Your teachers will tell you how to put poses together, what they do for the mind body; but your students will show you what it means to their lives. It is a privilege to teach and be reminded of many things that as practitioners we may have begun to take for granted.
Leaving everything behind
When we step into our yoga space...I'm not saying 'mat' as yoga can be done sitting on a chair or the bus; it's more about carving out a mental space (and of course coming into a dimly lit room away from the world facilitates this more easily)... When we step into our bodies and breath within that space we can make a choice to leave behind the family arguments, the feelings of low self worth, the work expectations etc. That 'leaving behind' might walk a wavering line, but with practise it will become more concrete. And every time we re affirm that choice, by reconnecting with the breath, a chakra, the music in the room, a smile, or whatever...our ability to make a choice becomes stronger. Of course we have to go back to our home/ desk/ lives - but we go back a little different. For many people, weekly yoga class is the only time they take have that's not for someone else. The funny thing is that it ends up being for everyone, if it benefits us.
Battling less with life
In our first twists we tend to use brute force to get somewhere; to triumph over our bodies; to mirror or better where someone else is at. Over time we understand that kindness and breath produce openness in our spines. And before long our eyes are closed and we are the only one in this twist, playing with looping edges of acceptance/ frustration/ surrender. So off the mat do we learn flexibility. That trying to force life/ family/ friends/ colleagues into doing it our way doesn't work and only leaves us frustrated and wondering why other people have it better.
A breath changes everything
Breath is transformation on a cellular level. Not just an automatic function of the lungs but the thread that connects the everyday with the highest self. Whatever physical shape we are in, the breath unites us. What use is the most complex pranayama unless we remember to breathe? In the most challenging postures, through the breath, we learn that relaxation is not just lying around being lazy; but a highly effective mind body state. Class by class the breath starts to vie with our to do list or self beliefs as the chosen dwelling place of our mind. Back in the everyday, awareness of just one breath rises us above the battle and allows us to negotiate some inner space, to see and respond more clearly.
Yoga is both being together and being entirely in our Self. Sometimes the community we need is the shared silence of shavasana, the brief absence of words in a noisy world; sometimes it's a chat after class, discovering common issues and sharing experiences. My experience is that our highest self guides us to the people we need and the work we are meant to do in each moment; the only thing that's required of us is to stay open to it; that of course is the whole practise! As teachers we simply facilitate the opportunities for communion and community, and let go of attachment to the results.
I am grateful to offer yoga for positive mood and positive living courses as part of the Wellbeing network for mental health recovery, run by City & Hackney MIND.