Not Your Typical 'Yogi,' But I Teach Yoga

Not Your Typical 'Yogi,' But I Teach Yoga

By Deborah Dunham for

Yoga teachers scare me. I've often thought of them as being all love and peace and serene, living perfect lives with perfect spouses and perfect families. They don't get mad or angry or jealous. They don't have judgmental or negative thoughts about anyone -- even the asshole across the street who calls the neighborhood homeowners association every time they don't bring in the garbage can. They don't care about material goods. They live in small, simple homes. And when not practicing yoga, they spend the better part of their days meditating and spreading love, light and positive vibes throughout the world. "Yogier than thou" is what I call them.

I know this is all very stereotypical and probably not at all true, but still: They intimidate me. Which is why, when my yoga teachers encouraged me to get certified as an instructor myself, my first thought was sheer terror. I'm not like them, I thought. I can't walk around all we-are-the-world-ish saying "namaste" and pretending to love everyone I encounter. I'm just not that yogic. In fact, I do many things that are downright unyogic.

For starters, I cuss. A lot. Sometimes I swear at people on the way to yoga and again on the way home. Hell, sometimes I even swear at people (in my mind) during yoga. And I've come damn near to spurting out an obscenity or two at the teacher when I'm forced to hold a pose too long. See? Unyogic.

And if you hadn't already gathered, I get mad, too. At my kids, my hubby, my dogs... Quite regularly, in fact. Except for the dogs. And I barely speak to certain members of my family (who shall remain nameless). Let's just say I become about as un-yogic as humanly possible when dealing with them. I lose patience with the grocery store check-out lady when she's too slow; I don't always share the last chocolate chip cookie in the house; I mutter under my breath to people riding the wrong way in the bike laneand I may have shot a waitress looks of disgust when she starting clipping her nails at the restaurant counter. I watch mindless TV, read mindless books and don't know the first thing about India. Oh, and I am definitely not a go-with-the-flow person. I like neatness and order and predictability and schedules. And (as if all of that's not enough), I'm also opinionated, sarcastic, competitive, bossy and a bit of a control freak.

It makes sense that I am panicked by the thought of teaching yoga, right?

So I've done what any good yogi would do. Nothing. I'd like to say that I meditated on the idea of becoming a teacher, but I didn't. I just sat with it, mulled it over, talked about it countless times with my hubby (when I'm not mad at him), pushed it to the back of my brain and even tried giving a yoga class to myself (which didn't turn out well, to put it kindly).

Then the other day, I was talking with one of my best friends (who just so happens to be a life coach, which makes her extremely wise and knowing). After explaining my dilemma, she looked at me, almost like she was going to laugh and said, "Deborah, if you tried to be any of those things that you think a yoga teacher is, you wouldn't be you. People will come to your class because it will have your down-to-earth style with your great energy that we all know and love. You will probably attract a whole new set of people just because you're not the typical yoga teacher." Really? You mean I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not? Phew!

I am deeply passionate about yoga, and I do have a strong desire to share it and help others feel strong, empowered, capable, worthy and happy -- all things that, despite my unyogic habits, I have managed to gain from my practice. And one thing I am not is someone who can sit by without making a difference in the world. From the very first class I ever took, I instantly knew how yoga could impact so many people. Since then, I've continued having visions of using yoga to assist abused kids, teens, battered women, and jobless and homeless people. That's where my heart is. And as long as I follow my heart, continue to stand in my truth, take full ownership for my story and be okay with who I am, I will eventually reach my fullest potential. And I will not worry about having to be phony as a teacher.

Yes, I am a work in progress, but isn't that what yoga is all about? Just like there is no perfect pose or perfect asana, there is no perfect teacher or perfect class. Whatever flaws we have – no matter how unyogic, we need to embrace them. And as long as we show up consistently on our mats and invest our hearts and energy to this good practice, we're all yogic. Even that asshole across the street.

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