Are you in community with other yoga instructors? If you’re not, do you feel the lack of that? Even if you remain steady in your own views, there could very well be something in those views that you can learn from. Another important thing that fellow instructors can offer us is emotional and practical support. A graduate school professor of mine would always say “nothing in nature grows in isolation” - and aren’t we, as a species of animal, also part of nature?
A couple of examples from my teaching life illustrate this point. An instructor at my studio (where I'm a member, taking class almost every day) and I were talking about one of my corporate classes. I told her that it's been cancelled due to low attendance several times. Before I took her class the following day, she asked me “So what do you think is going on with that class? Just low numbers because of the summer?” We didn't have much time to talk about it then, but I later messaged her through social media to thank her for asking.
I shared with her that because I'm not in a studio’s team of teachers, my teaching life can feel lonely. It can be hard to come by someone to whom I can express concerns and fears, share in achievements, and offer knowledgeable constructive critique. She didn't respond because she’s currently extremely busy, in the middle of wedding planning and moving on top of her full-time teaching work. But she told in person a few days later that she enjoyed my message.
I believe that the instance demonstrates how many instructors will be open to hearing what you have to say, and to being a pillar of support, if you open yourself up to sharing what you’re thinking and feeling. It also made me realize that I really could use more of a “village” of fellow instructors and health/wellness/fitness professionals. I’ve carved out more time, space, and energy to connect with such professionals - first through social media and then meeting up in person.
As such, I've recently had a few lovely chats over coffee or meals with those who have an understanding of challenges I'm facing, can celebrate my achievements with me, and will ponder future directions for my teaching career with me. I can be present to offer the same to those with whom I’m meeting. This has felt great emotionally, stimulating intellectually, and helpful practically. Just as with that instructor at my studio, I've found these people to be very open, caring, and able to think very creatively. When we open ourselves up to others, they most often reciprocate. It has to start somewhere - why not with ourselves?
Another instance that demonstrates the advantage of appropriate self-disclosure occurred for me at a workshop I recently took with a yoga instruction master. She was sharing many important and eye-opening points on sometimes reducing the active quality of asana practice in order to customize it to our unique anatomies. I very much agreed with her points, but I shared my train of thought how this approach would likely not be well received in settings where people come to the practice for a “hard” workout.
She responded with the guidance that if certain teaching opportunities do not resonate with my deepest truth, release them and trust that new opportunities will arise. A well-known and respected local teacher attending that day added that it's important to find what really does resonate with me as a teacher, and to clearly, consistently offer that. I've recently noticed both these things happening for me.
I feel I've been more capable of offering students what they came for in different classes I teach, yet also maintaining my signature style as a teacher. And I’m seeing the truth that I can pass up on opportunities that aren't in harmony with that style, because enough opportunities are coming my way that are! Yet that might be harder to see I had never heard that wise teacher’s response. And I might not feel confident in maintaining that way I authentically teach without my fellow workshop attendee’s astute comment.
If I had kept in my head with my fears and doubts, in my own “bubble”, this productive process would never have happened. Just as our practice asks us not to judge, but to notice and adapt as necessary, we teachers can do that for each other. Don’t suffer in silence. Don't keep your joys to yourself. And be there for other instructors so that they can avoid those things as well. Together in community, we as professionals can truly make a difference in this world.