Six months ago, I was accidentally hit in the head during my summer vacation and I experienced a concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). After returning home, I made several attempts at teaching my regular yoga classes, all of which resulted in a major upswing in my symptoms. I recently decided to take a hiatus from teaching.
My online bios all identify me, at least in part, as a yoga teacher. But am I still a yoga teacher, if I am no longer teaching? What defines a yoga teacher? The idea that I am either a student or a teacher, is a dualistic paradigm. Yoga helps me to realize a deeper truth: this student-teacher dichotomy is false. When I am a student, I am also a teacher and vice versa. Yoga, after all, means union. When I unite teaching and learning, I am expressing the higher truths of this practice.
I remember being at the Kripalu Yoga Center, a few months before I finished my yoga teacher training. I met several amazing women who told me that they were yoga teachers. “Where do you teach?” I asked. This is the question that people ask yoga teachers. It was the question that I used to ask. “I’m not teaching right now.” they answered. That shocked me. I was on the verge of starting my yoga teaching journey, bursting at the gills with excitement and energy. The idea that someone who could teach would not teach was startling to me. “Oh,” I’d answer, casting my eyes downward to protect them from my judgmental gaze and to save them from the embarrassment I was sure that they felt.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. I was stuck in that either-or mindset. I had to move through this shift myself, to understand that the question of where someone teaches fails to encompass a wide swath of teaching possibilities.
Being a yoga teacher is about more than a credential, taking payment, or seeing my name on a schedule of classes. I teach yoga when I arrive on my mat alone each morning, when I read articles about anatomy, and when I practice the yamas and niyamas in my daily life with myself, my family, and my friends. I teach yoga when I carry myself through this world with my very best attempt at grace and humility.