It is 5 years ago, almost to the day, that I started my first public class in a village hall in the lovely village of Mapledurwell near Basingstoke, I had not qualified yet but was desperate to get some teaching experience and as always I knew I had to commit to a starting date and just do it.
I was nervous and excited at the same time, I remember going to see the hall with my children and thinking :" how am I going to fill this massive space? Is anyone actually going to turn up?"
I think I had around 6 people in my first ever class, a friend, another trainee teacher from my course and her mum and a few local ladies. I cannot lie, I was glad when it was over but I obviously enjoyed it because I am still teaching and still learning lots about my teaching, my students and that marvellous and seemingly infinite universe that is Yoga.
During these 5 years I have learnt a few lessons and I am forever thankful to all the people who have crossed my path :the students, the teachers , the hall care-takers , the office coordinators ...
LESSON 1 it is not about me (the teacher), it is about them (the students)
Yoga teacher training is not for the faint hearted, it requires commitment for a long period of time and it requires you to put aside your family and any other commitment you may have to follow your journey deeply and completely, if you are not willing to dedicate the time to attend the sessions,do the class work and uncover who you really are and what you are made of , you will not succeed. During the 12 months (or more) you may go through periods of intense self-reflection and... self-doubt, as you spend several weekends exploring different aspects of spirituality and get the chance to do a lot of Yoga and a lot of Meditation. What you do not learn at teacher training is that all you are studying and rehearsing and preparing for is not for you but it is entirely for the benefit of others. As a trainee I was very much focused on successfully completing the course, creating sequences that I liked and discussing topics that would help me achieve my goal but as I met more and more people wanting to learn yoga for all sort of reasons I came to realise that the real work is done when you learn to set aside your ego and create classes, sequences and workshops that can help people in their struggles , mental , physical , emotional , whatever they may be ...
LESSON 2 the only lesson plan worth creating is one you can change
I enjoy creating different sequences every week and although I do a fair amount of planning and have used many different tools to design practices, they never turn out exactly as I planned them especially when working with groups I have not taught before and some times even with the students I have known for a long time. Teaching on-line has changed that dramatically as there is a lot less feedback and interaction but during live classes I can "feel" when it's time to wrap things up or perhaps add something more challenging and so I throw the paper with the sequence away and let the students lead my teaching.
LESSON 3 no matter how many times you say it, people think touching their toes is what Yoga is all about
Not long ago we used to have dinner parties and meet up with friends or spoke to someone we had not met before, remember ? One of the questions that often pops up in these kind of situations is "what do you do for a living?" When I mention I am a yoga teacher, I often get the "Oh my I would be no good at Yoga ! I cannot touch my toes?" or some other random fact about flexibility and Yoga. I have now come to accept that for those who have never done yoga, it remains a stereotype very much encouraged and perpetuated by the tabloids, medias and social medias out there... and so instead of going off the long winded path of explaining what yoga really is ( as I used to ...) , I simply invite people to join a class to see what it's all about. Works much better that way .
LESSON 4 yoga is for every-body and so it should be
2-3 years ago I became very conscious of the lack of diversity in the yoga community, so much so that
if anyone of a different ethnic background walked into one of my classes I would be genuinely surprised. So I started to wonder why? What is keeping people of BAEM groups away from Yoga classes? I also noticed the majority of students were and still are women, where are all the men ?
There is also a distinct lack of adaptable yoga for people with reduced mobility in the vast majority of yoga related media. I started asking myself questions about how yoga can be more inclusive both for minorities and people with disabilities and what I can do to change things for the better? I must admit I am still very much working on the ethnic diversity side of things and although I do greatly admire the work that some teachers are doing out there, I think my focus is for now somewhere else. For the last 3 years I have been working with local charities offering classes which are chair based and these are proving hugely successful and I am so proud of all the people who during lockdown have committed to a regular practice with me. Last week there were 22 of them! I firmly believe that yoga can be of great benefit to so many, in fact to anyone that has a body! There is no pose or practice that cannot be adapted to suit individual circumstances , yoga truly is for every-body !
LESSON 5 this is my true Dharma
Despite all the highs I get to experience teaching yoga, the life of a yoga teacher is far from easy, in fact out of the teacher training intake I attended 5 years ago only 3 of us are still teaching Yoga today.
Starting up new classes is tough, finding suitable spaces is tough , finding and keeping students even more so. This is before the Covid situation hit and made things even more difficult! I have in fact myself looked around for a "normal job" in the last few weeks but I have done so without real conviction and receiving no positive responses, this has made me realise that THIS is in fact my Dharma, my call in life! I feel that clearly when I teach, when I meditate with you, when I talk about pranayama and the beautiful colourful stories of Shiva and Hanuman and so perhaps the Universe IS telling me I do not need to look elsewhere, what I need to do is to keep focusing on what really matters. My own health and well-being , that of my family and my students.
Till the next time
Om Shanti 🙏