From The Heart At The Front Of The Room

I often wonder what people think as they look at a yoga teacher. Do they assume he/she is always serene and happy? Full of never ending strength and wisdom? On many occasions that may be true. Yet you will not find a yoga teacher who is not also fully human with vulnerabilities and off days.
To own and share my “human-ness” is one of my intentions as a teacher and woman.

In approaching a yoga class I always find my breathing naturally changes and lengthens. Its a time of concentration, of sensing what a class may need and what I could possibly give. Sometimes I have a plan of what I will teach that has to change completely once I see the class in front of me. In these minutes my heart, my egoic mind, my knowledge and intuition all converse.

My heart is huge. It holds the love of everything and dreams big.  When my heart enters the practice on a good day everyone knows it. The room vibrates with a sense of the unconditional acceptance and understanding. The practice of each student may look very different, some moving through the poses with ease and grace, the breath steaming with the life force that it is. Others who are unable to continue take breaks, folding into childs pose or to simply sit, breathe and stay in the practice. Still others will smile or tear up, as some sort of emotional cloud lifts it way toward release. This is on a really good day.

Yet the reality is this doesn’t  happen every day. In each practice my eyes take in the expressions in front of me which vary so widely it is comical. It is not difficult to see who is deep in their practice and who is thinking about dinner or making a list for their week. A yoga teacher practices to remember, all are welcome here. I am learning, always.

There comes a day (or days) for a yoga teacher when a student’s judgement or disapproval enters the room. I imagine every yoga teacher has stories. It happens in all sorts of ways. Many times it is a student who has a favorite teacher, and you are not it and they find a way to let you know.  Another may not like your choice of music or lack of it.  A big lesson is the student who stops the practice and gives up with attitude. This student lets the whole room and you know they do not like what you are doing. I think for many teachers this brings up both ego and our maternal/paternal nature. If we are having a vulnerable day we may feel hurt that you don’t like what we love. Yet mostly we worry for our class.

In these moments the awareness of my ego and knowledge begin to trumpet a call. I suddenly become aware of my lack of pleasing some one.  There is lesson number one, of course. We cannot please every one.

The trumpet call rings again as I realize this unhappy student is expressing his disapproval or upset with  some ‘energetic’ gusto. The air in the room seems to change and other students are very aware of it. What do you do when an unhappy student begins to sigh, roll eyes and send their disapproving or victim energy out for a call?  What do you do when you see the rest of the students become aware of the elephant ( and we are not talking about Ganesha) in the room?

Well, right here I can hear the ego of a thousand yoga teachers and students commenting.
“Ask him/her to leave” `’whisper for him/her to lie down” “you should not react to that” “ why does that bother you?”.
Yet this was a lesson I chose to search through. Here is what I came up with once my intuition and heart had a lengthy conversation.  I need to let each student have their experience, and that includes meeting an elephant or two… or even be the elephant.
I could even skillfully bring that hint into my words . Learning how to hold energy and not receive others energy (when it is unhealthy) is part of a practice on the mat and in life.
Life will always toss us a negative so we can find the most positive in ourselves.
Dear teachers and students, I bow to your grace of space.
Lucy Hamel

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