Holding Space: The real work of a yoga instructor

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I think I was seriously overwhelmed for the first five years as a yoga teacher. Deciding to put my acting career on the back burner and pay attention to what was truly giving me joy was a big life defining moment for me. I knew I was supposed to teach. I knew it would change my life. But there was also so much I did not know or could even predict happening that took place once I returned home and found myself leading classes.

And I think that whatever I went through is nothing compared to the teachers graduating this year and the years following. New yoga teachers join the ranks each month. It seems one teacher training after another is being announced and I always wonder if these new teachers are ready for the road ahead, if they will have the drive to keep up their practice, continually learn, and not completely burn out within the first couple of years to give another profession a try.

There is so much to balance within the yoga industry.* Instructors usually teach at multiple studios, each with their own expectations/rules/systems. At times, they have crazy commutes. And they are constantly working to best serve their students – whether it be answering direct messages, booking private sessions, creating workshops to fit a community’s needs, researching a certain injury or ailment, or traveling to see a teacher that can further educate them to make them an even better teacher, and working on their social media platforms to help spread the word about events coming up and continue to connect with more yogis… The list is endless.

So, you can see how overwhelm can happen, right? And, also burnout? It’s very easy to think that what we do, doesn’t really matter. It’s easy to feel like just another cog on the wheel.

But, teachers, we are not. We are so much more than that. Each student needs YOU. You were called in some way to be a leader within the yoga world and you have unique talents that were meant to serve your communities. No one would go through a teacher training just for fun. A good teacher training is grueling and challenging and life-changing in so many ways. And you came out the other side ready to serve.

What I think happens is we get so caught up in what other teachers might be doing, that we forget that we also, have something unique to offer. And before you post another picture to social media, or figure out how to become a teacher at a fourth studio, I want you to take a breath, pause and realize that you don’t have to do anything more than be your Self.

It’s so simple to turn into the opposite of balanced in this profession. I want to make your job description as simple as possible for you. A yoga teacher has one job. A yoga teacher is meant to hold space for another person or group of people. That is all.

You don’t have to have an insane back bend, or be able to walk across a room on your hands. You don’t have to have ten million followers on Instagram. What you do have to do is learn how to hold space and know that that alone is enough for your students.

Within that space you explore a single task, called a posture, or asana, to get the students to work to understand their highest Self and connect with every facet of their being. And while you hold this space, I urge you to pay respect to your true essence and be completely You. For when you are completely You, you give others permission to do the same. And I really do believe that the world needs that. We need people to be their authentic Self. Because when a person leans in to everything they are, they start to move through the world in way that can positively affect every person you touch.

*(I know some of you hate the term yoga industry, but what else do you call something that in the U.S. that involves 36 million practitioners… maybe Yoga Movement, is better?) 

Originally posted to viewsfromthepodium.com on March 13, 2019

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