Teachers are great. Especially when you find a good one.
Yoga teachers are extra special, though, because you get to hand over your brain for the duration of the class and let them make the decisions. Put your arm here. Breathe now. Stretch. Relax.
In the tradition of yoga, the relationship between the cheela (student) and their guru is a profound one. The etymology of the word ‘guru’ is, loosely, destroyer (ru) of darkness (gu). The teacher is supposed to ‘shine a light’ on the student’s path to health and wholeness.
As a student, I would stop going to classes if I didn’t like the teacher’s voice. Or their bossiness. Or the music they chose. Or their jokes. Or the incense.
As a yoga teacher, I quickly learnt that some students would like me and keep coming to my classes for decades. While others came and went.
Yoga is inherently personal. The journey through yoga poses can take you deep into yourself. As you approach each physical challenge, you will hopefully move through layers of your past and come face-to-face with some confronting attitudes and habits — and eventually let them go.
Please understand that I am not talking about perfecting a yoga pose. In a good yoga class, you don’t get gold stars or even compliments for reaching a certain level of physical practice.
Weirdly, we let our yoga teacher — someone we usually know very little about — guide us into the dim, dark recesses of ourselves…and in a group situation.
It’s enough to like the tone of their voice as they guide you into your initial relaxation. You might like the way they demonstrate. Some yoga teachers are extremely articulate with their bodies. Others have a great way of using words that travel through your body and spark a dynamic conversation between you and your body.
Going to class, lying down on the mat, we wait for the yoga teacher to takes us inside ourselves.
Then one day you go to class and the teacher is not there!
Is it just for this class? Will it be for a few classes? Or — oh no! — have they moved on?
You have relied upon this special person to help you navigate the depths of yourself.
And now, they have abandoned you.
You feel a jolt of disappointment. And, if there’s a relief teacher (or worse, a replacement teacher), a sharp pang of judgement.
There’s no way they’ll be as good as the other teacher. But it’s too late. You’re on your mat. And (hopefully) not so rude that you’ll walk out…
I quit teaching over a decade ago. And I didn’t do it suddenly. I was almost as attached to my students as they were to me. I eased myself out of their classes, and gently eased another teacher in.
I was acutely aware of my students’ sense of abandonment because I had experienced it myself.
I adored my first serious yoga teacher. She saw me through some really lousy times. And then my pregnancy and post-natal blah years. Her passion for yoga was so contagious that I decided to become a teacher, just like her. I enrolled in a teacher training course.
And then she left me.
My dreams of having her guide me through my course and onto the mat at the front of a class evaporated.
She and her family had decided to move overseas for four years. Legitimate life choice. But it still felt like abandonment.
So, what do you do?
Treat the challenge of having a new yoga teacher in the same way you treat an actual yoga pose.
Take some deep breaths. Find a way to ground yourself. Focus on the present, and observe your reactions. Let them come and go.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
What can this new teacher/pose teach you about yourself?
As you deepen your yoga practice, hopefully you’ll find that you can approach all change like that.
A new teacher, a new job, a new situation, a new challenge… Bring it back to the way you approach your hamstrings, or your arm strength, or your resistance.
Inhale deeply. Exhale completely. Be present.
Thanks for reading.