“I am balanced. I am calm. I am steady.” Sitting on my mat during centering in a yoga class this week, this phrase or mantra floated into my mind. Without much effort I just started saying it to myself over and over as I went about my business. The mantra was there in my morning practice the next day, when I got tired at the office one night while treating patients and while sitting at my computer scheduling appointments and emailing patients. “I am balanced. I am calm. I am steady.”
There is another phrase that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. “Those who can’t do, teach.” As a long time yoga teacher that expression couldn’t be more true or more appropriate. I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t maintain a smooth, even keeled life.
Most people who know me intimately know that I am not a steady person. I am a passionate person. I have a fabulous temper, an easy trigger for tears and the capacity for absolute delight. That range of emotions may be hard for my steadily joyful and positive husband, but it has a tendency to be a little brutal on my physical body.
Hence, I teach. I utilize the moments of telling other people how to relax to help me figure out what it takes, how internal quiet is best found. This isn’t lying. This isn’t faking it. This is shared exploration from someone who has tried really hard for a very long time and knows what the struggle is like. I’ve studied with teachers who have figure it all out and live even, steady lives. They don’t really know how to teach it. I’ve also studied with yoga teachers who are so spent and exhausted that they have forgotten the need to find that inner peace and so they don’t even remember to teach it.
Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. Most of the time I walk into the yoga studio and show up on the mat, some part of me is aching, overworked and a little desperate. I can sit on my mat and stare out at the roomful of students and see which of those students are aching, which of those students are thriving and which of those students are completely uncertain why they are there and what they are looking for. I recognize parts of myself in all of my students.
Years ago I learned that the best way to profoundly touch people’s lives is to see them. When I walk into the studio and look out at my students I am seeing them. I see how they hold their bodies, who is back after a long time away, who is moving awkwardly, who is lying down, who is chatting. Then I sit on my mat and I just let my body interpret that information. I don’t know precisely how looking at people then turns into something to base a class around, but all the sudden some part of my body declares itself primary and all at once I am spiraling towards a class about the breathing diaphragm, the heart, the psoas, the cerebral spinal fluid or the muscles.
One of the many reasons I have such an amazing job is that the second I show up for work, I have to go into my body. It is professionally required that I slow down and connect to my breathing, my heart rate, my organs and muscles. After years of teaching I know that my body is the gateway into my students’ bodies. If I can just listen to what my body needs, there is a very high likelihood that nearly everyone in the class will need the same thing. Experience has proved that to be true time and time again.
Am I a bad yoga teacher because I have a hot temper and strive for equanimity? I used to think so and I used to pretend to my students that I had it all together. These days as the anger slowly eases away and the highs and the lows move toward steadiness, I realize what a strength all this struggle is. What an amazing teacher I have in my own body and nervous system.
Take a moment today, get fully comfortable, close your eyes and listen to the quiet inside yourself. Wait for that moment of gratitude at allowing the body to be still. From that place of stillness ask yourself, your internal wisdom, for a mantra for your week that will best honor whatever it is you need to practice. Don’t sensor it, don’t doubt it, just listen. When that inner voice answers, honor it with all your heart.
Copyright: pedrovieira68 / 123RF Stock Photo