In our new Realtalk Fitness series, we're sharing the realities of being a fitness instructor today. We know it takes a lot of effort to create a lasting career with a steady following, and we want to shed light on what it’s really like.
Being a yoga teacher is rewarding, humbling, and inspiring. Yet there are times when it can seem exhausting, daunting, and downright difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, 97 percent of the time, it’s fabulous, but yoga teachers are real people — who experience pain, trauma, and darkness — just like the students they share the practice with.
There has been one day of teaching that was my hardest yet — the day I had to teach after I found out I had a miscarriage. We hadn’t been trying to get pregnant. In fact, I was on birth control when I learned that I was expecting. Sure, we were nervous, but to say we were stoked is an understatement.
And then we received new news, about three weeks after I found out I was pregnant, “You’ve had a very early miscarriage. Don’t worry; this is very common in the first trimester.” And just like before, WHAM. Not the news that I was expecting to hear.
The news came on a Wednesday, the same day I teach hip-hop yoga at my local studio. The class is lighthearted. We laugh. We get low. We shake our asanas.
But I didn’t want to teach. I was sad. I was angry. I was heartbroken. Yet my name is on a weekly schedule that binds me to my students. It’s a commitment I very happily accept most of the time, and it’s a commitment I had to accept despite the darkness that engulfed me on that particular Wednesday.
The thought of being around anyone, let alone people excited to dig deep in their own "healthy" bodies, disgusted me. I was so mad at my own body for "failing" me, and I was mad at every other woman for being more capable, strong, and "womanly" than I. And I was just as mad at myself for having such ugly and negative thoughts.
I almost called a sub four times. But I knew the studio would have to scramble to find someone to teach and I didn't want my students to miss out. Subs are hard to come by!
I had to show up. I was sad when I got to the parking lot of the studio, but then I walked in and almost forgot. I was greeted by my cheerful fellow yogis who work at the studio every Wednesday. They gave me hugs, as they always do, but they didn't realize or know how much I needed the hug or how much their hugs meant to me that day.
As class started, I felt at ease, and as I looked around at the room I felt my heart soften for the first time since I had received the news. We all showed up to the practice for one reason or another and I felt the unity of the practice takeover. The students didn't annoy me one bit; they helped me work through my experience. I was supported by their big breath and energy.
I felt much lighter after teaching. Sure, I was still really sad, but I wasn't angry at my body or at the "healthy ones" as I had been before class. My body wasn't ready, but that didn't mean it never would be.
My point? Yoga teachers are real. I feel joy and pain. I run out of gas, get frustrated with my boyfriend, and overindulge. I can't do every arm balance under the sun — I fall, too! I think there's this false impression that yoga teachers are perfect, but we're not. I am on the same beautiful roller coaster of life that my students are.
So give yourself a break. Give your yoga (or other fitness) teachers a break. We all experience dark days, bad hair days, and hangover ("I am going to throw up on you." No, really) days.
We also all experience light days, joyful days, and healthful days. So feel your emotions and allow them to feel you. It’s through the awareness of these emotions — with no judgment, mind you — that we are able to live beautiful, bountiful lives! Let this practice help us to remember why we’re alive, no matter what’s going on around us.