An Imperfect Yoga Teacher (and Practitioner)
“Stop comparing yourself to others you’re supposed to be unique.” -Sonya Parker
18 years ago I started practicing yoga in my living room with a poster of poses and a couple of DVD’s. It was nothing fancy but it was easy for me to get started and it was less expensive than paying per class or getting a membership somewhere. Plus for me, being a little competitive, it was a way to get familiar with poses without anyone else seeing how inflexible I was.
Eventually though, I wanted to have more hands on instruction so I started taking classes at a recreation center, a gym and then a few studios. As I continued my journey, the feeling I had during and after each class left me in a calmer and more peaceful state. However one thing I started to struggle with (and still do) was trying to do every pose perfect.
Perfect is relative, of course. It’s all about perception.
I wanted to be the perfect yoga student. When the teacher gave specific alignment cues, I tried my hardest to do exactly as stated. Sometimes I would hurt myself trying to go deeper. I also worried constantly what everyone else thought of my poses. Going into a new studio or gym, I looked around to see what others were doing so I appeared to know the set up procedure. All of it got to be exhausting!
I let my ego creep in and cared what other people thought.
As a long time practitioner and teacher you learn that ego has no place in yoga. At least it’s not supposed to. It took some time and personal practice to realize that I didn’t practice better or worse than anyone else. Yoga teaches you to begin to manage thoughts and awareness in the body on and off the mat.
Is it easy? Of course not! Even the most “perfect” yogi has some negative or ego centric thoughts. It’s a constant work in progress, which makes being perfect impossible.
Learning to be okay with the imperfect is helpful.
The longer I practice and teach yoga, the more I learn that it’s okay to be imperfect or different. Since becoming a certified yoga instructor and teaching in a private club, yoga studios and recreational setting, it has become more clear that I am not a perfect yoga practitioner and yoga instructor.
It’s totally fine to be different. In my case, I don't know all the sanskrit words for every single pose off the top of my head. I know it’s super taboo to be an instructor and not say (or know) every single pose in sanskrit. However, in most cases, students don’t know the names either and feel odd when the teacher uses only sanskrit terms.
I’ve been in classes where I can’t remember or don’t know the sanskrit name that’s called out and sometimes the fear of not knowing sends me into panic mode. It’s hard to feel like the only one in the room who doesn’t know what’s going on. Again, most students (even teachers) don’t know every single sanskrit name for each pose. So those who get on their high horse or think they are better, fork that. No one is better than anyone else, just different or more experienced.
Whew…I said it.
As I mentioned earlier, being a part of a studio is usually expensive. Because of this expense it tends to be cliquey. Unfortunately Western influence on the yoga world has made the culture somewhat of a snobby and upper class type of practice. I’ve felt this especially while living in a small mountain town. All the yoga people hung out together and if you didn’t look or talk like them, you weren’t in with them. This type of behavior goes against the heart of yoga.
Yoga should be for every body. The means large, small, tall, short, light, dark and gender neutral. Period.
Being imperfect is what makes each of us unique and human. So, if by any chance you feel different than your peers, embrace it. Being your own version of you, rather than what someone else thinks is the only way to happiness.