Top Ten Life Lessons from my students
We all reach plateaus in our practice. “I’ll never get handstand.” “I’m afraid of bakasana.” But with every class, their sun salutations get a little stronger, their bodies more integrated, and their feet a little lighter. Then one day, we have the a-ha! “I’ve never done that before!” Watching my students inexorably progress in their practice reminds me to stay patient and wait for the inevitable unfolding – not just in practice, but in life. Everything really does move forward.
2. Community elevates.
It never fails: doing partner work in a class elevates the energy in the room. Given the opportunity to connect with our fellow yogis, we all become brighter, more energized, and more dynamic. Helping someone else reminds us how much we know and how much we can share. Take this into the world and we find that connecting with our community helps us to tap into our potential.
3. Connection energizes.
There have been many times where I have arrived to teach dog tired and done. But I never fail to leave a class better than when I have arrived. The opportunity to connect with my students and share gives me energy. Teaching reminds me that when I share of myself, I am also elevated, healed, inspired.
4. Be yourself.
The best classes that I have taught are classes where I have not tried to be an “ideal teacher,” but have simply been myself. While this may have led to some goofy moments (“make your butt like Beyonce” was a recent artifact of this authenticity), I have found that students immediately respond when I am genuine. Being a pristine asana robot just doesn’t cut it; they want the real thing – goofiness and all. They remind me that sharing my silliest parts is actually far more rewarding than trying to fit into a box of perfection.
5. Fall Down.
Sometimes you have to fall over in Half Moon to figure out where the boundaries of balance are. I’m thrilled when students dare to fall down. How else will we find out where our edges are? They remind me that moving forwards isn’t always about looking pretty.
6. Turn the Heat Up.
Having just finished the YHot training, I can attest that sometimes you just gotta turn the heat up, close the door, meet yourself in the mirror, and sweat it out. Like life, sometimes we need to move into the discomfort in order to break through. Dare to face the intensity. On the other side is a great Savasana.
7. When it’s tough, breathe more.
In the moments where we hit our peak pose, the room will often go silent. As we intensely concentrate, we forget to breathe. But once the reminder is sent out and the room starts to inhale again, the poses actually become more integrated and find softness. When we face our greatest challenges, we can get out of heads and back into our hearts by simply focusing on our breath.
8. Take child’s pose.
The most advanced student in the room is the one who takes child’s pose when she needs to. While there can be great value in rallying into intensity, sometimes the practice actually calls for surrender. Determining which path to take requires discrimination and self-love. Having the bravery to practice self-care by softening can do more to propel us along our path than twenty chaturangas.
One of the gifts of the yoga practice is to feel more deeply into our bodies, our breath, and our aliveness. I love to see my students take an extra breath in downdog, give a deep sigh, or take the arm variation their body craves, because it means that they are feeling into their bodies and following its guidance. Rather than simply doing the practice “right,” they are using the practice as a conduit to greater self-connection. When my students feel their way through the practice – rather than just “doing” the practice – I am reminded that the body is a deep and innate source of wisdom.
10. We are all human.
When I share a personal story at the beginning of class and see nodding heads, I am reminded that we have far more in common than we have divergent. Each of us has dreams, regrets, conflict, hopes, loss, and love. Each of us is trying our best to negotiate the waters of life with grace and compassion. When we practice yoga in the classroom, we come together with a diversity of people from all walks of life. On the mat, these differences drop away and we meet each other from the heart. Out in the world, this reminds me to look for the good in others, rather than staking my ego on our differences.