When the Child becomes the Teacher
When I decided to become a yoga instructor, I didn’t realize what a profound effect teaching would have on my life. I simply loved yoga. I loved the flow of the movement, the meditative aspects, the feeling of transformation when I walked out of class, the people I met…the entire experience infused a sense of belonging. So when I began teaching, the connection just deepened. As my mentor and instructor put it: “You found your dharma.” And I didn’t even realize I had until she said the words.
There are so many reasons why I love teaching but part if it is the opportunity to explore themes on how to live my yoga when I step off my mat. For five minutes at the end of class during Savasana I am able share some of the wisdom I have stumbled upon in my life with my students. It’s not that I feel the need to tell my story, it’s more of a hope that my experiences will help others in this sometimes crazy life to find direction and an easier path to their own healing.
While I haven’t always had the forum of Savasana, I have been sharing the wisdom of my life experiences with our children from a very young age. All mothers have their gifts to bestow on their children. I haven’t always been a mother who bakes or sends care packages of food when they went away places, although I do like to prepare their favourite foods and wholesome meals for family get-togethers. As much as I have good intentions, sometimes I just didn’t seem to have the time to prepare the care package of goodies when our children were away from home. Instead I have tried to impart food for the soul. I remember driving our children to various activities…baseball, dance, school, friends…and taking the few moments in the car to impart life lessons. For the boys it was so easy, baseball has so many life metaphors. Like Babe Ruth’s: “Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!” When our daughter suffered anxiety and bullying from other children, it was tough to explain to a young girl that others hurtful actions were an insecurity within the bully. But we persisted.
As our children have grown into young adults, finishing school and pursuing their own life path, they are now beginning to slip in a few life lessons for their mother. I carry three such lessons from each child close to my heart.
Lesson 1: When our son Matthew talked about a friend’s parents bestowing a care package of goodies to be shared with friends, I had a moment of panic that I wasn’t good with care packages. Maybe I should be sending him goodies from time to time as he began carving his own path. At least to let him know he was loved and missed at home. But Matthew quickly cut through my panic with the calm of a parent placating a child. “Mom, it’s okay. I just need you to do you.”
Lesson 2: Even though I do believe I have found a lovely calling on this path of teaching yoga, there are times when self-doubt seeps in. I began my yoga journey a little later in life. So while I do have a strong practice, blessed with strength in most poses but not the lithe-like flexibility of someone who has practiced from a young age. When opportunities arise for me to lead a practice to a larger group, I may hesitate. After all, there are stronger, more experienced instructors out there. I have only been teaching for a few years. Our middle son, Cameron, caught me in the middle of one of these self-deprecating rants with a gentle reprimand. “Mom, you can’t let fear hold you back. You teach a certain way that gives people something they need. When you say no because you don’t think you can do it, you’re denying people the chance to experience your unique energy.”
Lesson 3: Over the years, I have been blessed to spend a lot of time with our daughter, Kate. As she has grown into a young woman, now our together time is more grown up as mother and daughter who have become friends. I value her direct input on things from shopping to personal advice. After a recent shopping trip, when I lamented that I felt too old or too fat in some of the garments, she candidly zeroed on my self-criticism in exasperation. “Mom. You’re beautiful. Stop criticizing yourself. Just own it!”
As I continue on my path as a teacher, I recognize that I am still working on some of my own advice and I am always a student. Anytime self-doubt disrupts my centre, I look to my yoga for healing through breath and movement. And I work to replace negative self-chatter with the wisdom of three very beautiful souls - to be me without apology, step beyond fear to share my gifts and to own it all.