On Sunday, November 1, 2015 I arrived in India to begin my 200-hour yoga teacher training course with Samyak Yoga. For four weeks, I’ll be living at the Samyak yogashala in Mysore, Karnataka and learning what it means to be a yogi in mind, body and spirit.
In this series, I’ll be sharing the day-to-day details of my life in training, along with the mental and spiritual discoveries I make on this new path. To see the rest of the series, click here.
It only took one day of teacher training for my first big mental shift to take place. It happened at our initiation ceremony.
Before dinner on November 1st, we were each presented with a yellow Samyak t-shirt and asked to wear it to the shala upstairs for a short ceremony. We arranged our yoga mats in a semi-circle and sat on them cross-legged. We faced two of our four teachers (the other two would be arriving in a few days) who sat on the dias and wore white. Behind them was a statue of Ganesha, and in front was an arrangement of marigolds and rose petals on the floor.
Rakeshji’s message was about adopting a new mindset as we make the transition from practitioner to teacher. “When it comes to being a great yoga teacher,” he said, “it matters very little which asanas you can or cannot do. It’s the intention you bring to the classroom that’s important.”
He explained that although we are in a teacher training program, in reality, there is no “requirement” or point at which someone will tell us we are “ready” to teach. Teaching isn’t about waiting until you feel ready. If it were, no one would ever do it (or those who would would be doing it for the wrong reasons).
The same qualities that define a good student also define a good teacher – openness, curiosity, investment, passion. In fact, he said, that’s what teaching is – learning. Humility and openness are crucial. The moment we enter a class thinking, “I got this,” is the moment we fall on our faces.
He explained that the yogic life teaches us to be mindful in every action, no matter how small. Therefore the primary role of a yoga teacher is to create a safe space to foster that mindfulness in our students.
Rakeshji has a calm, peaceful power about him and a delightful sense of humor. I feel at ease and supported in his presence, and at the same time I feel a powerful responsibility to do my best. You know those teachers, who make you feel like you can do no wrong and that you’re capable of so much more? Those are the best ones.
Rakeshji isn’t loud or obtrusive or particularly commanding. In fact, I’m continually amazed at how much power he wields with silence. I hardly blinked for the hour he was speaking.
That’s when my “Aha!” moment came. Sitting there hearing his words and watching the class so eagerly absorb them, I realized that making an impact in a classroom doesn’t require attitude or boisterousness or a degree in public speaking. There’s no secret formula I’m missing.
To be a powerful teacher, I need things that are much more intuitive: intentionality, generosity, patience, faith.
- Intentionality in my words and actions.
- Generously in the attention and energy I give.
- Patience to meet each challenge with positivity.
- Faith in every student’s investment in herself.
Teaching isn’t about persuading or molding or forcing. It’s about supporting another human being on her path – a path you’ve once walked yourself. That is a much more generous and expansive way of approaching it, and as I realized this, I felt a huge weight lift off of me.
The same qualities I appreciate in a teacher, I must show to my students. What I put out, I’ll receive.
I went to bed that night feeling grateful for my patient, thoughtful teachers and a little more convinced that I might actually be able to teach.