Year 7 As A Yoga Instructor: What I Learned

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For the past two years, on my teaching anniversary, I've written about wisdom gained as a yoga instructor during that particular year. [If you're interested, you can find my fifth anniversary post here, and what I learned during my sixth year of teaching here.] This year, I've continued to learn a lot about control (and lack thereof) and of being open to whatever happens, which are kind of the same thing. Knowing what I can and can't control and accepting what the moment brings helps me live with less stress. Even though I'm writing from a yoga instructor's perspective, the wisdom is for all of us. The more I learn it, the more fulfilling my days are. Seriously. If you find yourself often frustrated at events in your day, keep reading...

Instructing yoga isn't easy. Aside from verbally cueing while physically demonstrating poses and still having the stamina to breathe, it's also demanding in other ways, like planning and teaching.There's a lot involved when planning a class… the flow and order of the poses, the music and order of the songs, and the meditation or intention. If there's a peak pose that day, you need to prep everyone for it with other poses. You may need to have counter poses as well. It’s a lot to think about.

There’s a lot involved with teaching a class, too. I'm often exhausted after teaching because I give so much energy while doing it. I love what I do and I give them my best. I take it to heart that people give up an hour of their busy day to spend it with me practicing yoga. While I may be calm while I teach, I'm also super focused and alert. I lead, instruct, keep a close eye on my students to know when they need help, adjustments or rest. I keep us on a tempo, and I try to stay on some sort of a schedule. There's a lot to plan and try my best to control. 

But then, I also teach at a community center. If you had an image of me teaching in an uncluttered, serene space, think again. It's a shared space (as it should be). Many people use the building for all sorts of events, meetings and celebrations. There's a whole lot I can't control. 

It's been so good for me, really. As a former perfectionist (ha!), it has helped me become more laid back. I never know when a child might burst through our doors during savasana at the end of class. Or someone who doesn't understand the mind-body emphasis of yoga interrupts us, derailing everyone's focus. We get extreme noise pollution pretty much every single day. We can hear the ice machine downstairs, the plumbing, phones ringing, other people talking, bands playing during events, doors banging, karate classes hy-ya-ing, cars honking, tennis players laughing, whistles blowing and more. 

And I can't control any of it. 

I used to get so frustrated. I used to get so upset. I tried so hard to protect my little yoga environment and make it calm and serene. But now, I think all of it is beautiful. All of those interruptions and distractions are people living life, celebrating things and making noise.

This lesson has helped me incredibly: understanding what I can control and what I can't.

​This lesson has helped me incredibly: understanding what I can control and what I can't. It will only frustrate you if you get bent out of shape about things you can't do anything about. Accept that. Smile at that. Learn to laugh at all of it when it happens. Even when a kid runs into your class after you just got your students into the best meditation ever. Ugh. Laugh. Laugh hard. Smile. Shrug. Don't take it so seriously. It's all about being open to whatever happens and accepting the limits of your control. Do what you can, but accept what life throws at you moment by moment. 

It's all about being open to whatever happens and accepting the limits of your control. Do what you can, but accept what life throws at you moment by moment. 

​Because being open to whatever happens is not only about knowing what is and what is not in your control, but it also means accepting what is not in your control. If you only know it, you’re still missing part of the wisdom. You have to accept it. It’s about accepting what God gives you that day (aka the part that is most definitely not in your control). And God may throw something at you that is unexpected and frustrating, but also amazing. If you’re so caught up in resisting it, you’ll miss the blessing.

​Because being open to whatever happens is not only about knowing what is and is not in your control, but it also means accepting what is not in your control. If you only know it, you’re still missing part of the wisdom. You have to accept it.

I recently read a book of essays called What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. In one of them, she talked about a big break she got when she was a young tv reporter. She was sent to Los Angeles to interview tv stars, and while waiting her turn she got intimidated and anxious. (Do not miss that—  Oprah gets intimidated and anxious, too!) She was prepared to interview one person, and at the last minute got switched to another. She could have fallen apart and missed a huge opportunity, but instead she went with it. She flowed with what life threw at her (an interview with high energy Robin Williams that she was unprepared for), and it was one of the most fun and exhilarating interviews in her career. She writes, “...I learned in that instant to go where the interview takes you. He was all over the place, and I had to flow with it.”

“...I learned in that instant to go where the interview takes you. He was all over the place, and I had to flow with it.”

​My experiences may be slightly less glamorous than interviewing tv stars, but I still know the feeling. It’s one of the biggest challenges of instructing yoga. I may plan a power vinyasa flow only to see a low energy crowd file in, tired from their day. I may plan a class with more challenging transitions, when a brand-new-to-yoga-person walks in. I have to alter on the fly and flow with it.I also have to embrace the part that I can’t control. I may plan a themed grounding class from the poses, to the meditation, to the intention, to the music, to the tempo, to the breathing techiques… and someone may get something totally different out of it. They may miss what I “planned” for them, but they received exactly what they needed instead. Here's what I can control: I can give my students the gift of the class I’ve planned, then get out of their way
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I’ll wrap it up. This year I’ve learned the value of discerning between what I can and can’t control… and being ok with it most of the time. Being open to what happens means not resisting so much when things out of my control occur. It means flowing with what life and God throw at you that day and instead of getting frustrated, you jump in. Stop struggling against the current so much and flow. Trying to control everything is just going to leave you unsatisfied and frustrated.

I am better this year at trusting that things work out just how they should and being open to what happens next… 

Love & Light.

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