Coming to My Senses: What a Yoga Teacher Experiences When Teaching Class

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I have often said that leading class is the best part of my day. Most yoga teachers will tell you that. Teaching yoga is much like my former career as an actress. It’s a more of a vocation than simply a job. It’s something you are drawn to do for whatever reason. But I believe the reason I love it so much is that when I’m teaching class, those ninety or sixty minutes are spent in pure presence. If the mind wanders, I know it immediately, suddenly saying something about a posture we are not even working on, or letting a student’s name slip through my mind, having to call them by the color of their top or mat instead of letting them know that I am interested in them, in their practice, and in their life. When I am teaching there are no cell phones, emails, or status updates. I am not thinking about my next blog post. It is simply me, my students, the mirrors, the lights, the postures, and of course, the heat.

And because it is a moment of presence for me, where I am fully engaged in the here and now, I remember more about this short allotment of time than most of the rest of my day. I wish I could say I was as engaged in my own practice as much as I am when I teach, but it’s easy to let my mind wander as I move from posture to posture and I have to concentrate on bringing myself back to focus over and over again to the body and the breath.  Outside of the studio it’s a struggle as well, as I try to juggle my writing job, chip away at my book, cram in some time to work on my Spanish (it’s not good guys – no hablo Español), run a household, and try and keep everyone happy, and, yes, have some fun too.

But, when teaching, I am highly attuned to my five senses and thought I would give you a glimpse of what teaching a class feels like to me.

I see nature in motion. You might have different thoughts about yourself as you gaze in the mirror, but the teacher gets to observe you and your practice. You are life – no matter your weight, height, or skin color – you are an incredible creation and can do amazing things. Success and failure are all one. It’s all happening at once and there is very little difference. The only difference I see is the one between trying and not trying.

I hear your breath, the drip of your sweat, the heat quietly humming in the background. I love the sound of great sit-ups done in unison, the rush of Pranayama Breathing and the finality of Kapalbhati Breathing. I get to experience the connection of you to your breath and the connection of the students to one another as they come together to make the air around them and inside of them move.

I feel your energy, the inner smile of victory, as well as, the sadness and frustration of what you think of as a failure or injury. I feel the difference between giving up and surging forward, surrendering to the path ahead.

I smell your fear, your stress, and frustration. It peels off of you in a biting sweetness that is swept away posture by posture until it is simply you, cleansed and stilled at the very last Savasana, having given everything you could possibly give, mind, body and spirit, within this small window of time spent in the hot room.

I taste the clean cool sustenance of water, as well as, the soft hint of salt on my lips as I drip in the heat with you, knowing that even though I am teaching you I still have a lot to learn.

As I go throughout the rest of my day, whether it be walking the dog or even simply taking a shower, I try to truly be there as I am leading class.  What does this experience feel like? What is the sound of my breath? What am I witnessing? The more I practice this the more I am able to achieve presence outside of the room and be in my life, instead of letting it pass me by.


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