Anyone that has ever tried yoga even once, knows that the practice comes with many questions. As a student of yoga for the past 12 years and a teacher for 2 ½ of those years, I have had many of these moments of questioning. As a beginning student, you question whether you are doing the poses correctly, what benefits you are gaining from the practice, how often you should practice, what style of yoga should you practice, what teacher is right for you. You might notice emotions coming up during your practice that you can’t quite understand and are unable to label as “bad” or “good.” As your practice grows, you might start rearranging your schedule, or changing your lifestyle to fit your practice and be more in line with yogic thought and philosophies.
You might even question whether you would like to take yoga teacher training one day, and eventually teach yoga to others. As I did, you might think that by becoming a yoga teacher, you would question yourself, your practice, and your lifestyle less. And while yoga teacher training does provide so much knowledge and answers on many aspects, especially the technical elements of yoga sequencing and anatomy (for example), I am pretty surprised to realize that becoming a yoga teacher has led me to question myself more than ever in life. The truth is, yoga is a journey that will never stop raising more questions. Kind of like life itself! However, through this process of questioning, we are getting to know ourselves, and are always changing and growing. And once in awhile, we might actually find an answer to something we are questioning. If nothing else, the practice of yoga teaches us that if self-doubt or something similar enters the mind, we have the ability to examine the thought and let go of it, if it does not serve us.
Before teacher training, even though I had a lot of questions, I felt a lot of confidence in my yoga practice and knew I wanted to eventually teach others. I love the practice of yoga and I want(ed) to bring others the benefits and clarity that I had experienced. I also knew that with the proper training, I COULD be a yoga teacher. Questions were involved, such as - when is the right time to take teacher training? What program of study should I involve myself with? Who should my teacher be? How will I be able to afford this? Like a lot of things in life, answers to these questions take time and you will know when it is the right time.
Of course, teacher training was transformative and one of the most life-changing events I have ever experienced. Through training I went through a lot of emotions and even moments of doubt. But I can honestly say that in the two and a half years since teacher training ended and I began teaching classes, I have gone through more self doubt than I have in a very long time (possibly ever). Questions that might be expected like, is anyone going to show up for my class this week? And of course, am I a good teacher? But what about things like, am I a good teacher if I enjoy wine and beer? Am I still a good teacher if I skip meditation or home yoga practice once in awhile? Am I a good enough teacher to have my own Facebook page, let alone website/blog? Will anyone read it? Is it okay if I don’t have fancy, shiny photos of myself doing extremely challenging yoga poses? Am I still a good teacher if I currently practice handstand up against the wall? Am I a good teacher if I can’t do every single pose when I take an advanced class? Is it okay if I eat meat, dairy, and carbs?
I believe that questioning is “learning yoga” all over again. I have learned through the practice of yoga to be thankful for the ability to just NOTICE when I am questioning myself. To be able to STOP and say to myself “is this a valid question?” To have the inner knowledge to know - it doesn’t matter if I can’t do certain poses, or what I wear to teach class. Yoga teaches that we can do this with any kind of questioning that comes up in our lives. It is a practice, and it doesn’t ALWAYS lead to answers, but we can recognize these thoughts and attempt to let them go. Maybe they will come up again, but eventually through our practice we will make peace with ourselves and maybe not find an answer, but we will let go of our question and our self-doubt. Or we will realize that not every question has an answer and just the fact that we are questioning so much means we are learning and growing in our practice. Yoga helps us learn which questions are just self-doubt which does not serve us, and which questions are worth exploring and will help us grow into better people.
I do know somewhere inside that if I was not a good teacher, I would not be teaching yoga. I wouldn’t slowly and steadily be able to add more classes to my schedule. I would not have given up a day job to be able to teach more yoga. I just have to trust that I am a good teacher and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. And when I hear a student tell me they feel so much better after class than before, or just how a certain pose we did in class affects them, or how they feel a tiny bit more flexible or calm or strong since beginning a yoga practice, it is all worth it! And maybe by writing this blog, I can explore more questions and voice what many of us feel as we journey through our yoga practice and through life.
My advice for new teachers is, just keep doing what you love. Keep being a student, always. Just because you can teach yoga now does not mean you can’t always learn more. And it is important, for me at least, to attend other teacher’s classes and take other types of yoga than I teach, as a student with a beginner’s mind. You can just be in the moment, try things, play and have fun, without anyone looking to you for the answers or feeling any pressure to perform. It is called a practice; just keep practicing! And it is okay if you miss your home practice one day, or if you just need a break and watch a TV show instead of meditating. Give yourself a break, and just get back to it when you are ready.
I would love to hear your insight on the topic of questioning yourself through yoga practice. What questions has being a student or teacher of yoga raised for you? Are they ongoing questions? If you have insight or answers to any of the questions you once struggled with, what was the outcome/answer and how did you come about finding it? If you are a yoga teacher, do you find yourself questioning your lifestyle or your practice?