When your students become yoga teachers

I often see students who have an accomplished yoga practice and think they would be good yoga teachers. I also see students who have a lot to give, not necessarily because of their practice, but because of their optimism and joyful attitude.

I love encouraging students to become yoga teachers. For those who believe in Parampara, it can sometimes be an extension of yourself. Parampara is the handing down of tradition from generation to generation. Its a continual chain of learning and sharing. I know I’ve taken bits and pieces of my teachers and made them my own. There are always certain things I especially love about my teachers. And it certainly shows up in my practice. I know there are many things about me are solely about me. And I am very honored if someone shares those things to others in their own practice and teaching.

When I first became a yoga teacher, nothing changed right away. If I was going to 4 or 5 classes a week, I still did that. I would pick up a few teaching gigs, and if it didn’t interfere with the classes I was taking, I’d still attend the classes. I really felt it was good for me to go to classes since it helped keep me learning and sharing what I learned.

Also, when I was in yoga teacher training, my svadhyaya was strong. I was still reading the Sutras before meditation. I was still studying books and reading only journals about yoga. I wanted to be a good yoga teacher and I did all I could to keep learning.

Slowly, as time went by, I started to get a little tired. Not overwhelmed, but kind of in a routine. After a while, I added another class to teach and then I stopped attending a class. Eventually it whittled down to maybe one class a week. And then I only went to yoga maybe once a month. Mind you, I still had a strong personal practice. But even that started to wane. Instead of doing the Ashtanga full primary, I’d just stretch in front of the TV. Instead of following Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, I’d work a few skills with my weight workouts.

Eventually, I was just teaching and nothing else. My regular workouts kept me in shape. And I had plenty of muscle memory to demonstrate the poses. But my yoga practice was really a facade. This phase didn’t last long because it did affect my teaching. And you can easily feel like a fake. So I knew something had to change.

I feel like I’m more balanced today. I practice regularly and work on poses a lot. Its more of a lifestyle for sure. I do yoga because I need it and its an integral part of my life. And I try to attend as many classes as I can. Acro Yoga is taking up a lot of my space now. I used to always seek the new teachers to see how they were doing. But I love my ole stalwarts too, those teachers who have been around a while. I gain so much from their wisdom.

As phases come and go for me, I know my former students who teach yoga probably wrestle with this too. I will still see a few wander into my classes and I’m super delighted to see them. But I knew when they became teachers, that I probably wouldn’t see them as much or at all. Its the sad part of having your prize students become teachers. You know you’ll probably lose them. And as they see their own path, its kind of like your parents. You end up doing all you can to divorce yourself of who your parents are because you want to be independent and your own person. I think yoga students go through this phase too. They don’t want to be caught doing what you do.

For me, after I’ve gone through that initial growth phase, I totally embrace my teachers and honor the parampara they’ve given to me. I honor their legacy and lavish praise on what they’ve done for me. I think of Kelsey, Amber Geean, Laura, David, Grace, Kathryn, Allen, Don, Linda, the other Linda, Swenson, Freeman, Schultz, Kino, my fellow YTT colleagues, and all the other yoga teachers who have influenced my past. Its fun to think about how they influence my teaching today.

As I grow older, and possibly wiser, I lose my ego more and more. I can become the true me. That is the essence of transparency. I don’t have to hide weakness. I can wear it like a badge of honor. I tell my students often that I can’t do everything. A little bit of humility goes a long way. It helps you connect with students and makes them realize this isn’t a performance or competition, its a way of life. We breathe, engage bandhas, and focus our gaze at what we are doing. Its not just yoga. Its life.

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