In fact, I’m the opposite of that, whatever you want to call it—high-strung, high-stress, high-energy, high-anxiety, Type A, OCD. I’ve spent most of my life being a go-go-goer: I never stand on the right side on escalators, I’m the first one up after eating dinner, I take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator, and I’ve gotten many a speeding ticket in my time on Earth.
However, I’m also a yoga teacher.
I recently had an old friend from college attend one of my yoga classes. She was in town visiting her friend, Kara, who attends my classes regularly, and was excited to finally take my class after hearing about them for a while.
As she walked in, she recounted an earlier discussion between she and Kara, “When Kara told me that she loved your classes and that they were super relaxing, I was like, “Whaaaat? Mary Catherine is relaxing???”
Similarly, when I told my best friend that I think some of my students believe that I’m a calming, fairly stress-free person, she started laughing. “Really? They think you’re calming??? I mean, you’ve definitely gotten better over the years, but I wouldn’t describe you that way…” So do you see? This is what I’m talking about: I am not a relaxed person.
And yet, somehow, I think I’m still a pretty good yoga teacher. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the amazing, all-encompassing, life-changing power of yoga.
I love yoga more than anything, and so do my students. I believe in it, in it’s power to initiate growth and major shifts in our lives; I can relate to my students, and they can relate to me, and maybe that’s why it works. Because here’s the misconception about yoga—everyone thinks you have to be a new-age, OMing, flexible, blissed-out, stress-free, grounded vegan to teach yoga. People hear “yoga teacher” and immediately, an image of their parents’ hippy friend comes to mind, or they imagine the skinny activist that they knew in college, or the mala-wearing barista who works at the local co-op—but that’s not who we are.
We yoga teachers are the same as you—especially these days, and especially in the West. Sure, some of us are blissed-out hippies, or skinny activists, or mala-wearing, Lululemon-clad individuals, but some of us aren’t. It doesn’t really matter what we “are,” what matters is that we’re just like our students; We’re human.
Just because you’re naturally high-strung doesn’t mean that you can’t teach yoga. Yoga is one of the only things that makes me feel un-strung, and that’s why I teach it. When I’m teaching, I go to a different place; I tap into the calm, grounded, passionate, inspired part of my being, and leave the stressed out part at the door.
Sure, my Type A alter-ego sneaks in and makes an appearance sometimes, but I like to think that my students appreciate seeing that I struggle with the same anxieties that they do, that I have the same urges to pick at my toes in Baddha Konasana that they do, that my mind wanders to my grocery list sometimes—even while teaching (God forbid!)—and that everything is still okay.
So the next time that someone says, “You’re a yoga teacher?” or, “You practice yoga?” you can tell them, “Yes. And the way you’re saying that is exactly why I do.”