I’ve been scared to talk about this for fear that my students might think I am bailing on them, or that I am less of a teacher because I couldn’t practice what I preach – that I couldn’t stay positive, that I couldn’t be present in the moment, work with what I had, evolve, or even just keep calm and carry on.
But this is what I struggle with as a teacher I think – sometimes I feel like a fake and a phoney when I am encouraging my students to ‘find their peace’, ‘take a moment and breathe’, ‘take things one step at a time’, ‘listen to their heart’ or any of the other common phrases we hear in yoga classes, when I myself am not.
There’s hundreds of blogs and advice online for yoga teachers who have imposter syndrome – they’ve done the training but don’t feel good enough to be a teacher – I’ve been through that, that was awful, and sometimes when I get a student that says: ‘I have sciatica, what poses can I do for x, y and z?’ that feeling comes back – but like a doctor – I’m not expected to know everything, and that’s ok.
But one thing I don’t find many yoga teachers talking about online is how to deal with the mental struggle that comes from encouraging your students to do one thing, when deep down inside, you know you’re doing another.
Lockdown for me was great and awful in so many ways – at first it was scary but EXCITING – I’m an ex journalist let’s not forget so I THRIVE on drama; the whole panic buying thing, stockpiling on home gym equipment, watching Boris and the Queen’s announcements, Zooming my family and sending daily updates on WhatsApp to keep everyone feeling happy, building my own make shift yoga studio in my living room, then dressing up in stupid outfits trying to make everyone else that I teach feel happy – OMG it was so much fun, I felt important, I felt like I had a role, a purpose – maybe even saviour syndrome (if that is a thing!) – most importantly, I had an identity – a yoga teacher that can HELP people.
Then reality set in – for everyone, but also with regards to me; I enjoyed too much not going out and seeing people – even now there’s a list of people in my head that I think, I may never see again, and it doesn’t bother me… I stopped calling people, got sick of the Zooms, no longer bothered with the WhatsApps and when rules started to become relaxed – did I rush to see anybody? Nope, I was happy where I was… and yet I was SO fed up of teaching yoga online.
And in all honesty – so were most of you – I went from teaching five classes a week to one. Maybe you could tell I was getting bored of it? Maybe you couldn’t? But needless to say, the flame quickly faded, and Zoom was so ‘meh’.
But I’ve realised, as much as I love to hide away from the world – getting lost in my own little projects (self confessed workaholic here!) – I also thrive off people.
You might have noticed, but I am an entertainer, I’m a care giver, I like making people happy – making people happy makes me happy, I like FEEDBACK, call and response, banter.
And without that face to face interaction, I sort of had no idea if I was making people happy anymore.
With half the students on mute, I got no laughs at my jokes (or maybe they were just crap!?), no one turned up early for the chat, no one hung around after, there was less banter, less impulse – it’s harder for people to ask questions and harder for me to randomly start chatting about the latest Netflix show we are all watching, and the OMs? I don’t think I’ve heard much of an OM in lockdown…
Truth is: I hated teaching online. Hated it.
To the point that I convinced myself it was just the teaching of yoga that I hated – and don’t get me wrong, I don’t love my job 100% of the time – teaching yoga is hard frickin’ work, like really hard work – the hardest job I have ever done. But when it’s done right and you have a good group of students, the feedback and the friends you make is wonderful, and it’s a beautiful gift to hold a space for someone where they can connect with their mind, body and soul – what an amazing gift that I can help people do that, it’s humbling.
But, here’s my truth bomb: Zoom very nearly ended my yoga career. I was literally a week away from ending it entirely and never teaching again.
And I suppose, my confession is this – the fact that lockdown nearly beat me, that I wasn’t in my head practicing what I preached, makes me feel like a fraud.
But I like telling the truth – it makes me human, it makes me more accessible and I don’t feel I would be true to myself without this admission, so it’s something I felt I really needed to get off my chest – and for anyone that has read this – I thank you.
Going into a new world, and with one public yoga class under my belt already, I feel better equipped to tackle the new shape of yoga teaching – a mixture of public classes and Zoom classes, and I think that’s a good thing – because maybe I can find my zest again for the ones that will remain online. Maybe I’ll discover new ways to engage interaction, or maybe teaching a mixture of face to face and Zoom will mean the online classes really aren’t that bad anymore!
But I wanted to now say a huge thank you – to all my students that stuck with me throughout – I can assume this was as hard for you as it was for me, that it didn’t feel the same and that you maybe felt some of the same issues that I did with online teaching.
If you did – I’m all ears – let me know how you think I can evolve it, make it better for you, help set your space – and together we can enter this new world with everything more at balance.
But I’d also like to end with this: for me and the struggles of running a business in lockdown, this is just the tip of an iceberg with what’s gone on this year, I don’t intend to divulge personal information, and I don’t ask for sympathy or enquiries as to whether I am ok – but I just wanted to say, if you have found this year hard – then you are not alone.
And good friends will always get you through though – so keep talking to the ones you hold dear.