The mat is a magical place. Just breathe.

by crazyauntdelilah

“Breathing gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers.” – Chuang Tzu[1]

Teaching college coursework and years of public speaking in advance of yoga teacher training gave me confidence in front of a group. Prep work, delivery of material, study of my 20+ year professional world and critical lingo to the subject. Check!  But to be in the real seat for the first time in this new world as a Yogini Tour Guide – a world that brings me deeply profound and personal passion and emotion that I don’t teach in a college class room- has indeed been humbling. The mat is safe. It is sacred. It is mine.

I knew having fun was key. I knew prep, material, time and sharing an authentic me would make for a strong teacher and rich class experience where students want to follow and return. But when the bell rings and class starts, I am again reminded this journey of a beautiful practice of asana, pranayam and anatomy take time to strengthen (a practice of its own), and they are looking to me to guide them through a journey, an experience not for a grade or degree but for something deeper and heartfelt.

My magic wand of knowledge can indeed be magic only if treated with respect, integrity, candor, knowledge, selflessness and loving-kindness to the body.

The opposing forces of knowing what I have learned thus far; however, are causing me internal angst. I know just enough to be a yogini snob, meaning test my own waters of ego, as I briefly return to the role of student. I’m struggling with alternatively trained or not trained teachers leading postures that I now know are risky to my body and full of ‘Simon Says’ moments and ego. I find myself having to breathe deeply and let go of my want to correct their approach, cry out or protect my neighbor who doesn’t know any better. Certainly, this is some awareness to Santosha[2] (ethical concept of Indian Philosophy, one of the Niyamas meaning contentment, satisfaction) I didn’t see coming my way. But I continue to come back: 1. To remain faithful to my mat. 2. To observe this experience as it continues or dissipates. This “practice” of letting it go- like letting a passing car go without thinking about the passengers or destination – is the test.  And my self-reported inability or insecurity around the concept of “letting go” is an entirely separate blog post. 🙂

The most significant observation I’m practicing today is the role itself, meaning Teacher v Student. Sure, I can prep the class sequence with planes of movement in pratapana (warm-ups), teach basic pranayama, explain benefits/contraindications for varying asana, share a poem or reflection for meditation prior to Savasana, etc., but guiding someone’s personal journey doesn’t require a course syllabus.

As I continue this transition from student to teacher and back to student, I continue to observe my ability to be in the moment (or not). A student yogini for many years, I know my own body, I shift when good pain turns to bad, I adjust/realign based on my own anatomy, and I know to breathe thoughtfully in order to maintain my balance. I don’t even think when I do these things, the mat is the magic carpet with a guide leading the way.

So now, I face a world knowing far more about anatomy, philosophy and pranayam (breath work) than ever before. Acting as the tour guide not the traveler is a shift of self-awareness, breath, and trust. I must be AHEAD of the moment for the students’ experience and protection rather than IN the moment with my own body. And most importantly, I must learn to let go of my own ego as “teacher”. I am honored to know what I have been taught thus far, but realize this is simply the beginning of the practice as teacher.

Joyfully and with thoughtful intention, I commit to inhale the experience and accept my opportunities for change as new learnings of discipline, philosophy, acceptance, non-judgment and friendship emerge.

The mat is a magical place. Just breathe.

Om Shanti,

Mel

[1] Anatomy and Asana, Suzi Hately, Section 3:Principles, pg. 27

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santosha

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