I’ve been teaching yoga for a year now and recently I posted some reflections on my first year of teaching yoga.
I’d like to follow that up with some reflections on why I teach yoga…
Something wasn’t right
I first came to thinking about training as a yoga teacher about 4 years ago or so. For many years I’d been working in communications / web editing. I enjoyed the aspect of communicating with people – writing, editing, training others in the ability to publish online and improve their online writing skills, and shaping and improving websites.
I think I did it well but it never felt a good fit; it didn’t ignite any passion in me. I felt I was pretending at something.
While I know I do have good writing, editing and training skills, I felt something of a fraud working in the fast-moving area of digital media. Hey, I was writing content for mobile apps but didn’t own a smart phone! Something felt out of alignment. I was using my skills but not in the best way for myself or to help other people. Something was missing.
All of this time I’d been practising yoga by going to a weekly class, then attending yoga workshops, going on retreats, then practising yoga every day, and becoming more and more interested in the subtleties and philosophy of yoga. Yoga had slowly evolved to become an important part of my life.
Listening to the calling
I knew the favourite part of my existing job was the teaching and training aspect.
I knew that my yoga practice had changed my life: physically I was much more flexible and had released long-held tensions in my body; emotionally I had matured; and I had gradually become aware of patterns of thoughts and behaviours. All of this enabled by my yoga practice.
I don’t remember the day I thought “I should teach yoga!” but I do remember a slowly evolving belief that this was calling me. I loved teaching and I loved yoga. It felt a natural progression to train to teach yoga.
At first, I discounted it: I can’t do that… I’m not flexible enough to be a yoga teacher. What do I know? I get anxious and stressed out, who am I to teach yoga if I can’t master my mind and emotions? (That makes me laugh as I write it! As if anyone can! It’s about how we deal with our minds and emotions rather than aiming to stop them…)
But something inside knew this felt right, so I persevered – I noticed the questioning voices, but carried on. I spent a few months pondering and researching, then registered on a British Wheel of Yoga course, which got cancelled… I strongly believe that was meant to be, as soon after I discovered Dru yoga and found that, in a few months, a teacher training course was starting up in my area. So I went on a taster day, and then took the plunge – I registered for their teacher training course. (The most deeply fulfilling, challenging and transformative two years of my life! But that’s probably another blog post!)
So here I am – Stella Tomlinson, Dru Yoga Teacher J
Why I teach
So why did I feel, why do I feel, yoga is my vocation? Why do I teach?
I’m an eternal student. Yoga fascinates me – I’ve learned so much but I know there is so much more to learn, to experience, to share, to open up to.
I want to be useful. I’m not interested in making lots of money; I’m not interested in promotion and climbing a career ladder. I want to spend my time on this earth doing something useful. That’s always been a strong motivator. I want to help people.
I want to help people – to help themselves But I’m not a healer. I’m not doing anything to the people who come to my classes. I simply pass on the yoga practice to enable them to discover things they may not experienced within themselves before.
Yes, every yoga teacher is unique and has their own way and personality through which they connect to their students, but it’s not just about me. I’m the conduit. I show them the pose, I help them find their way into it. I share the breathing techniques. I give them space to allow themselves to relax. But they do the work. I can show the way, I can do my best to make the way feel safe – but it’s up to them to decide how far to travel.
That’s why I love teaching yoga – and that’s why I love practising yoga. Each person experiences it differently and makes of it as much as they will.
I wish to help people find self-acceptance. Again, this is something I’ve found through yoga. Often we come to yoga to improve our flexibility or to find respite from busy minds – we want to change something about ourselves. But the beauty of yoga is that gradually it helps you to accept yourself as you are. No two people can move the same – we all have subtly different anatomies, muscular flexibilities, life experience stored in our bodies. Yoga can help us to accept how we are today. It can bring us into the present. And in accepting ourselves, we often find transformation. A graceful paradox.
I want to help people open their minds. Ok, that sounds grandiose! But I know that my yoga experience has helped me to open my mind to different ideas, thoughts and experiences.
So I’d like to help people with this, whether that’s opening their minds to allow themselves the belief that one day they will touch their toes, or their back will feel stronger and more flexible, or that they will find a way out of depression or release from stress… Or it could be to open their minds a little to the idea that each of us is a being of love and compassion, despite what life has so far taught them. Or to become open to the idea that there is a higher consciousness – which could be within themselves or outside; whatever feels right for them.
Yoga leads to flexibility
I know that I’ve become more flexible in my beliefs.
When I first started yoga, if you mentioned chakras to me I would roll my eyes and think “whatever … new age hippy crap…”.
Then a chink opened in my mind and I let the idea in, “OK maybe this chakra stuff makes sense – if I work with Warriors, I do feel more grounded – not just physically but deep within myself. If I think of the colour yellow, I feel more energy. Hmmm, visualizing a lotus with infinite petals at the crown of my head feels good – it makes me feel connected to something outside myself”. And when I was suffering with IBS a few years ago and read how that related to chakras a light bulb really switched on – I was reading about myself!
I also struggled with confidence – I was anxious and very reserved. Yet slowly, by moving my body and connecting to my breath I began to release the bonds that my mind had wrapped every layer of myself in. I could touch my toes. I could stand up straight. I could cry instead of bottling things up. I could talk about how I felt. I could stand up in front of groups of people and speak to them with confidence. I could be myself.
I understood that I was absolutely fine just as I am – we all are – and that by being me I could use my natural talents to help myself and others.
And I could do this by connecting my talents with something I loved and lived: yoga.
If I could help people to free themselves from physical discomfort, to strengthen their bodies and their willpower, to build their confidence, to connect to their breath, to find peace and calm, to release negative patterns of thinking or behaviour, I would live a fulfilling and authentic life. And this is what I’m doing.
I teach yoga because I want to share what yoga has done for me.
Yoga has helped me to be me. It has enabled me to move. To breathe. To relax. To smile. To become aware. To love. To live.
That’s why I teach yoga. That’s why I’m living yoga. And that’s why I’d invite you to bring yoga into your life…
What might you discover?
Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is an accessible and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by flowing movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.