Yoga Los Angeles / Yoga Musings

Teaching Yoga vs. Being a Student of Yoga

It’s been about a year now since I’ve transitioned away from being a student of yoga to being a teacher. Now that I’m back in LA, I’m trying to get back into my practice at my old studio, and I’ve had the strangest experience. Most notably, I am finding myself having trouble “just letting go”. The teacher in me won’t keep quiet (inside my own head, that is) and I’m constantly evaluating, judging and critiquing the class that I’m taking, which gets in the way of just practicing yoga again.

I really would like to take the next few months to just be a student and to allow various teachers to help me along the path of healing as I try to rebuild my practice after weeks and weeks of having my wrist totally immobilized. The problem, though, is that I’ve become accustomed to being the teacher (i.e. the leader) instead of the student (i.e. the follower). There is something nice about shutting off your brain and just doing what the teacher tells you to do, but after teaching yoga for the past year, when I take a class as a student, I almost have to restrain myself from giving instructions out-loud or from deviating from the teacher’s sequencing and just doing what I feel is right at any given moment.

One of my students in Bloomington put the distinction between the yoga teacher and the yoga student nicely. She said that as a teacher, you have to give constantly, where as a student, you are, in a sense, there just to take. There is a certain kind of effort that you have to give as a yoga teacher that you don’t have to give as a student. Because of this giving and effort, teaching yoga can be very spiritually draining and even exhausting. This is especially true if/when your own practice is suffering. As I attempt to recover from my wrist injury, I feel as if I may now be in a position for more taking than giving. Of course, I would like to get back to teaching yoga, and probably quite soon. But, at least for the next month or two, I want to just take — i.e. attend class as a student and place myself in the hands of a knowledgeable and, hopefully, caring teacher.

The problem, as I’ve found, is that the teacher in me just won’t let go. I guess this is yet another form of attachment that I will have to learn to contend with. Instead of being attached to my own way of teaching, practicing, and conceiving yoga, I need to find that mental space again where I can just allow the teacher to give to me what he/she has to offer, on his/her own terms.

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3 thoughts on “Teaching Yoga vs. Being a Student of Yoga

  1. Maybe you just need to find teachers that you find it easier to depend upon, i.e. teachers you know in your gut know something you don’t. Or maybe you just need to do freestyle/mysore-style classes, or privates. What I mean is, maybe the voices in your head are right. It happens 🙂

  2. Or just take some time off your mat. It happens to me sometimes, when I teach too much, or when I struggle with the ‘Little’ things in life. All I need to get away from anything yogic for a couple of days, recharge my Rasa with my relationships, some good cooking or a good afternoon chatting with friends over tea. I noticed that trying too hard makes it even more difficult to surrender and break through. Just like the water recedes before a great tide, I suggest you step out for a few days, give yourself time to settle in your new home and feel the Juice coming back to you.

  3. What you are feeling is very common in the beginning, when you first start teaching. Like everything it is a phase. I went from being very strict and critical with the teachers to seeing myself in them (my own struggles and challenges).This tends to bring out a more gratifying attitude. I am not saying any teacher is the one for you, you must find yours b/c he or she is out their, so that critical voice is also of use. But our ability to see the divine in everything is their. Their is a beautiful phrase I read that just touched me;
    ” To learn, read. to know, write. To master, teach.”
    Enjoy your journey.

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