by Elissa Jordan, Adventures in Teaching
Am I good enough? Can I do this?
No matter who you are or what you’re trying to do, questions like these can creep up from time to time. And the more aligned you are to your true purpose, the louder these questions can be.
Why is that?
Well, being true to yourself is kind of a big deal. What happens if you blow it? What happens if the one thing you want more than anything else in this life all goes to shit?
These doubts and questions and fears are all there to keep you safe. If you don’t risk big, you can’t lose big. Except that you do. You lose out on having the most amazing life possible.
Like being a yoga teacher, for example.
Standing in front of a group. You may know them all really well, you may not know them at all. But they’re expecting that you know something. That you’re going to guide them to all those things that yoga is supposed to be good for: health, wellness, strength, flexibility, oneness.
You are, after all, the teacher.
When you let it, this can be pretty daunting.
I came to teaching yoga full of bravado. I had a very ‘I’ve got this’ attitude to the whole thing.
I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not only some thing I wanted to do, but something I had to do.
Of course all this pomposity came crashing down when it came to actually standing in front of a group.
When I focused only on the idea of teaching, I saw only the end result – happier, calmer, more relaxed people.
But the first time I actually stepped into the role of teacher that’s when the fears and doubts set in. Who do I think I am? There are so many people who would be better placed to be in my shoes. I shouldn’t be doing this. My inner critic nearly hyperventilated with laughter at my expense.
This near-paralysing fear continues to rear it’s ugly head, to this day it’s there. I’ve just gotten much better at telling my inner critic – ‘I’ve got this’.
But, what if I forget the sequence? What do I do when someone with an injury I’ve never heard of comes in? What if they don’t like me?
I’ve seen it. Those teachers who are verging on god-like. The ones who never flinch, never break a sweat, always have the answer. Cool as cucumbers they are.
This of course makes it worse.
Bloody hell, I can never be like that. They’re so much better than me. I should just give up now. I’m no good at this.
Of course I’m ignoring the fact that they’ve been practicing for thirty years, teaching for twenty. Or that I’ve been practising for ten years, teaching for just over two. Bit of a difference. Never mind, I’m sure they were born with this stuff all programmed in. They never had to work hard, they never had to try. It all comes naturally to them, I’m sure.
So, what happens if you do forget the sequence? Well, for a start, the world doesn’t end. Put your students in uttanasana or balasana or any other pose where they can comfortably spend a minute or two while you compose yourself and pull together the next couple steps in the sequence. Trust your intuition.
And if someone comes into your class with a limitation you’ve never encountered before? Ask them: how does this feel? Is this okay. Own up to your own limitation, tell them you’ll go away and look into it. Then do that. Next time they come in you’re more confident and they’re more comfortable.
There are some teachers who have asked pregnant ladies to leave their class because they couldn’t keep them safe. And that’s okay too. Again, it’s your class, you need to feel in control of whose there and what’s happening. If someone comes in and you really don’t feel you can keep them safe, it’s okay to ask them to leave.
The doubts and fears are all natural. If you’re not getting them, well then there’s something to worry about. But the question is how do you deal with them?
For a start, there’s yoga.
Yoga is there to help you connect with your true self. It helps you to understand that all the answers are already within you. Yoga helps you learn to trust yourself. This wonderful practice that you’re so eager to share is the same practice that can keep you grounded and sane. It also helps you to tap into your intuition.
So that when something entirely unheard of swoops into your world, you can casually sit back and tell your fear – I’ve got this.
If your inner critic isn’t interested in listening, you may also want to try: talking to your friends, go for a walk, journal, sing, dance, work harder, take a training, ask your students for feedback, have a glass of wine, have a cup of tea, have another teacher take your class and give feedback, find a mentor, give yourself a hug, go for a run, give someone else a hug, laugh, cry, shout, dance, dance, dance, read books, read blogs, ask questions, don’t give up, embrace those feeling and use them as a teaching point, go on a retreat, have reasonable expectations, set goals, celebrate your successes, eat chocolate.
Above all, when doubt and fear strikes just know that you are not alone. And nothing in this life is permanent, these feelings too will pass.
Got a question about teaching yoga? Ask Elissa! She’ll find out the answer for you, and write about it for an up-coming column.