Yesterday I had a conversation with two SweatBox teachers, Frani and Rachael, about we feel about being teachers. Sometimes I cannot believe that I've been practicing yoga for 23 years. When I started practicing at age 24, I never thought I'd become a teacher. In retrospect, I think I leaned into yoga because my dad was at the beginning of a three year battle with cancer which would ultimately take his life. Yoga was a new hobby, an exotic adventure, a place to escape the sorrow of my father's sickness and death. Of the 15 years that I've been a teacher, I would say I've really only been truly teaching for about half that time.
As a new teacher, I had so much to learn. A few years into my teaching career, I had a baby, a physical and emotional journey that took all of my love, energy and attention. I took six weeks off from teaching when Lucia was born, but went right back to a regular schedule after that break. I taught, I worked hard, I gave it my all, but I can see now that, though I thought I was all there, my focus was with my baby; as much as I loved teaching, my heart was always with the tiny being who needed me to survive. I was always happiest when I could get back to her and press my nose to her tiny, delicious, head while she nursed or hear her breathing while she napped beside me.
A few years after that, I went through a brutal heart-break-- betrayal, confusion, despair. I taught through that period as well, sometimes hiding my tears while I taught with the sweat that came from the hot room. As much as I wanted to be all in with my teaching, I could not because all of my resources went to tending my broken heart.
My daughter is now 11, spreading her wings, needing space, forging the beginnings of her adolescent path. My heart is healed and I have found new, enduring love. Through all of this, I have been a "yoga teacher." And through all of this, I have been learning, healing, evolving as a teacher. I often tell my students that it is in the struggle, the discomfort, that change comes. I really hated being away from my baby when she could barely hold her head up. And when all I wanted to do was weep from heartache, to stay in bed and indulge that need, I still taught. I had a job to do. I was, and I am a teacher.
As I look back at my fifteen years of doing this work, I am grateful that I had and still have yoga--as a student and a teacher-- to shepherd me through whatever else is going on in my life. There is a beautiful process that happens between a teacher and students, a subtle, symbiotic process. I can see now that, for me living through those struggles, with my students and with my teachers, I have become a stronger teacher, a more empathic, present, and passionate teacher. And it makes me realize too, how much there is still to learn, how wide open and expansive the space is for me to grow personally and as a teacher.
What I've thought about most from that short conversation with Frani and Rachael yesterday is how grateful I am to be a teacher and a student. I have profound, immeasurable gratitude for all of the teachers and students in my life who make up this complex universe of change and growth. Thank you.