Yoga Teacher Confession

I have wanted to get something off my chest for some time. Yet every time I attempt to share my thoughts I quickly shut down the idea. A little voice says, should I write this? Does it make me a bad teacher? Will anyone care? The answer to all three is probable no. So in that case, here it goes.

Teaching yoga triggers me.

Phew, I said it. What a relief. Now that it’s off my chest, what do I mean by that? Isn’t yoga supposed to be something that makes you feel good? How could teaching something you love be triggering?

This image has nothing to do with teaching. It does, however, depict my normal deep in thought state. #yourewelcome

Before I continue let me be clear that this has been my personal experience. There are many yoga teachers out there who love what they do. I could be alone in my thoughts but something tells me a few of you out there that will understand. It might even resonate with people who are in similar fields whose craft depends highly on the response of the consumer. Yes, yoga students are also consumers. Regardless if you teach full time or on the side to make extra cash, the money made from instructing comes from a client; aka a person who pays a professional person or organization for services.

Ok, back to being triggered. If you follow me on social media I’ve talked very openly about my struggles with self esteem, depression, and mood swings. Many years of therapy helped me understand which experiences strengthened those insecurities and how my behaviors and beliefs formed. I’ve come a looooong way and am much healthier overall, yet I still struggle from time to time. Right now is one of those times.

It’s part of the reason I chose to take a break from teaching public classes this summer. I haven’t felt like myself. I know it will pass and to just give myself time. By doing so I recently recognized something I hadn’t noticed before. In fact, it was a client that led me to have this aha moment.

It’s hard when you feel like your quality of work is a reflection of how many people walk through the door.

A lovely young woman who I’ve gotten to know via my Facebook and YouTube pages emailed me. She has vulvodynia and really appreciated the info I’ve shared. She lives out of state was visiting a relative near my hometown for one week. She asked if I would be able to teach a private lesson and help her with some of her health concerns/issues. I felt honored that she reached out and while I’m not currently teaching group classes, I liked the idea of a private session. We arranged the date and time to meet, and then it happened… the feeling of dread. The same feeling I get every time I teach.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I must be the shittiest teacher to feel dreadful before class, but it’s the honest to God truth. It consists of three phases and typically starts the moment I commit to a class. It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not the kind of dread one feels when they hate their job. We all know that feeling. You hit snooze fifty times, you procrastinate and arrive late but don’t care, you can’t stand your coworkers, you lie and call off sick. That’s something different.

This kind of dread has more to do with my insecurities. Phase one; I immediately question my ability to teach and what I know. I assume everyone in class will sense I’m a fraud and have a terrible time. I put a ton of pressure on myself to solve every single problem as well as teach the most unique, intelligent, mind blowing sequence ever presented in the history of yoga. I obsess over whether I’m being too woo-wooey or not woo-wooey enough. I could go on for some time but I’ll spare you. My mind can be a frightening place.

Without fail, phase once began the moment we scheduled the private session. I literally had to remind myself that I don’t know everything and that is ok. What I do know is more than my client currently does, which is why she sought me out. I resolved to keeping our time together simple. I chose to focus on areas that were troublesome for the client and was able to create a well rounded practice. It was good. Here’s where phase two begins.

As I teach I’m in what I call a bipolar zone. On one hand I’m very in the moment. I’m focused on helping the individual and I absolutely love the process of teaching. I am truly fulfilled when I can share skills with someone that will improve their quality of life. Problem is, the other part of me is constantly questioning if I’m doing a good job. What’s that face they’re making? Am I boring them? Are they enjoying it? ls this the best class EVER?! This battle goes on in my head… told ya, it’s a scary place to be! Fortunately, the functional part of me always prevails and I find my way out of the trenches only to make it to phase three.

I want to be confident in what I teach, how i teach, and know that what i offer is damn good…even if it’s not for everyone.

Phase three might be the worst. This is the phase of utter self doubt. As I head home I convince myself that everything I did was complete shit and someone else could have done a much better job. Doesn’t matter if I get a positive response because they’re probably just being nice. I’ll have a pity party and eventually come to the conclusion that I’m the worst instructor ever and why did I think I could do it in the first place? I usually end up telling myself I’ll never teach again. Then I repeat the entire cycle just in time for the next class. Fun, right?

Why did I not notice this before? Teaching yoga is a huge trigger for me. It’s not like my day job where I can measure my performance by whether or not I make a mistake. Being an instructor has so many variables out of my control. Some students will be regulars for months, even years, and then suddenly stop coming. For example, their schedule or finances change, they get injured, there’s a death in the family, or they’ve simply moved on. It’s hard when you feel like the quality of your work is a reflection of how many people walk through the door. Let’s not forget that not everyone is going to like you. My style might not be what they’re looking for. Maybe my personality doesn’t jive with theirs, and that’s totally ok. But for someone like me who has struggled with self worth most of her life, it’s not the best mix.

I’m not blaming the practice or the students. It’s my thought process that’s warped. I just know that I can’t continue to go through these three phases anymore. I want to be confident in what I teach, how I teach, and know that what I offer is damn good. Even on the days when I’m not at my best. Even if it’s not for everyone. No compliment or training can give me that. It has to come from within.

Perhaps you yourself struggle with these issues, whether it’s as a yoga instructor or in another professions. Does it get better? What has helped you? What has made it worse? Am I crazy?! Ok, don’t answer that last part. I think I’ll just call my therapist.

Until next time. XO

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