After my regular Saturday morning Power Yoga class a few weeks ago, one of my regulars said something that made me think. He said, “Ellen, you’re just the goddess of this class!”
I kind of laughed, because that’s my normal response when I’m uncomfortable. “Kind of laugh.” A fake-ey laugh to break the tension.
But it got me thinking, because I don’t see myself as a goddess. And I am not comfortable with my students putting me on a pedestal like that. Yoga instructors are human, and we are just as messed up as anyone else. And if yoga instructors start believing that they are the goddess, or the god, then trouble ensues. Then your teaching becomes about your ego.
Sometimes it can be challenging to keep your ego in check. One of the best parts of teaching is when someone comes up to me after class and tells me how much she loves my class because it has really helped her. I get the story of how her low back (or wrist, or knee, etc.) used to hurt all the time but now it doesn’t, and a miracle happened, all because you are such a great teacher!
Why, thank you. (Kind of laugh.) Except it isn’t me. I didn’t really do anything but lead this person in her journey. But if I start letting myself believe that I really can heal people… watch out!
In my experience, as soon as I feel like I have it all figured out, and that I’m really great at this yoga stuff (or life stuff), God throws me a curveball. His way of saying, “Don’t be so sure of yourself!”
I know that I’m a good yoga instructor. It feels easy and natural, and I’m comfortable teaching, and I enjoy it. I am learning about yoga all the time, so I feel like I am a much better instructor now than I was ten years ago. Or even five years ago.
But I struggle, too. Right now I’m dealing with anxiety issues. My left knee hurts during extreme flexation. My right hamstring is irritable. I often knock my sacrum out of alignment when I practice twists. There are poses I’ll never be able to do because my body just won’t go that way, or I have too much fear (for example, Titibasana, or firefly pose). I love practicing headstands and handstands, but if I do them too often, I get vertigo.
Plus, I think I have too much inherent insecurity and self-doubt to ever let my ego get out of control.
But it is a wonderful feeling when I see a woman (because most of my students are women) suddenly come into her own in a yoga class. One woman, a little older than me, came in to my class afraid to move. She didn’t say this, but I could pick up on it. Before her first class, she told me a loooong story about her shoulder, and how it hurt this way but not that way, but she was afraid to make it hurt more. (My first question, when I hear a story like this, is always, “What does your doctor say?” Because I have to be careful–not a medical professional.)
Anyway, this woman (let’s call her Judi), moved through her first few classes cautiously. She modified all poses, and sometimes it looked as if she was doing a completely different practice from everyone else. But after a few weeks, she started to relax a little. I could tell she was getting more comfortable and confident, probably because yoga wasn’t making her pain any worse, as she feared. Then one day I decided to give her an assist, and I helped her in a pose, offering lots of encouragement. She surprised herself–she didn’t think she could do it, but she did!
Now I can see that Judi is much more relaxed. She trusts herself, and she’s starting to trust yoga more. Her shoulder has a greater range of motion.
And it’s all because I’m such a great yoga teacher!
All rise, the Goddess is walking…