Teaching yoga brought many of the practical changes I expected (even though, as yoga teachers, we discourage expectations). I make my own schedule. Most days, I don’t set an alarm. I can go to Target on weekday mornings. I take on more freelance acting work. The world does not stop if I have to take a day or week off. With freedom comes responsibility, so I’ve had to learn to organize my life better. This is still a work in progress. None of my work time is filler. My work clothes are more casual (if that word can describe sweaty shorts) than my everyday clothes. I could move across the world, and still find a job and community. I make less money, but enjoy my work more – and believe in it one-hundred percent.
Here’s what I didn’t expect. Simply surviving teacher training changes your ideas of what is possible. You come out feeling everything-proof, as Bikram promised. There is no more fear of pursuing what you want in life. None of this means you really know how to teach. You feel like an inspired bad-ass when you’re one of a few hundred trainees. Then you stand in a room of people who want you to change their lives, or at least make them forget their significant discomfort. Some resent the fact that they’re even in the room. Some have injuries that you’ve never heard of. Some sway in terror. Some, you’re pretty sure, are waiting for the right moment to take you down and teach the class themselves. One is trying to do something with his foot that you’re just not sure is yoga. And the only words you can muster are “lock the knee.” This is where the unexpected changes begin.
I now listen more carefully to other teachers. I pay closer attention to my own practice – not just what I do, but why. I’ve started to address lifelong alignment problems, which is a lengthy exercise in humility and gratitude. I’ve learned more patience (except when I drive). Sometimes, I have to let go of teacher mode and just let myself be a student. But teaching and practice feed each other. Generosity in my practice allows me to be more generous as a teacher. And once I say something in the yoga room, I realize it probably applies to my own practice – and to the rest of my life.