Finding the Teacher’s Voice

I have been thinking about my teaching more than usual these days because I am giving a lot more time to my personal practice.

I think my personal practice is really good for my teaching because as I experience poses in my own body I am more able to articulate what might be going on for my students in their bodies.

Even though I have been teaching full-time for almost seven years, I feel that I am only beginning to find my voice as a teacher.

It takes a really long time to find your voice as a yoga teacher.  Your voice has to be who YOU are, and that can be problematic when you don’t know who you are.

I remember as a yoga teacher in training at Kripalu being told over and over to “make your teaching your own!”  But it is hard to “make it your own” when you don’t know who you are, not only as a yoga teacher, but as a person.

It is especially hard when “who you are” is still growing and evolving. One day who “you” are could be an overbearing asshole; and the next day you could be a compassionate pussycat.

But if you follow your inclination to be who you are, this will mean that one day you will come into your class and boss people around, and the next day purr into their little ears. And they will be confused. And this will NOT be good for your rep as a yoga teacher.

So what yoga teachers in training usually wind up doing is finding a teacher with an “emulatable” style and copying them for a while.

And there is nothing wrong with this, and in fact, there is a whole lot right with it. Think of art students who sit in museums copying a Chagall just to learn how to paint that way.

But eventually the artist and the yoga teacher both have to stop copying other people and be who they really are—if they can figure out who that is.

Sometimes what it comes down to is just figuring out who you are NOT as a teacher.

I remember there was this girl in my training class who was holier-than-thou asshole and  talked endlessly about her “sadhana” and even gave herself a Sanskrit name (Santtosha, I think) and even had Kripalu inscribe that name on her diploma at the end.

I avoided this chick like the plague because I didn’t trust myself not roll my eyes right at her and say, “Really, Santosha? Your sadhana? Please.” Her 2 week-old “devotion” to her sadhana bugged the hell out of me. If I encountered her as a teacher, I would run, not walk out of such a class, so much do I hate that kind of pious crap.

I am now beginning to follow a blog called Recovering Yogi in which the bloggers are all pretty critical of  holier-than-thou yoga teachers with their silly language and their fake-ness.

These yoga teachers are not perfect people in their lives, nor do they pretend to be. They have problems and hang-ups, but they also are trying to follow a yogic path.  They can be  funny and irreverent and they are modeling a kind of teaching that feels more authentic to me, personally.

I don’t want to be who I am not when I am in the teacher’s seat. What I am trying to do is to live my life with integrity and be who I really am, while at the same time not pretend that what I *wish* to be is who I am already. Make sense?  (I think so.)

But at the same time I want my students to have a good experience. I don’t want to make my teaching about me. I want to make it about them. I want to find any and all connections that might exist between their experience and mine.  And I want that connection to be translated through the yoga practice.

I think if I  practice enough I will be able to articulate what I find as I begin to find it.  And how will that help them?  I don’t exactly know. But I think if I keep doing my practice and reflecting about it–especially about how it changes my experience, then that’s all I can do.

And that might be enough.


2 thoughts on “Finding the Teacher’s Voice

  1. Kath,
    Have you read Parker Palmer? If not, I highly recommend To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey, although I have gotten something out of each of his books that I have read. Just love that you are thinking deeply about your teaching. Boy, I wish your yoga studio was in Ithaca!


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