one person at a time

Believe it or not yoga teachers can become very frustrated, sometimes even depressed about their teaching situation. I don’t know any teacher who does this for the money — maybe some do, but I don’t know any. yoga teachers also get burned out and quit teaching AND yoga altogether, I’ve known more than a few. I heard Paul Grilley say that yoga teacher burn-out begins to happen between years 5 and 7, but if you can make it over the hump, you’ll be teaching the rest of your life. I remember that several teachers went up to him after the workshop, me included, with tears in our eyes thanking him for speaking the truth about teaching, telling him “I thought it was only me.” I start my 7th year of teaching this summer.

Yoga teachers deal with lots of heavy stuff (again, maybe not all, but I do and several of my friends do.) those of you familiar with this blog know that I dealt with an alcoholic studio owner last year — her actions of walking into my classes drunk coupled with her denial and lies about her problem was not a easy thing to deal with. it affected my own health.

then there are the students who are just there to sweat, and the students who come into your level 2-3 vinyasa class who have never done yoga before, and they tell you they have rheumatoid arthritis AND herniated disks…but then get very upset when you tell them, uh, I don’t think this is the right class for you.

students run the gamut from A to Z. and then there are students like this:

“I don’t know if you remember me, but I was a student of yours for five years until I started getting sick (well, my body got sick). I moved and I have been really focusing on becoming healthy in every meaning of the word (spiritually, mentally, and physically). I wanted to look you up because I have tried a couple of yoga classes and they just are not the same as when I practiced with you. They were more fitness yoga, and that is not what draws me to yoga. I found you! and I was so excited, but then I read about what you have been up to and I am just so happy for you! It seems…[that] you are really following your path.

I finally started studying Buddhism with more inventiveness. I bought that book you told me about a long time ago, Awakening the Buddha Within. I never really looked at it until now, and now I cannot put it down. I do not think I was ready to read it when I bought it, but I am happy I have it. I also came across The Buddhist Society of Western Australia Video Dhamma Talks on Youtube, and they have really changed my perspective on so many things.

I cannot say things are perfect, but I deal with life a lot better now I think. I have you to thank for so much of it. It was no coincidence that I took your class so long ago, and you have never left my thoughts since.”

This is what makes it all worth it despite alcoholic studio owners, students with senses of entitlement, and students who walk out of a class without paying.

I received this email this morning and was humbled. It reminded me of the second time I studied in India and we talked about having gratitude for the teachings and gratitude for our teachers and their teachers and their teachers before them going back all the way to Patanjali. I was so overcome by our discussion that I left the classroom and found the nearest computer to email my teacher trainer in Chicago, thanking him for everything that I had learned from him.

I cried this morning when I read this. the weird thing (but maybe not so weird in my world) is that I have been thinking about this student, in fact, just last week. I kept one of her papers because it contained some great references for teaching yoga to MS patients.

I teach yoga at a junior college and she reminded me of me when I was her age, a smart-ass (OK, I’m still a smart-ass), searching for something, feeling out of place from where I was. she really connected with yoga even though her physical form was not the “best” — it is not important to me if my students look like they can be on the cover of Yoga Journal. I knew that she was “getting it” in a way that the other students weren’t so I always left her alone, no major adjustments. we connected and she would always stay and talk after class, telling me everything that was going on in her life, some of which wasn’t all that great.

In many ways my students are also my teachers and they help me realize — no matter how much I second guess myself, no matter how many times I think about quitting, no matter how many times I think I taught a lousy class — that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

one person at a time.

7 thoughts on “one person at a time

  1. Congratulations on making it for 7 years. My Yoga teacher – Yogi Bhajan – said something like this about teaching yoga – Teaching yoga is like carrying a basket of frogs, your job is to keep carrying it while the frogs jump in and out.This idea helps me take it lightly as a teacher.


  2. i LOVE this post.. what a wonderful reminder. and it is so true! I was just nodding my head constantly whilst reading.I have fallen out of contact with my first longterm yoga teacher, the one who encouraged me to be a teacher myself, for many reasons.But i will never forget her help and her inspiration. Times change, people change, but we are all connected and it does good to remember that, doesn’t it? x


  3. What a beautiful post! As a sincere student with no aspirations or capability to teach I often reflect on the profound teaching of bhakti and seva my teachers are exhibiting just by showing up and teaching, for what amounts to poverty-level wages. We think we are learning asana or feeling bettter after class thanks to circulating prana & that is true, but there are profound lessons in generosity, service and devotion happening all the time.Kevin


  4. thanks for reading!yes, people float in and out of our lives for various reasons…all things happen for a reason. I don’t believe in coincidences.


  5. What a lovely email! It made ME feel good reading it, I can imagine you. I also wanted to let you know that you not only teach in the studio but in your blog too. I have learned so much from your entries and the comments you leave on my blog. Thank you! 🙂


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