|Photography: Bartek Korpacz|
I can’t think of any other more fulfilling job than being a yoga teacher. In fact, it is more of a genuine and life-long passion and I will always be in awe to those mysterious sages from the Himalayas or southern India, who devoted their lives to explore and then transmit this profound knowledge of yoga. A random stepping onto a mat many, many years ago in a yoga studio up north in Maine turned out to be the best decision I have met to date. Practice. I am present and everything else vanishes. I am at ease. I am love. I know who I am. I am.
This magical moment, right before the class when people come spreading their mats on the floor. There’s silence or soft music (ok, sometimes it’s chillout or indie rock) playing in the background. The alchemical process is just about to begin, I am excited and it makes me shiver. So why do I love my job?
It’s a source of a tremendous sense of contribution
Teaching yoga revolves around being with people and for people. I see it as service that stems from nothing else but true vocation. It’s not just some mumbo-jumbo poses I perform to show off in order to boost my self-esteem. Naïve as it may sound, I do get this incredible feeling of accomplishment. Life has been made of up and downs, a never ending cycle of hitting one’s more lower lows, and then making it through again. And my experience is that yoga works every time – be it an aid for the aching back or the hurting soul. I enjoy making my students discover their bodies may do miraculous things and be with them at those unique moments of happiness when they’re finally able to touch their toes in a forward bend or believing in them more than they do believe in themselves. Through yoga I want to make them feel they’re where they have to be. Both in life and in the practice.
So someone has just left the studio relaxed, someone avoided a knee surgery, quit smoking, gave up beef having read my article on cows in India. Once after a class someone told me they’d cried in final relaxation, because suddenly they’d just felt they wanted to live so bad. Suffice it to say that it left me completely perplexed and inarticulate as it was a time when I myself lost almost all interest in life and thought nothing out of the ordinary would even happen to me again. Et voila – in such a dark night of the Soul I managed to evoke this all embracing love of life in another person. This is what I call satisfaction.
It inspires never-ending progress
Being a yoga teacher implies a constant self-update, not only when it comes to one’s personal practice in the form of asanas, but also integration of the whole Self, life as well as biography – every time from anew. Yoga workshops, therapeutic approach, journeys to India, journeys within myself, further studies on yoga philosophy and texts, ayurveda, Sanskrit… Life’s an adventure and yoga by all means makes it an extraordinary one! At the same token, I myself learn so much from the people I teach, from their behavior, bodies, ailments, wounds and stories…
It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle
Yoga teacher belongs one of those very few professions where there’s virtually no distinction between a private and professional life. In other words, you have to live what you teach. Yoga is not just some weird pretzel-like gymnastics, it’s the science of the mind and emotions that gives one a plenty of multi-purpose tools for handling suffering and accepting what comes, with the emphasis on moral principles, yamas and niyamas. A yogic lifestyle embraces regular personal practice, proper dieting, meditation, keen interest in human & animal rights, conscious consumerism and conscious tourism, fair trade, volunteering, social activism… What’s also truly magical about yoga is that it gradually permeates every sphere of one’s life adding light to our dark places and helping eliminate habits that don’t serve us any more, such as addictions or destructive behavior. This all keeps you in check – without an established rather restrictive routine any yoga teacher will burn out within a blink of an eye.
Yoga stands for relation
First and foremost, the relation with myself, this amazing Soul dwelling in my body, breathing and witnessing life. Yoga has taught me to look for relations that are nourishing, in which me and another person - like two rivers flow harmoniously in some more or less tangible direction, our currents immersing and merging, with pleasant interaction between the temperature of our waters. Relations in which everything naturally falls into place and I don’t have to suppress my potential in order to be liked. Relations that allow me to breathe and expand. The most fulfilling and memorable yoga classes I have ever taught were with people I may somehow relate to. They probably didn’t even know that they constitute my firm pillars and their very presence in class gives me a tremendous sense of support. Yes – it works both ways. Same as I’m there for my yogis, I need them to be for me. I need exchange, heart-to-heart communication. And without the shadow of a doubt I may say that I receive so much more than I give.
It’s based on creativity and freedom
Even with such a conservative approach as a fixed sequence of ashtanga yoga as taught in the lineage of Sri Pattabhi Jois, no two classes are ever identical. The truth is that group dynamics and needs will always vary, and thus, the teacher has to tune in and be flexible while adjusting alignments, telling an inspiriting story or throwing a joke. What mantra do we chant on that particular day? What lecture should I give people so that they may apply this knowledge to their mundane off-the-mat experience? How to honor someone who’s got birthday and instead of partying came to yoga? How to inspire others that there’s something more to life?
Thank you. OM.