Today before yoga class, the lovely yoga instructor who was subbing in the class I attend every Monday asked how my mom is doing. Since she also comes to the class as a student, we’ve chatted often, so she knew about my mom’s medical issues.
We chatted briefly about caring for loved ones who are ill, family dynamics, and other somewhat difficult topics. She shared her own experience with the challenges (and blessings) of caring for loved ones who are ill. And I realized how much authentic yoga instructors make a difference in my life.
When the class was over, this beautiful soul reminded me she had been thinking of me and my family. I told her how much it means that she shared her struggles with me.
She paused for a moment. Then she smiled and told me a student once told her she talks about things no one wants to talk about. I don’t know if that student was happy about it or not. But I sure am.
Authentic Yoga Instructors Can Lead Us to Light
I’ve had many yoga instructors, and I always gravitate toward the ones who are real.
We often think our yoga instructors should have it all together, and because they practice yoga, they should be immune to the challenges of life. But they are human beings. I think we’ll grow more from a relationship with teachers who admit they are human than the “rock star” celebrity teachers (you know who I mean).
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want my yoga instructor to be a complete mess. (Well, she can be, but hopefully not during class.) I want to see that yoga has made a difference in her life, but I also want to know that she struggles with demons just like I do.
I want to know we’ve both come to yoga for the same reason—to grow and to find our way. Of course, I expect my teachers to have experience using the gifts of yoga to manage the dark side of life. But I want to practice with a real person!
Namaste and Darkness
When we use the greeting namaste we’re honoring the light in ourselves and each other. We rarely acknowledge the darkness though. I’m not suggesting we focus on our struggles and flaws, just that we acknowledge it’s not all light and bliss.
It’s a true gift to share a journey from darkness into light. For me, a companion on the journey is more valuable than an idol I’ve placed on a pedestal. That’s the kind of yoga instructor I want.
Thinking about our teachers as human beings benefits them as well. As my teacher this morning shared, when her student remarked that she talks about uncomfortable things, she replied, “because it helps me.”
Is that surprising? Does it seem wrong to think a teacher needs help too? We’re often so used to having our teachers guide and care for us that we don’t allow them to be vulnerable.
To me, the greatest act of courage being authentic. If we don’t allow our teachers to be real, they may start to believe they cannot be. Eventually, they will burn out. No one escapes the dark side of life.
Let’s not forget what we mean when we say namaste. We are all teachers, and we are all students. The strongest teachers recognize their students are also their teachers, and true students recognize their teachers are not perfect and should not pretend to be.
The best yoga instructors are the ones truly brave enough to stand in front of us and be who they are. For them I am immensely grateful.
Would you like to explore more yoga topics in depth—perhaps with a group of yoga friends? Get your copy of Yoga Circles, A Guide to Creating Community off the Mat. You’ll find lots of topics and activities for living the yoga lifestyle and enjoying time with like-minded yogis! Click here to order!
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!