In the spirit of satya (Sanskrit for truth and one of the guiding principles or yamas of the tradition of yoga), I offer you the following two – simple yet profound - guidelines to ponder during your time in the yoga room with me, other teachers, and beyond.
1. I Am Just Like You.
Upon walking into yoga class, it can be easy to feel (and perhaps we somehow want or need to feel) as though there is a vast canyon of difference between student and instructor. If my mat sits at the front of the room, and yours at the back, then I must have greater physical prowess and skill than you can ever hope to occupy. I must be a spiritual expert, an evolved being, while you are simply a mere mortal. I must live, know, eat, sleep, and breathe yoga in all its glorious expressions and never make mistakes or bad choices. Because I sit before you in lotus pose with a gentle smile, logic must dictate that my body and mind are pure – my humanity perfected. If only.
As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. I am just like you – I came to yoga once upon a time for perhaps the very same reasons that propel you through my door today: incessant back pain, a wish for stress relief, a friend’s recommendation, a search for greater ease…the list goes on. What separates me from you is simply time. My journey started earlier, and my love for the practice grew deep enough to inspire me to pursue teaching so as to share the practice beyond my own mat. Yes, I am flexible and I understand Sanskrit and anatomy. But I am also human. I am prone to the same pitfalls that plague us all – I get parking tickets, I disappoint people, I even curse on occasion. It’s true. So, please see me as you see yourself – fallible, in search of broader meaning, and imperfectly perfect.
2. Listen to Yourself Above All Else.
In the yoga world, we often speak of leaving the ego behind when we come to the mat. However, human conditioning interferes more often than not with that noble goal. We have all, at one point or another, found ourselves glancing at the student with her leg twisted behind her head in frustrated jealousy. Even when we know better, or believe otherwise, it can feel impossible not to judge or compare. Ironically, easing out of, rather than into, a pose that is too much for your body is the hallmark of a seasoned practitioner. We as yoga teachers appreciate when we see a student follow the verbal prompts to modify a pose and support their body appropriately. Of course we want you to push and challenge yourself, but only in a wise and safe manner.
If you are new to yoga, perhaps this rings particularly true for you. Often it is the beginner’s ego that pushes too hard, tries to keep up, and perhaps crosses over into injury/frustration territory. Rather than walking out of the room with a sense of disappointment and the instinct to give up on yoga, try really listening to the instructor. Be sure to choose the right classes for you. Open your mind to the modifications and options the teacher offers and try them! Start simply and add on more challenge and flourish as your body grows stronger, more yoga-literate, and increasingly flexible. After all, this really is your practice. It is not being measured, watched, or judged by anyone else.
Your Yoga Teacher
Kate Tripp is a yoga teacher, writer, mother, and co-founder of Luma Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio for adults and children in Santa Cruz, CA. She shares her wisdom and experience on the Three Minute Egg blog with weekly, inspirational, yoga-related blog posts. Read Kate's full bio here.