From small studios and trendy chains to online tutorials, yoga is everywhere in 2017. Students around the globe now have access to a variety of practice styles, both in class and at home. As a teacher who believes firsthand in the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga, I couldn’t be happier. The world could always use a little more yoga!
But with the growth of this practice has come a few misconceptions about those who have chosen to lead it. In an effort to remind students just how accessible yoga is, here are five of those pesky little myths and the hard-hitting truths behind them:
1. Yoga teachers live in a perpetual state of Zen.
Let's clear this one up right now: In one of the most recognized philosophical writings of yoga, Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, practitioners are introduced to the concept of santosha. Santosha translates to "contentment," and it speaks to one’s ability to feel at peace with him- or herself. Sounds pretty simple for a professional yogi, right?
Wrong. I would love to say that I wake up each morning blissfully finding my place on a meditation pillow without a thought or a care in the world. And some days, I do. But I also get tired and under the weather, and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the thought of what’s to come that day. Regardless, being a yoga teacher does not mean I’ve found the key to bypassing all of life’s sticky ups and downs. And as far as I know, it doesn’t for anyone else either.
Though we are teachers, we are also humans. We are always shifting, growing, and changing just like the rest of the world. The difference is that most of us have committed to utilizing the practice of yoga to help us navigate life’s hills and valleys with as much love and grace as we can. Sitting in the present moment with absolute un-attachment and gratitude is as much a practice as it is a process. On some days I feel truly content, and on others, I simply feel grateful that I'm able to keep trying.
2. We have never experienced hard times, unhappiness, or crisis.
Some of the most insightful, inspiring teachers have also been those who have endured the most trying periods of struggle. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, illness, or loss, a number of people come to yoga as a means of healing. And teachers are no different.
For many of us, myself included, we found yoga as a source of strength and a means of alleviating whatever it was we were grappling with. We may still be working through some of those issues. That’s what makes us humans, and ultimately our ability to feel those very human experiences is what allows us to connect with our students. At the end of the day, we’re in it together.
3. We look and act exactly the same.
From the brands we sport to the music we listen to, there seems to be a preconceived notion that each of us teachers is cut from the same cloth. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not everyone has the same body type.
Some of us have tattoos or wear mala beads; others don’t. Yoga is unique and so are the men and women who teach it. There is no one way to "look" or "act" when it comes to exploring yoga as a student or a teacher. All that matters is that you are true to yourself and approach each class with compassion.
4. We can do every pose.
This may come as a surprise, but being a certified yoga teacher does not mean you are required to master every pose. In fact, the physical postures or asanas you move through in class are only one aspect of a much larger practice. Despite what you may see on Instagram, yoga isn’t just about how deeply you can melt your body into advanced poses. It’s about joining both the body and breath in a way that allows for healthy growth on and off the mat. Don’t get me wrong, it feels awesome to finally nail a pose, but your ability to teach is by no means solely defined by your physical practice.
5. We know everything there is to know about yoga.
Just as we began this practice as students, we continue to learn and grow in the same capacity. The added label of teacher simply means we have the opportunity to lead others as we continue our experience with it. Both on and off the mat, I am learning daily how to better integrate yoga into my life.
Ultimately, this is why it is called a practice. It is not meant to be mastered or championed. Yoga simply exists as a constant chance to drop in and learn.