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Why I teach Yoga

Every so often a string of events leads me to reflect on why I teach yoga. After all, I’m not a twenty-something woman of great flexibility and physical prowess. I have never contemplated taking on a spiritual name, or giving myself a royal title. My classes do not have students packed-in like sardines, and I don’t always have faith that ‘things happen for a reason’, or even that yoga will save the world. I’m a forty-something mother who’s had a liver transplant and seen a lifetime of suffering that has also led to great happiness.

It is normal to question how we spend our time, and healthy to do so once in awhile. Even when we are inspired by some great force to pursue a passion that then becomes a profession, the mundane, day-to-day hidden tasks may veil our original purpose. On the best of days, politics, finances and dysfunctional communication can cloud our positive intentions with insecurity, resentment and doubt.

In my son’s nursery, they used to call playtime activities ‘work’. This was meant to instill meaning in the day; to make the things they were learning and experimenting with matter. Perhaps we adults should consider how we approach our ‘work’; maybe we would find more meaning our lives if we learned to approach it instead as ‘play’.

In Sanskrit the world lila means play. It is not a direct translation, for lila means delight, carefree, and whimsical. It is the twinkle of an eye, a zest that cannot really be communicated except through experience. The lila can also mean the play between being human and fallible, and the divine potential that we all have. It is learning to accept where we are in life, and celebrating all of it without recourse.

I teach yoga because my life has been deeply touched by great teachers that have shined a light on the teachings, which have in turn helped me find meaning in my life. The classes that have shifted my perspective and enabled my own transformation have not been on account of the teacher’s popularity or physique, or due to the cleanliness or location of the yoga studio. Rather, these teachers enabled an experience of yoga; in their presence I felt supported, recognized and nourished.

We all look for something different in a yoga teacher. Some prefer teachers that look a certain way or that have a large following, others choose teachers based on their knowledge or personality; yet others flock to the teachers that make them sweat. All are relevant, there is no right and wrong in personal preference, so long as we feel good about our choices. I do not know why students come to my classes. My hope is that those who return do so because they have had an experience that has helped them learn something about themselves. Whether big or small, my aspiration is that there may be one thing the student can take away and work on in their own practice, or better, in their life.

I have never been a teacher to count heads in a class or collect tickets. I have always thought that to do so would imply that I’m in the wrong profession. In all honesty, I continue to feel grateful day after day to be able to show up and see eager students, many of whom I now consider friends. More and more I look for the lila; the interplay between discipline, devotion and delight.

My teaching style is not for everyone, and I’m resolved in this. I do the best I can to be generous with what I have learned on my path, and to evolve my teaching as I continue to grow. I do not always succeed, but most days I can live with myself and my choices as a teacher, and as a human-being.

Teaching and practicing yoga with any level of awareness is like looking into a mirror and taking pause to check in with what we see.  It is an important part of accepting where we are in the here and now, and that’s the real reason I teach yoga.

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