When my eldest child was born seven years ago I gave up teaching yoga. I had been teaching for several years, and I was a moderately popular teacher here in Denver.
I also had a growing issue with anxiety that I refused to acknowledge even to myself, although its presence was beginning to inhibit me in ways both obvious and subtle: I knew many interesting people, yet I went out less and less; the more students I had in classes, the louder the voice inside me became, chanting out internal lectures about my ignorance and inherent worthlessness.
As a perfectionist studying an art many many thousands of years old, I thought such self-criticism appropriate: how can one not be humble, I thought, when approaching texts like the Upanishads and attempting to pronounce the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in correct Sanskrit? And how can I be a truly fine teacher if I haven’t mastered, with of course perfect grace and strength, at least two of the Advanced Series of Ashtanga Yoga?
Such was the chatter of my mind. No wonder, then, I stopped teaching after having my son. And his birth was the perfect excuse: I was just taking care of my family, after all.
I continued to practice through the pregnancies and young years of my next two children. I even continued a much modified, anguished practice through the nervous breakdown I had with my most recent pregnancy. And now I truly am humbled: I have seen the Hell my mind can create, and the difficulty of climbing toward not just The Light, but any pale glimmer, and for now, in my state of relative stability and hard-gained joy, I am newly filled with love and gratitude for any wisdom at all that befalls me from the gifts of yoga.
For a long time I believed I was done teaching yoga; perhaps it had just been a “stage” along my path in practice. And now, I told myself, I could focus on becoming truly internal, and not worry about schedules, and communication – or, really, other people and their judgments.
Yet the more I practice, and the old dedication and vigor return to me – a gift in and of itself, as I never thought they would – I find myself yearning and dreaming to teach. There are some people for whom dedication seems inextricably tied to the sharing of it; I am one of these. This is odd, given my introversion and neurotically self-critical mind. But the more I grapple with and come to peace with my inner, self-annihilating ferocity, not only will I be a more open, fluid person, but the better teacher I’ll become. Because we all share these struggles, in one manner or another, and facing them, owning them, and refusing the shame they invite is the only way to truly “practice” anything well, much less the art of yoga, which is really the art of slowly peeling back the illusions that beset the mind.
If practice is a blossom, which it most certainly is in so many ways, then it is one to be held close, appreciated, adored, worshiped even, and then let go, thrown into the river of universal experience. Maybe that is what teaching is: the taking in, the letting go, like breathing, but breathing together, as one whole community of suffering, loving, joyful, ever changing beings.