Dear Fellow Yoga Teachers,
I’m making the same drive I’ve made across town for nine years, to the local tennis club where I teach a hatha yoga class. It’s a private club, and the class is small in comparison to the big studios in town. As I drive, I’m thinking about you, also driving to your weekly classes. I’m thinking about all of you instructors around the world who are showing up to teach in your nontraditional spaces in community centers, church basements, and conference rooms.
I don’t know your names and you don’t know mine, but I know you’re out there. We’ve worked at the beautiful studios with muraled walls, boutiques, and large classes, but it’s here, the places we’re headed to now, where we’ve always felt most aligned with our teaching. These are the students who probably wouldn't have found us at a traditional studio. We were probably the first people to introduce them to the practice of yoga. These students show up week after week, year after year to these funny little spaces without windows and without decor. It doesn’t matter to them. They trust us, they know us, and we know them. We’ve made these spaces sacred. We know the strengths and limitations of our students' bodies. We know what’s happening in their lives and often why they show up for class. We are their teachers, their guides. We are important to them.
I drive on. I feel drained from a long day, but so do you. We mentally transition from our day jobs, shaking off looming deadlines, crumbs from our toddlers' dinners, and dings on our phones, all in order to be present for our students. I think about Dr. Anderson’s new hip and Jennifer’s sore rotator cuff. Will they be in class tonight? How can I incorporate a few beneficial poses just for them? I wonder what you’ll teach the construction worker with the bad back or the couple with arthritis. We’ve learned so much through our students. I think back to a student I had who was returning to yoga after a knee replacement. She taught me how doing vrksasana (tree pose) in a corner of a room helps her feel safe. If she loses her balance, the walls are there to catch her. Or how pulling out some old chairs for a student who needs help adjusting warrior one for a hurt knee can turn into a favorite new chair yoga class for everyone.
As I pull into the parking lot, I feel you all with me, in this moment, as we simultaneously swing our heavy bags over our shoulders, grab our well-worn teaching mats, and get to work. I notice a few pairs of shoes are already lined up neatly outside the "studio" door as I arrive. Perhaps you see a row of shoes too, and perhaps, like me, you smile, remembering the days when there were none.
There is a moment, just before I begin, when all is silent, that I draw upon you, extraordinary teachers everywhere. I can sense all of my teachers, all the yogis I’ve met around the country, and those I hope to meet in the future who give themselves to sharing this practice as I do, as I am about to do. You are my inspiration!
As teachers of yoga, we are all intricately connected. As we meet one another on retreats, in trainings, or simply by chance, we are linking together. It doesn’t matter where we teach, or in what tradition or style, we are offering opportunities for our individual communities to have access to this practice in all its transformative ways with no glitz, fortune, or fame. You and me, showing up today for these souls, with our hearts wide open, adds an indelible spirit that is supporting, uplifting, and healing humankind.
As I close each class with my palms lightly pressing together I bow to you, to all the students who share this practice, and to myself. For the moments you doubt yourself, your teaching, or your contribution to the evolution of the human spirit, peek your eyes open and look at those in front of you. You will never know exactly how huge a ripple you have helped to create.
Julie Konrad is a certified hatha yoga instructor and writer living and practicing in Cleveland, OH. Julie is currently studying to become an Ayurveda Yoga Specialist at the Himalayan Institute.