Showing up as a yoga teacher, in the midst of devastation or heartbreak.
This isn't the post I had planned for today. I was planning to tell you a funny story, about being a bit of a klutz and my love/hate relationship with aux cords. I hoped it would have my readers nodding their heads in agreement, recognizing an awkward scenario they knew all too well. That post was part of my newly refined plan for delivering holistic career strategy tools and techniques to yoga teachers.
You know what they said about the best laid plans.
Then, on Sunday night, there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas. The country has seemingly been careening from one disaster to another, whether natural or man-made (I hear you, arguments that they are all ultimately man-made), and moving forward with my regularly scheduled programming didn't feel connected, or honest, or authentic.
So let's talk about what's authentic right now, in this moment, instead.
As a teacher, how do you show up for class, when inside all you're doing is breaking down?
There are no easy answers to this question. Perhaps that's right, because these shouldn't be easy situations to deal with. Tragedies like this may be more common than we'd like, but they are never normal.
It is the way of the world that life goes on, and for most yoga teachers, their regularly scheduled classes have continued uninterrupted throughout this week. And if you felt fine teaching your classes, that's not something to feel guilty over. But likewise, if you didn't feel fine teaching your classes, that's not something to feel guilty over either. Sooner or later, there will come a point where you will be dealing with something that brings you great sorrow, whether it's very personal grief or a sadness that blankets the country or the world, and you'll be asked to step into the seat of teacher.
I hope you find the below ideas to be of some comfort:
Use your practice. That sense of detachment you find when you're meditating and focusing on your breath, that is an incredibly valuable tool to you in times of distress when you have to keep going. Carve out the space to spend a few minutes getting yourself into a quiet mental space before you walk into class. Cut yourself some slack if that space doesn't feel perfect. It doesn't have to.
Make it about your students. I had more than one student this week express their own emotions about what happened in Vegas. The also expressed how glad they were to be in class, in a space that felt safe for them, where they could give themselves permission to feel however they were feeling, and feel it fully. Being able to be there for our students is a tremendous gift that teachers bring to the world, especially in times of crisis or tragedy.
Address it head on. Particularly important for events that go beyond affecting you personally. I spoke a little bit about Las Vegas in one of my classes this week. Was it kind of awkward? Definitely. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. If I had the chance to connect with just one person in my acknowledgment of what was going on in the world, it was worth me feeling uncomfortable to do it.
Be aware of your limits. If you are in a place where you truly cannot function, please let your studio know immediately. Yes, it's important that you be there for your students. Yes, it's critical that you be a good employee and show up for your studios. And also yes, you get to decide when enough is too much. If you are falling apart and are not able to support your students in their practice, it's important to be honest about that. Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling, and feel it fully. You are afforded the same compassion that you extend toward your students.
Seek help if needed. If you are dealing with something that feels beyond your control or too big for you to handle, please reach out. It can be to a fellow teacher, a friend, a family member, a therapist, a crisis hotline, a support group, or elsewhere. You are not alone.
I don't typically incorporate a lot of Sanskrit into my teaching, but there's a mantra that has been running through my head all week: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.