illustration by @ksenia_sapunkova

Confessions of a Yoga Teacher

Yoga teachers have got it all together, right? We’re perfectly at peace living our harmonious and healthy lives. Well, not as much as you might think. The highlights reel on social media and the endless glorification of “living your best life” may have us all believing that certain types of people have got their shit together and others haven’t. But the reality is that being human is a messy business full of ups, downs and all around. It should come as no surprise that we feel the need to “keep up appearances” and present a certain version of ourselves out into the world.

I decided to let go of that need by sharing a few secrets of what my life actually looks like. Just like everyone else, I can put pressure on myself to be the bright, shiny version of me all the time even though realistically I know it’s not possible, or natural, to always be at my best.

Yoga teaches us about acceptance and that everything is constantly changing, which reminds me that this journey isn’t about perfection. Here are a few of my confessions because we’re all human, even yoga teachers.

We try to practice what we preach, but it’s always a work in progress.

While making an online class themed around feeling grounded, I left an egg boiling on the gas stove downstairs. When I realized my mistake while filming the last bit of the video, I still managed to look super serene. I calmly wrapped up my scene before legging it downstairs to rescue my egg, which by then was in a dry pan with all the water boiled off. I’ve also forgotten my mat for teaching, my keys to the studio (thanks mum for dropping them off 5 minutes before class), water bottle, notes, you name it.

While making an online class themed around feeling grounded, I left an egg boiling on the gas stove downstairs.

We need to pause and take a breath in class too.

“Now close your eyes and connect to the breath” is usually code for “I just need a moment to prepare myself for the next part of the sequence without a room full of 20 people staring at me.” Taking a moment to breathe is good for everyone in a Yoga class!

We can be tempted by the naughty stuff as well.

I occasionally have a few draws of a friend’s cigarette to dabble in what it feels like not to be so wholesome and healthy every second of the day. But, I don’t drink alcohol– not because I’m holier than thou, but precisely because I never learned how to enjoy just one glass and not have it turn into a mad bender of binge drinking. I do not miss the hangovers or feelings of extreme regret and anxiety at the types of situations I used to end up in, some of which were downright dangerous.

There’s a reason we all end up here.

If I didn’t have my Yoga practice, I would be an absolute mess. Most of us were drawn to Yoga as part of our own healing, and we need the practice to maintain our mental and physical health. Many of us have a history of all kinds of injuries, emotional difficulties, various diagnoses, and the lot!

We all have our vices.

One of mine is my longstanding addiction to Aussie soaps “Neighbours” and “Home and Away”. I watch them religiously every weekday, even sometimes sneaking a look at spoilers online on my phone in the Yoga studio between classes.

We can be some of the most distracted students in other people’s classes.

I can find it pretty hard to fully immerse myself in another instructor’s class without taking mental notes on things like sequencing, cues, and pace. I also get easily distracted by noticing other people’s alignment and thinking about how I’d use verbal cues to assist if beginners look like they may be uncomfortable in a particular posture.

A lot of the time we haven’t mastered being ‘in the moment’ either, despite encouraging our students to do it in every class.

I’ve been at this Yoga stuff for over a decade and still during savasana or meditation I might have three different random songs playing in my head at the same time while also making a shopping list, thinking about a cool potential travel adventure, endless worries AND replaying memories from the past. Sometimes my thoughts bounce around the walls of my head like kids on a sugar high. Other times I feel calm and focused, this is why we call it practice, right?

We are just as messy as everyone else.

We may look calm and sorted at the front of the class, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t all dealing with our own Samskaras (mental and emotional patterns that we are prone to be in a cycle of repeating over and over again.) Each of us is doing our best to transform our destructive habits or patterns of behaviour. For example, I’m working on my lifelong attachment issues even though everything I teach and practice is about non-attachment. I can find it difficult to let go and have desperately clung on to people, romantic relationships and addictions in the past to the detriment of my wellbeing. It’s all part of the journey.

Many of us are actually really shy!

You’d be surprised how many yoga teachers are nervous about being in front of people. A lot of the Yoga teachers I’ve spoken to, myself included, aren’t naturally confident in front of others and had a difficult time dealing with anxieties, worries, and fear about being the one at the front of the class. But for most of us, no matter how anxious we might be, the minute we walk into class and begin, the worries slip away. We connect to the breath and believe in the practice so wholeheartedly that we are able to be completely present with our students.

We’re not all vegetarians, and can also be very stubborn about our diets.

I sometimes eat fish (doctor’s orders) but still refuse to let go of my lifelong “vegetarian” label because I don’t really want to be eating fish. I realize that this makes no sense because the dictionary definition of vegetarian is “a person who does not eat meat or fish.” I also know loads of Yoga teachers who love tucking into steak and burgers or the occasional chicken nugget.

I’m fairly certain that we all love our job.

When I’m guiding people through a Yoga class, whether one person turned up or 25, in that moment there is nowhere else I would rather be. Even if I was tired and down earlier in the day, I always feel energized and content having turned up to hold that space.

I secretly like it when people cry in class. Is that just me?

Better out than in, right? I’ve had a few people apologize for getting emotional in class, usually in deeply restorative classes where people are given a chance to slow down and go within. No one ever needs to apologize for showing their vulnerability. I consider it a blessing to have them express their tears if need be, and I think crying is as valuable as laughing.

Some of us blame everything on the moon and other cosmic stuff.

House in a chaotic mess? That’s because of the moon. Erratic mood swings? Moon again. Turned up to the airport to catch a flight on a wrong day? Blame mercury in retrograde.

We have perfected our poker faces.

We know how to keep calm and carry on when something amusing, distracting or weird happens in class. Like when someone farts, be it a student or ourselves, we know how to keep focused and look as if nothing happened even if our inner child wants to giggle like mad.

There you have it. We Yoga teachers may seem like we have calm minds, unfaltering home practice and no worries. But next times you’re in savasana and struggling not to get caught up in twenty different thoughts, remember we have our vices and our difficult days too!

Illustration by Ksenia Sapunkova

Edited by Jaimee Hoefert

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