Practicing What You Preach
This blog post started off as an instagram post, but I had too many ideas and wrote too much. This is just a few thoughts on the idea of practicing what you preach from what I’ve learnt and experienced as a yoga teacher.
I ask this question of myself a lot, and I ask it of others a lot too (even if it’s just in my head). My first thought really is that you need to ask this question of anyone that you are learning from, especially your yoga teacher. Practicing what you teach is so important, especially in yoga, in different ways.
I often tell others to take a break, to honour their body, to listen to what they need, but how often do I, and other teachers, actually do that? You can’t pour from an empty cup but what you’re full of spills out. You have to honour yourself, to lead by example, if you’re going to encourage others to do so.
This thought has been in my head recently since a class I taught the other day. It was a preplanned, pretty energetic class, that was part of a course so I couldn’t change it, with inversions and core work. When it came closer to teaching the class, I was feeling really awful, I had really bad cramps and was feeling quite nauseous. But what could I do? I couldn’t change the class, and it’s pretty difficult to teach without demonstrating in a zoom class! Surely it would be unprofessional to just change my plan, and hence interrupt the course of classes, because I wasn’t feeling up to it? Did I just have to power through?
That was certainly my plan... but as I started the class with my little “listen to you body blah blah do the variation that suits you best blah blah” spiel I realised I would be being a bad teacher (in my opinion anyways) if I just powered through the class despite feeling awful. As a yoga teacher you are, in my eyes, a role model, a guide, and someone you can trust. If I don’t respect my body when I’m teaching, then how can I expect others to do so when they practice?
In the end I talked through and briefly demonstrated the more advanced poses but did the gentler variations, and explained why I was doing that. I did feel a little like I was letting my pupils down. But I reminded myself; I serve others better when I am true to myself, my values, and practice what I preach.
My yoga is not about doing the impressive inversions and fast fancy flows, it’s about honouring my body, mind and soul. And because that is what my yoga is, that is what I teach, and embody even when I’m teaching.
Always listen to and honour your body, mind and soul, even if this is perhaps a little inconvenient.
This is especially important when you are a teacher - you have to live the values you want others to learn.
What else do I mean by practicing what you preach?
Having a personal practice, I think, is important for any yogi. Going to a class once a week, however good it is, needs a little home development as well. Don’t get me wrong, doing any yoga at all is awesome and amazing and super beneficial, I just mean to keep growing and developing and deepening you need some time alone with your practice.
A personal practice for a yoga teacher is required. To teach others you don’t need to be perfect or enlightened or endlessly knowledgeable, goodness knows I’m not, but I do think it’s necessary to be actively growing, learning, developing, whatever that looks like to you.
How can you expect your students to commit to yoga on the mat in class, on the mat at home, and off the mat, if you’re not? A yoga teacher is, in my eyes, a role model, a guide, and someone you can trust and learn from, they’re probably not perfect, and to be honest it helps if they’re flawed and open, but to be all these things, they need to be doing the same stuff they’re telling me to do.
I don’t generally post or write about my personal practice because it’s just that, personal. And honestly, I don’t think proving I have a personal practice is as important as having one, and it showing, in the way I act and teach and am. It does show. You can definitely tell if a teacher is using their class as their own practice. Which now I think about it is pretty selfish.
What I’m trying to express in far too many words, is that having a personal practice is important and mandatory for a yoga teacher, as is sticking to it even when it’s inconvenient, because practicing what you preach/teach is the best way to teach it.
Thank you for reading this post, apologies if it doesn’t all make perfect sense or is a little disjointed, I had one of those moments last night when your mind is racing and you have so many thoughts you just need to get it down. I felt it was something I should share with others, even if it’s not exactly polished.