It’s teacher appreciation week, but for the first time I am celebrating it from my couch instead of in my classroom surrounded by my students. While it is sad to not have the ability to be physically present with my students, I am so appreciative of my opportunity to connect with them virtually.
The lessons I have learned throughout my journey with yoga have helped prepare me for this unique situation of isolation from my students. Using the tools I’ve learned during my yoga practice, I feel connected with my students despite our current physical distance.
I had never planned on being a teacher. I was not one of those little girls who played “teacher” with her dolls. I did not study to become a teacher in my undergraduate studies either. Teaching sort of fell into my lap. In graduate school I was given the opportunity to teach while completing my course load. I had never envisioned myself as a teacher, but suddenly I was one. And it changed me.
I had never realized how much of an impact I could truly make in someone’s life. Being of service in this way is incredibly humbling. This unplanned life path soon became an important part of my life and how I’ve come to define myself.
My journey with yoga is similar. It was unplanned and unexpected. I was a college athlete and active all of my life so working out was nothing new to me. I actively went to the gym and lifted weights. I had dabbled in yoga here and there, but I never considered it to be my preferred form of exercise let alone a lifestyle.
Once again, life decided to take me on a journey I had never anticipated. My best friend said that we should buy a Groupon for the Hot Room. I had never tried hot yoga so I was intrigued and agreed to give it a shot. My first class changed my life. I had never done something so physically and mentally challenging. I mean, I was a college athlete. I worked out regularly. Yoga should be easy right? Right? Wrong. After my first class I couldn’t wait for my second.
I had never found something so physically demanding that also made my body feel GOOD. Along with the physical benefits, yoga also challenged me mentally. I have learned to train my mind and body to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I have learned the immense power that focus and breath can have in any situation, but especially in times of stress or high anxiety. I have come to know my body and my mind like I never did before through time spent on my mat. I still have a lot to learn, but the progress I have made personally is more than I ever could have imagined.
It seems fitting that the next turn on this unexpected path would be my decision to do a yoga teacher training. I had fallen in love with yoga and I was already a teacher, but I was still relatively new at yoga so I didn’t think I was “ready” to become a yoga instructor. After lots of thought and talks with friends and family I decided to go for it. I completed power vinyasa teacher training through the Hot Room Leadership Institute. I could write a book on the amazing and life changing benefits of going through teacher training, but one thing I will say is that if you’ve ever considered doing one, DO IT. I learned so much more about my practice, myself, and my teaching through the training. So much of what I learned I have put into practice in my life especially in my classroom (and now virtually) with my students.
Teacher training forced me to get out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. I was forced to do a lot of self inquiry, which led to a lot of self actualization and willingness to push the boundaries of my personal and professional life. I am now much more comfortable with allowing my full self to be present and heard in any situation instead of just sitting back and observing. I now choose to fill each room with my energy and words. This applies to my personal life but also my teaching. Although my classroom is now online, I can still fill that space with my love, encouragement, and energy for my students.
During training I also learned the importance of speaking into each and every person. This is often easier said than done especially when speaking through a computer screen. But in order for my students to feel seen and connected during this difficult time, I must do my absolute best to be focussed and attentive at all times while engaging with them. I now have the awareness to make sure that every student feels seen.
I am a Spanish teacher so I have always been very interested in language and its undeniable power. Yoga and teacher training have made me even more aware of the words that I chose to use, but also the tone in which I speak them. Everything in this world sends and receives vibrations.
Our language and tone have the power to increase or decrease the vibration of those around us. Words are powerful. I have become much more keen to how I speak not only to my students but also my colleagues and myself. Language choice has always been stressed as important in my class, but now I make sure my students are fully aware of just how powerful their use of language is not only in Spanish but also in English.
I plan to continue incorporating all that I have learned through my yoga practice and teacher training in my personal and professional life. I hope to share my knowledge of breath work, movement, and inquiry with my students so that they can also use these tools during this unprecedented time. Each time I step onto my mat I learn how I can continue to love myself and therefore love and serve my students in the most authentic way possible. I challenge all of you reading this to do the same. See where you can apply what you have been working on on your mat to the world around you. How can you dig deeper? Where can you allow yourself grace? When do you need to take a deep breath? How can you be more present so that you can truly fill the space you are in? Most importantly, I challenge you to hug your children and tell them that their teachers miss them desperately, and go and thank a teacher!