strength. fortitude. discipline

Probably not what first comes to mind when you imagine the word (or even practice of) yoga.

Yet after another class with another instructor and another disapointment, I sit with a heavy heart, confused head and the nagging question of ‘sara, what is yoga, to you?’

Of course yoga is ‘stretching’. Of course yoga is ‘breath’. And dependent on where you do ‘yoga’ it may even be ‘sweating’. I think what has really been stirring me up lately is that MY definition of yoga is sooooooo different from what is being spread like wild fire.

One thing that’s at the heart of this issue for me is that the art and skill of being a teacher is being lost. Many people I would call ‘instructors’. They are capable of explaining what body part goes where,  keeping you generally safe, and the class moving- very different set of skills in comparison to a teacher.

To me, a teacher IS strength, fortitude, discipline. And when they see that you don’t have those things, they are that for you. They will push you, ask more from you and stay on you- because they know you CAN, even when you are’t sure. Their fierce love keeps you standing, even when your doubt wants to make you crumble.  The only perfection they are seeking is the perfection of YOU bringing yourself to the mat.

Through the 10+ years of my practice its been the strength, body and mind, that has helped me through life’s challenges: pregnancy, labor and delivery, losing loved ones, financial burden . The fortitude has kept me a passionate student, striving to understand, anxious and excited to overcome whatever the obstacle was. Its been the discipline that kept me honest with myself about what I wanted out of my practice and whether or not that was reflective of what I was putting in to it.

Often times at the onset of a yoga practice the most common reflection is: ‘I’m so NOT flexible’. This is a valid point. Yoga will teach you many types of flexibility, some of the most important ones pertaining to how to be a better mother, or a more patient driver. Flexibility will come. After a while its not enough. Learning to flow with the world is one thing.  Learning to stand on your own two feet (or hands) in it is another.

If its not strength that your teaching, its just another stretching class. If you want students to come back you’ve got to be their strength when they don’t have it. And when they do, push them toward their potential. Give them tools, mental and physical, that empower them to move to the next phase of their practice… their life.