How Teaching Teaches Us Effort and Surrender

03/12/2012 13:04


The teacher training is slowly coming to an end. Time is now flying and I really don't want to think about going home just yet. Luckily I have been distracted by my two lectures on methodology, or more specifically, on how to teach yoga to beginners or how to begin to teach yoga. I'm so grateful for this opportunity because not only do I love to teach, but I also love to talk about yoga and teaching.


As I was preparing for these lectures, trying to decide the most important points I want to get across, I realized there are so many aspects that I love about teaching. Even after three years, during which I have taught a lot (sometimes too much), I never once leave the studio not feeling fulfilled.


Teaching seems to always get me out of my head and right into the present moment. It is a little bit like surfing or rock climbing,: There is just no time to think about anything else but “right now.” You become fully absorbed by what you are trying to do: observing, guiding, supporting, holding the space – all at the same time.

Which is probably why after teaching I always feel content and grounded, no matter what silly little drama was holding my mind hostage before the class. Teaching, as all Karma Yoga, completely shifts your focus from self to others. It is a magic trick that always works when you make it less about “What can I get out of it?” and a little bit more about “What can I give to it?”.


One of my favorite sayings for yoga teaching is the phrase: “Teach students, not poses.” It is easy to get attached to how knowledgeable and skilled we have become and to depend on our students' progress to reflect on us positively. So when you catch yourself desperately wanting a student to do a pose better, when you catch yourself being impatient with them, then there's a high chance your ego has gotten in the way. There's no need to feel bad when that happens. After all, it is human. However, we will soon realize that teaching then easily turns into a source of frustration because we are reaching for something. Whereas when we teach from a place of giving, without expecting anything in return, then teaching is always satisfying.


What I like most about teaching yoga is that it is constantly teaching me. And if you asked mention the most valuable lesson, I would probably say this: Certainly the ever applying lesson of surrender. Of course, teaching doesn't magically heal all wounds and samskaras. So here, too, there are days when we want to feel appreciated and showered with love. We think that this positive echo will come if we put enough effort into it, if we will be radiant amazing teachers. So we begin to strive towards that goal.
In my personal experience, it is precisely that somewhat egotistical effort that will take the wind out of your sails. If you try so hard to be perfect, sitting all zen and erect in your teacher's seat, people will pick up that energy. If you are striving to be perfect, they will feel they have to be perfect, too. Nobody likes that kind of pressure on them, if they are honest. And it is certainly not what yoga encourages us to do. As teachers or students, yoga teaches us that there is actually very little we can or need to control. Whatever needs to end up on our plate, will eventually be served to us. That goes also for our students. In the context of teaching, this means that we can relax and lay back into our teacher's seat. Of course, we should put our best effort into being prepared and knowing our skill. At some point however, we need to realize that whatever needs to flow through us, will emerge. We are just a channel. I have found that it is actually a relief to only hold partial responsibility. The mind can then get a little bit out of the way.


Many people on this training have told me that they don't actually intend to teach yoga. Last but not least, I would like to say, you will all teach, or share, in one way or another. This past month has had an effect on all of us and through our Dharma, we will share that with others. No matter what your Dharma is, if you're a writer, an accountant, a parent or a journalist. Whatever has been awakened here, will flow through you from now on.