How to show up and teach when the world is on fire - again!
Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Note: this post was inspired by a conversation in my Yoga mentorship program and is mostly geared towards Yoga teachers. Although some probably still apply to showing up in life.
In case you haven’t been paying attention….the world we live in is rather effed up!
Sure - there’s still plenty of magic afoot AND the reality is this magic isn’t always available when the world is on fire, sometimes quite literally.
As a full-time yoga teacher for the last 8ish years - I often HAVE to show up when sh*t goes down (both personally and collectively). If I was to call out every time something happened then I wouldn’t have a job.
I also choose NOT to pretend that everything is awesome, especially when human rights are being taken away in the courts, Black folks are getting murdered in their homes, and anti-2SLGBTQIA+ legislation gets pushed through the election cycles.
In the past, I often prided myself on all the ways I showed up in the midst of things. I’ve taught yoga with no voice, a broken foot, sun poisoning, through many broken hearts and clunky transitions….the list could go on and on.
It’s only recently that I’ve learned how to take time for myself AND trust that my bank account will still be ok. I still struggle with pre-emptive self–care but I am learning my burn-out warning signs BEFORE they sputter me out completely.
People show up to a community yoga class for many reasons - but generally speaking we go to yoga to feel better - mind/body/spirit/heart/yes!!
The most time I’ve spent on my mat has been in times of personal crisis. And with Yoga being prescribed for what ails ya - folks are showing up with their own concerns, trauma, and expectations.
It’s also necessary to recognize that our students are showing up in the midst of things too - both personal and collective. Sometimes we may know what they are wading through but often we won’t.
My point - Our students are coming to us with real life -ish happening in real time. I personally feel it’s a disservice to pretend that this -ish isn’t happening. We also want to give folks space to have a wide range of feelings/experiences while in the space. It's navigating the space of BOTH AND - both recognizing real life happenings AND offering a brave space to move our bodies and breathe.
With careful consideration, and my personal experience - here’s my offering:
Show up. Sounds obvious, and it’s over half the battle. Pulling myself from under my blanket, putting on suitable clothes, and getting into my car is a MAJOR accomplishment. Nevermind the adventure in the drive. My friend Vivian Selles always says that showing up is the hardest part. She is never wrong on this one. It applies to both teachers and students - on and off the mat.
Give space for wide ranges of feelings. You don’t know how people are feeling so let’s not assume. Which brings me to...
Speak from “I”. Goes with the whole not assuming. When we speak from “I” it gives us space to share our experience without putting on feelings on others.
Don’t preach. It’s more powerful, and useful, to offer inquiry and space versus filling the space with our own feelings and opinions - especially when they are unprocessed.
Assume that trauma is in the room. I typically say "never assume" - but this is the one exception. Every yoga teacher should have trauma-informed training. NOTE: you may NOT call yourself trauma-informed from 1 training, or even 1 weekend. You should be trauma aware but please uphold satya and ahimsa when you create your offerings, bios, and other ways you describe yourself.
Notice who is in front of you and their unique identities, privileges, and proximities to power. AND be aware of your unique identities, privileges and proximity to power. Know when it's your place to step forward and use your voice, or step back and use your listening.
Recognize that Yoga-all the limbs (and its roots) - are tools for liberation, not tools for bypassing. Our yoga should allow us to show up more fully in the world versus hiding out from it. #loveandlight
Don’t process while teaching.
It’s ok to feel raw and unfinished - speak to that - the messiness
It’s ok to feel angry - speak to that - how anger shows up when there is injustice
It’s ok to feel sad - speak to that - yoga/breath may help process
It’s ok to feel fearful - speak to that - and how you showed tf up anyway!
Last thoughts - showing up for others also requires showing up for ourselves. It’s depleting to hold space when sh*t’s on fire - burns happen OUCH!
Honor the energy it takes to show up when the world is heavy.
TREAT yourself with extra kindness and compassion and give yourself SPACE to process, shed, and rest.
On the days I’m teaching more than once - I’ve learned to ease up on my expectations for to-dos.
This goes DOUBLE for these tedious times.