What I Hope Students Learn In My Class
Self-acceptance. Humility. Compassion. Commitment. Peace. Stillness. Focus. The list goes on.
Notice I didn’t mention anything about backbends or handstands. Don't get me wrong, I'd be happy for you if you came to class and made physical progress. But, I’d be a helluva of a lot happier if you learned to love yourself when you fall short of that, and stayed humble when you don't. Beautiful asana doesn’t impress me or any teacher worth their salt. Hard work does. Perseverance does. Want to be the most advanced student in class? Accept with grace and humility that you are no better or worse than anyone because you can or can't do a certain posture.
Asanas are just tools we use to learn about who we are on the deepest level. They are not the goal in and of themselves. They are a microcosm of our lives, not a demonstration of our worth. It's just us—our body, mind, and soul—alone on our mat observing how we respond to this thing called yoga practice. Do we greet failure with dejection? Do we greet success with ego? You cannot hide from yourself in the midst of intense practice. At least, not for very long. Eventually, you will be exposed for who you really are beneath the pretenses. It will show you things about yourself you'd rather not see. Let that humble you to your core. It will also show you your infinite strength and goodness. Let that build you back up into a better person than you were before.
Our daily practice, then, is not about arm balances or backbends. It is meant to be a laboratory of self-discovery, acceptance, and growth. It is a vehicle along the path to a higher truth and deeper purpose. It doesn’t matter if you ever jump back or put your leg behind your head, but it does matter that you try with an open mind and an open heart. The formula works. It may be hard, but it’s also very simple.
As a yoga teacher, I do my best to lead by example, but I hope it goes without saying that I'm very much a student myself. I fail at these endeavors everyday. However, thanks to *my* wonderful teachers, at least I know where to shoot in my own practice and where to guide others in theirs. That's good start, I think.