Remembering Your Passion, Remembering Yourself

I just remembered: I LOOOVVVVE TEACHING YOGA!

I feel childish getting so excited over it. Like I should hold back a bit, make sure not to seem overeager. But I do, I effing love it.

I had forgotten this for years. I was teaching off and on at a local studio in the small town in which I’ve resided since 2009. I have taught in a few locations here, but mostly at one gym in particular. The classes were never really very large, although I had some regulars, and during some periods I would get between zero and two attendees.

I began to doubt myself. I felt I had lost that spark that once made me a good teacher. I believed it was poor marketing on my part, that I wasn’t warm enough to students. Because of the low attendance, I started going to class reluctantly, staring at the clock as it would land on the hour, room utterly empty. Then I would pray that no one showed up late because I would anticipate being embarrassed when their apologies for being tardy would quickly turn into surprise that there were no other people there.

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And you know the rules of association.

So I quit a lot. I’d try a new style or format of a class for a few months and, if it hadn’t grown by then, I’d cancel. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was utterly disappointed.

But I got the itch again recently. At first, I thought about it in terms of a little side money. I’d teach out of my living room. And then I learned my first yoga instructor and dear friend, Mary Oom, had opened a new studio, and my desired timeframe would conflict with one of her classes. So, I stalled.

Until we bumped into each other a few weeks back, and she offered me a spot on another day. I agreed, and while it’s only been a few weeks, I have that old feeling back.

I had a great class last night. There were old faces and new ones. The pace seemed generally appropriate. That’s always a good thing: a shared energy in the room.

And speaking of energy, what a difference it makes in the space in which you choose to teach. It’s not just that I’ve had more people in class (because it’s not even by much really) — it’s the space. I think it’s beautiful. It’s filled with decorations and furniture from Mary’s life. It feels lighter and more open. Maybe it wasn’t me and my bad marketing and my crappy personality after all.

Maybe I needed a space I felt I fit into. I can’t really explain the difference with words. It’s instinctive.

My Teaching Travels

I’ve taught yoga off and on for almost seven years now. I began in one of the best ways possible: my own instructor then — yes, Mary — desperately needed a substitute for her class, which I religiously took, and she felt I’d be the most fitting person. My immediate responses were:

“No, no, I’m not that type of person.”

“I don’t like to be the center of attention.”

“Just because I know the poses doesn’t mean I can teach them.”

“I don’t know the first thing about leading a group”

… and on and on. But she was persistent, and another friend who was with me when Mary first brought it up added even more pressure. “I think you should do it. You have to. You’ll do great.”

I wanted nothing more than to back out of the building as quickly as possible. Or to hide under the table where we were having lunch. To disappear from the world.

I finally said “yes,” at odds with myself and my searing anxiety. Whenever I thought about teaching or began practicing for the class, I was all nerves all over again. And then the day came, and I felt so unready for it.

And the same usual students showed up and I performed my script. I stumbled over my words a tad, as I still do now here and there, but it went well. We went through the poses we always go through. The students responded well, and — just like that — I was beginning my journey toward becoming a teacher.

The gym where the classes were held wanted me to get a basic certification and to add my name to the sub list. So I did. An 18-hour level 1 weekend training. The people there were like me. And many with much less experience. I didn’t feel so out of my element.

I returned and served as a substitute often. I became more comfortable. When I moved to San Francisco, I asked if I could teach at the nearby YMCA. They had time available but no money, so I volunteered for seven months until they gave me a paid class. I just loved doing it.

I entered a 200-hour training at It’s Yoga in San Francisco and my life changed drastically. This was my first dose of a month without work. A month in meditation, in breath, in asana. And constant mental stimulation. Learning about the different types of joints, about myofascia, about the connections between ankles, knees, and hips, and the connections between inhaling and lengthening in a pose, exhaling and settling into one.

This poured into the other areas of my life. My intuition replaced much of my thinking. I was writing every single day, and I was bursting with great ideas. I couldn’t get them on paper fast enough. Things I wanted to make, classes I wanted to teach, places I wanted to go, businesses I wanted to run.

Around this time, I also made a list of things I wanted for my life over the next year. I was specific — and I achieved all but one of ten items, including: Teach a yoga workshop at the Lakeport Yoga Center with at least twelve people. Fourteen attended.

I was living, breathing creation.

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So, I’m glad it all came rushing back to me — all the reasons I love teaching yoga. Here are just a few:

  1. Teaching yoga, for me, is a powerful form of meditation.
  2. It requires so much focus from me to be able to improvise an entire class — to do so with the most precise words so that the steps make sense. This is an excellent practice for me in flirting with the unknown, of playing without a plan.
  3. As a natural introvert, who has the tendency to be nervous in front of crowds, leading a room is critical to my sense of self-confidence and my feelings of connectedness with others.

It’s not about the money. When it comes down to it, it never has been. And I think this is when you know you’re in your passion, your calling — when you love doing it whether it’s paying your bills. The same way I feel as I write this post to you today.

Although, if anyone’s asking, I do take traveler’s cheques, carnival tickets, and Finnish markka…

Are there any old passions you’ve let fall to the wayside? Do you have hangups about them that are maybe no longer relevant? What are some things you absolutely love doing, even when you’re not getting paid for them?

If something here sparked something in you, please like or share this post. Or, better yet, indulge me with your own thoughts in the comments section below.


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