It happens to so many Yoga enthusiasts and new as well as more experienced Yoga teachers. We start practicing Yoga, love it and want to share it with the whole world. Then we finally start teaching and all of the sudden we find it hard to find time for our own practice.
Many teachers then find the excuse that teaching a couple of classes a day counts as Yoga practice. And yes, physically that is partly true. Flexibility and strength can be maintained by showing asanas in the class room. But there is no breath awareness while talking, and the focus is rather outward than inward. The main part of a meditation in movement is completely lost while teaching as there is only movement.
The main effects of a personal Yoga practice (no matter if asana, pranayama, meditation or else) can only be reaped from creating a silent space for inward awareness.
Let me share a short story from this morning: As I was going to the shala before teaching Mysore, I felt quite upset – the kind of upset that makes you get angry with other drivers on the street when they don’t drive as you expect it. I don’t know what caused my mood, if I hadn’t slept too well, or just got up with the wrong foot, but I was stuck in my moodiness, being impatient with the whole world around me.
Then I did my Yoga practice. It was probably not the best practice, as I was not super focused and I was still feeling restless inside. After I finished with my asana and pranayama, just sitting and watching my breath going in and out, I felt a certain detachment from those feelings and thoughts. I could acknowledge them for what they are: fluctuations of the mind.
Being aware that I am not those thoughts, letting go of identifying with them, not trying to control them but just letting them pass without feeding them with my attention… all this allowed me to realign myself for the day and get ready for teaching.
And that’s why I mainly practice.
Not so much for the physical benefits, but for what it does to the rest of my day: allowing me to interact with people in a more positive way, to serve my students better and to act with higher awareness in any situation.
If you teach others, I believe you should bring in your own personal energy into it. But you should not bring your ego and mood into it as this is not serving your students.
An awareness practice helps you being authentically yourself – beyond your moods and thoughts. If you teach a couple of classes a day, you may not need the physical exercise that you get from asana practice. But it takes consistent practice (at least for most people) to stay in a deep state of awareness all day and to act with a certain level of detachment from the fluctuations of the mind.
Start valuing your personal yoga practice for what it is: the base of your life as a Yoga teacher
My daily Ashtanga Yoga practice, even if it is minimal on some days, gives me a strong base for the rest of my day. Among the many benefits, that a consistent yoga practice has in general, as a Yoga teacher there are some integral benefits, that support many aspects of a teachers life:
1. A Yoga practice leaves you feeling great which inspires you to help your students find this place of joy within themselves.
2. You get new insights from each Yoga practice that you can share with your students, which keeps your teaching lively and fresh.
3. A Yoga practice keeps you calm, centered and able to deal with any stress so you can stay busy doing what you love and sharing your passion with as many students as you like.
4. A Yoga practice keeps you engaged and challenged: As you push yourself to your own limits in your practice and keep on learning new things, you stay humble and increase your empathy with students struggling in their practice.
5. A Yoga practice acts like a playground to check out new details you learn from your teachers and understand anatomical aspects. Experiencing everything first hand enables you to grow your knowledge and then teach it from experience.
6. A Yoga practice gives you an opportunity to try out things you observe your students doing in their practice and to get what is behind their questions: Putting yourself into your student’s perspective helps you to find the most suitable modifications for their practice and will consistently improve your teaching methods.
7. A Yoga practice gives you the confidence to be uniquely YOU: Instead of teaching what you think you should teach or what may be expected, you are deeply rooted in your own experience, authentically sharing what you know, teaching from an open heart and attracting the students who resonate to your way of being.
Let me finish with a quick tip on how to find time to practice.
I find it best to add my practice to another appointment in my calendar. If I have to teach at 8 in the morning, I just go to the shala early (usually the shala is empty at that time) and practice before I teach.
And to make it easier to start, I don’t think about the whole 90 min practice I intent to do, but rather just focus on the one thing ahead that I need to do to get started. And that is getting to the shala.
If I manage to get to the shala, the rest of the practice will take care of itself (what else can I do at that time).
It’s about getting into motion each day that is hard. Once you are on your mat and breathing deeply, you are very likely to enjoy it and to keep practicing. Objects in motion stay in motion, it’s how you get started that determines if you will practice.
Once more I want to emphasize that the personal practice of a Yoga teacher doesn’t necessarily have to be asana-centered, so if you are physically drained from teaching, just do some meditation and pranayama practice.
How does your Yoga practice help you in teaching Yoga? Please share in the comments section what ideas and inspirations you have taken from your own practice that have enriched your teaching!