To the New Yoga Teachers

By Linda Oshins

As the teacher trainees teach their certification classes, spending an hour and a half leading their peers through each phase of a beginner’s class, I can see and applaud every person’s journey from the first week of training through this last step into their own voice and vision. After graduation, the real learning begins. With all their tools in tact, these new teachers will grow wiser from watching their students—their bodies’ movements and energy flow, their breathing patterns, the slow release of physical and mental tension, the softening of the brow and the gaze.

The teacher trainees have worked hard to acquire some level of mastery and confidence in their skills, and now they have to answer the question, what kind of teacher am I, distinct from everyone else, given what I have to say and do from a place of complete honesty?

Even after all theses years of teaching yoga, every time I acquire a new skill and teach it, I’m a new teacher. I have to feel that I have enough knowledge and experience to merit sharing my skill with others. I have my insecurities and needs for affirmation like anybody else. Besides doing my daily practices, I have done lots of reading on my subject, reviewed the research literature, outlined my classes, and written up the after-class synopsis of what worked and what didn’t, but at some point I throw it all away. From a fresh place, I want to listen to the actual experience we are all having. I want to remember that a novice student’s experience of pranayama, for example, has the same weight and profundity as mine or anyone else’s. I want to be able to be “wrong” and find it as interesting as being “right,” and to live in uncertainty as comfortably as I can.

In Early Morning, Kim Stafford’s memoire of his father, William Stafford, he describes two ways of teaching writing. In the first, the erudite professor tells the student what he knows, often brilliantly; in the second, his father “interviews” his class, “puzzled, and his students help him.” Kim said that sometimes when he taught in the first manner, “…I would feel drunk with insight. Sentences spilled forth from my reading, my pondering, my pure invention. But when I finished we all dwelt in the trance of “so what?” So what if all these ideas were important to me. What question was bigger than me? What question would require the students to help me?”

I want to embrace that odd dance between knowing something and not-knowing, leaving myself open to unsuspected discoveries. Between being the teacher with the insight and being the witness for the insightful student. Being the student of student. It’s easy to remember that when I watch the teacher trainees teach their last certification class at Yoga on High.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2011, you who have acquired such expertise and insight in 12 intense months of study and practice and taught me so much. You have enough, you are enough. Nobody knows everything.

One Response to To the New Yoga Teachers
  1. Matthew Cline

    The special things that happen in our lives are few and far between sometimes. We are lucky to have list of things that we count as true blessings and highights of our lives. Unreservedly, this last year with Yoga on High’s masters and my fellow students and friends is one I gratefully put high on that list. I am glad to be able to move on from here from a place of proper preparations….and I am also terribly sorry to see it end.