“If you really want to understand something, teach it,” often quotes my husband (many of you know I was recently married and still smile when I say “my husband”). It’s one of the reasons he became a language arts teacher despite his biology major. And it was not one of the reasons I became a yoga teacher. At least, not that I knew at the time.
Many people are drawn to the physical practice of yoga, and I was too, but I was also curious about the “other stuff.” I thought that maybe the physical practice would tell me more about the other stuff-like why am I here, what’s my purpose in life, is there something more or something bigger than this ordinary life? I longed for a connection to, or an understanding of, this bigger thing, whatever that may be. I had a dreamy and youthful idea of enlightenment and the power to change the world with my (soon to be) found understanding. And so it was through the physical practice of yoga that I truly began my search for this elusive, grand, and special understanding.
I practiced and I felt good. I got stronger and more flexible. I explored more, read more, and practiced more. But many of my habits remained. My life didn’t really change dramatically and the answers I was looking for still remained unanswered. Time went on; I continued to practice and eventually took part in a teacher training program. One thing led to another and I started teaching. Through all this, my passion for yoga continued to grow. I kept reading; I kept practicing, but still nothing exciting happened. Sure, one day I was able to do a fancy yoga pose that I couldn’t the day before. But no great answers were being revealed. Or so I thought.
It’s been nearly six years since I first started teaching, and almost fifteen since my yoga journey began. And now as I look back at the place I came from, I see so clearly how my practice, and my teaching, has informed my life off the mat. The patience and compassion that are so important to teach others have made their way into my daily life. As I see the slow yet steady changes in the lives and bodies of my students, it’s like a mirror for my own life.
Habits don’t change overnight. And while my life has actually changed dramatically, I was simply in the midst of it while it was happening, so it didn’t feel like a big discovery or revelation. Like watching my hair grow-one day it was long, right before my very eyes. Old habits silently slipped away and the need for great answers eased. Or more likely, my questions have changed.
I am now content in the present moment (usually -remember it is practice), just as I ask my students to be. And as Georg Feuerstein wrote, “The closer we are to Self-realization, or enlightenment, the more ordinary we become.” It is through both my practice and my teaching that I’ve come to really understand that. As a result, I have come to truly understand the power of the yoga practice. I don’t need that something exciting anymore; I just need to be where I am. It turns out that that extraordinary thing I was looking for was with me the whole time-it rests in my breath, in paying attention, and in seeing what it is I’m already a part of.