I’m glad I was accepted on the teacher training course I’m on. I’m being taught by very experienced teachers who teach from a place of love and compassion and whose intention is to be of service to us students. They invite us to experience and absorb as much as possible and at the same time to develop our own point of view. The course is extremely intense and I’m learning lots about asana work, anatomy, physiology, history and philosophy.
But I’m also learning something that my teachers cannot teach me: I’m learning about myself and that seems to be the hardest lesson.
Yoga practice will challenge perceptions people have of themselves, as I explored elsewhere. Teaching yoga is even worse. Although I decided to become a yoga teacher, I concentrated on the word ‘yoga’ but I guess I never thought thoroughly what ‘teacher’ really meant. The more I get into the course, the more my admiration towards my yoga teachers, and all teachers in general, grows.
When we swapped agenda for our weekend module and the teaching practice was brought forward, my heart leaped. And not in a good way. I drew a small but detailed plan on my notebook, hoping that my turn would be in the latter group which was due to teach the day after.
The truth is that I don’t feel comfortable teaching. Not because I don’t know what to teach, but panic takes over. I wasn’t lucky, my turn came pretty quickly while I was still trying to avoid it somehow. While standing in front of my peers who were pretending to be my students my mind went blank. I even forgot that I had a detailed plan, devised especially to help me, just in front of me. Interminable moments of silence went by. They felt like lasting 5 minutes while maybe they were only 30 seconds, who knows. I had no idea of what to say. Not even something as simple as “step your feet apart” was parting my lips. I felt I wanted to leave there and then. It was a very difficult moment and I fought against my desire of wanting to go and hide in the toilets.
I mumbled something and we got going, found something funny to say that would help me to overcome this embarrassing moment and get rid of the tension, but every single moment during that small sequence felt like that, a major obstacle after another. I was glad when it was over. My peers were great and told me what they liked about my teaching and suggested ways to improve the (very) obvious problematic areas. The main pieces of advice were to breathe, center myself, concentrate on being of service and remove the ego from the picture.
When the whole class got together to share feedback on the experience, I found myself saying what I felt with a broken voice. Feeling that I should be the ultimate perfect teacher, having expectations about how it was all going to unfold, wanting to give as much as I knew and feeling frustrated by not but being able to do so, being worried about my peers’/fake-students’ judgement – all this completely froze me. Who would have said that standing in front of these smiley and supportive course mates was going to bring up all sorts of issues until emotional paralysis took over? At the end of the first day I went home disheartened and sad, thinking about all the personal work I need to go through in order to bring to life what I’m learning on my course. Preparatory work for the preparatory course.
The day after, still feeling shaky, my peers welcomed me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Most of them asked me how I was feeling, some of them winked and smiled, one of them said “courageous words last night” and quite a few came up to me to say that they felt exactly the same. I guess making my huge discomfort public made them feel better, as well as lifting this ‘disgrace’ from my shoulders. After all, there is truth in saying that a problem shared is a problem halved.
I felt accepted by my peers whose support was coming from a place of kindness, as well as my teachers whose comments, tips and suggestions I will treasure. I feel lucky and grateful. Thank you teachers and thank you peers :-)