Have you ever been in a class when a teacher started it by saying something horrendous, like, I hate my mother, or, I just had a fight with my partner? And you are thinking, this is not my problem.
Now be honest, have you ever been that teacher?
Because I have.
This is the sad truth. Yoga teachers are human too. We might be vegan and gluten-free and flexible and nearly perfect, but the truth is; we are human too.
This week, I was that teacher. I threw up all over my students when I had to teach after a Personal Growth Opportunity, or “PGO,” also known as an upsetting conversation. I couldn’t get a sub; it was right before the class, and shift happens. Rather than cuing and paying attention, I was like, “Blah, blah, blah” about my issues.
Growth is a messy business.
Then, because Karma works in not-so-mysterious ways, I took a Pilates class where the teacher threw up all over me. Thank you, Universe.
From the moment it began I knew she had it in for me. She used me repeatedly as an example of how NOT to do the pose. At one point she glared at me, so I asked, “Am I in alignment?” And she barked, “No.” Then she jabbed her fingers so hard into my stomach I thought she was going to break a rib.
Excuse me, but my core is engaged. The part you are jabbing is the party on top.
This teacher was having a bad day and decided to unload on me.
Being a local yoga teacher, where you show up day after day, is a tremendous chance for us to mature into our best selves. We teach regardless if we are in the mood, or having a good week, or if Mercury is retrograde (which means nothing is your fault).
Teaching yoga is not a substitution for confession. It’s not meant for our yoga therapy. It’s not a time to work out our PGO (but it could be). It’s a time to prove we can be bigger than the things that happen to us, and be there for those who need us.
While a Personal Growth Opportunity often provides the best inspiration for our classes, we also need to know when it is ready for primetime. In general, you have to have these three things:
- Wisdom; You have learned something from it.
- Strength; You can be a role model for others.
- Hope; You see how you are better for it.
I learned this from Christina Sell. She once told me that although she wrote “Yoga from the Inside Out,” it took her a few more years before she could talk about it. Today, she is an inspiring speaker on body image and self-esteem. But it took her years to appreciate her PGO and be that person.
To teach meaningful themes and make a difference in your students’ lives, you do not need to open a vein. You do not need to talk about your PGO until you’ve done the work. Honor time. Have patience. You will know when you are ready.
My rule of thumb is when I can find humor in the experience, then I’m ready to share it. And let me tell you, I am not yet laughing about that Pilates teacher. That’s going to take more time. But I am able to move on from it because just like me, I recognize she is human and probably had a bad day.
Originally published Sept. 6, 1013
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.