decades of teaching, dancing, and practicing yoga.  This post was written largely as a way for me to sort out my thoughts on whether I want to take the plunge and commit to a more extensive teacher training program and more fully embrace the carreer goal and title of Yoga Teacher.