It’s taken me many years and an equal amount of work on my ego, but I finally have the lesson that we are not going to be everyone’s teacher.
It’s a hard lesson. When we first step out of Yoga Teacher Training we want nothing more than to serve every single yoga student that comes our way. So we try to please and ask for feedback.
This is what I get for feedback: You are too fast. You are too slow. You give too many verbal cues. You don’t give enough verbal cues. That top makes you look fat.
Now I only ask for feedback from my loyal students, you know, the ones who lie and ask if you’ve lost weight (that’s a joke, yoga people).
The question for yoga teachers is, how do we know our students? Those would be the ones who resonate with your offering. And listen up: Not everyone will resonate with what you got.
Big lesson. Huge.
For me, this lesson means that I no longer measure my success by the number of students in my room. I measure my success by the number of people whose lives I’ve changed, as mine was changed by yoga. And I am proud to say that I have helped to launch many nationally and locally prominent yoga teachers in Denver. I am affectionately known as their “yoga mom.”
My “beginner” classes are often filled with very advanced yogis looking for more in their practice. They are looking for ways to teach the poses, and ways to find more in their own bodies. I am so proud of my students and how they are not just doing, but learning. They are not truly beginners, but they keep that beautiful, open beginner mind.
But this doesn’t mean I am popular. These days the popular teachers are often the ones who tell you “good job,” no matter what the heck you are doing. “Good job, and come back soon.” Vague is in vogue. I am not that teacher. I would have to have had a lobotomy to be that teacher.
However, to be clear, I often go to “that teacher” for a lovely practice and workout. So it’s not a bad thing to be vague. It’s just not how I teach. I hope that’s clear for all the power and vinyasa teachers who are going to write in and ask me why I’m trying to destroy yoga. Again.
When we first start to lead classes, there is a lot to learn; there is pranayama, asana, philosophy and anatomy. We have to balance the room, the students, the flow and the sequence.
But then, after you get all that under control, you have to figure out you. What makes your offering different? What themes resonate with you? What is your overall message and intention? There are roughly 400-800 postures, depending on who’s counting. How are you going to teach them your way?
In the end, it is so much easier to be authentic than popular. I finally have this lesson. And if it means that I’m not everyone’s teacher, then I’m okay with that too. I don’t teach for the masses. I teach for the one person who tells me after class, “You’ve changed my practice.”
Great. Now, does this top make me look fat?
Originally published August 2013
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga, and Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. She is a Columnist for Elephant Journal and a Contributing Editor for Mantra and Origin Magazines. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches Hatha Yoga in Denver, Co. You can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com or www.YogaSteya.com.