"You're not like a normal yoga teacher!"
That's what one of my clients told me last week. I obviously looked a little confused and crest fallen because she very swiftly added "Sophie, that's a good thing!"
OK so let me explain. To me, being "normal" usually means conforming and being pigeon holed and lets face it, a bit boring! I certainly have tried never to do that my whole life up until now, however when it comes to yoga, I want to be taken seriously.
Herein lies the question: Do I have to conform to the stereotype of a yoga teacher to be able to be impart good knowledge and helpful life enhancing practices to my students?
I am going to risk answering with a resounding "NO"!
Bear with me on this...
According to the aforementioned client who shall remain nameless, but who brightens my Saturday mornings with her Rock and Roll lifestyle when she flies into the room in her sunglasses often sporting a terrible hangover and a paint stained mat where her kids have been "creating art", the reason why she comes to me is because I am the very antithesis of a yoga teacher.
"If you suddenly got out some Indian bells and tinged them or started the class with Oms I would have to giggle and no doubt that would lead to me being chucked out eventually!"
I went on to tell her "Me too!"
When I was on my teacher training I really struggled when we started chanting and discussing the more spiritual side of yoga. So much so that in a bit of a melt down moment I had to question if this was really all for me. That's when I became friends with the lovely Terri, a down to earth Londoner with a wicked sense of humour and a bit of a WAG status. "Babe! why did YOU go to a yoga class in the first place? To get fit right? To heal injury, maybe? I am betting you didn't you go to hear about the roar of the universe or your buoyant heart connecting with your higher self. And sure as eggs you didn't go hoping to learn about a coiled snake at the base of your spine or the sanskrit word for revolve? You went Babe, because you wanted a tighter bum and defined arms and to get a bit of a sweat on! And that, my friend, is why people will come to your class when you are a teacher. They will come to get fit and healthy. And if you decide you want to throw in a bit about the spinning wheels of light in your body or the fact that the sound of the universe is Om then you can with confidence. But its your class. You get to choose!"
You gotta love a Londoner, they say it as it is!
And of course, she is completely right. I was stressing that I had to become stick thin, build an altar to Shiva in my house, and spend my evenings dancing round a fire chanting in order to be a "proper" yoga teacher!
But in truth, all I ever needed to be is informed and genuine.
I am happy that I have the confidence to admit that I don't find it easy to meditate at all, I am extremely intimidated when someone spouts on about the subtle body while I am struggling to breathe in shoulder stand and I frankly want to shout out "fake!" when a yoga teacher drones on about the importance of ahimsa (non Violence) with regards to animals during a class when you know they are about to slip on their sheepskin Uggs, pick up their Mulberry handbag and slink out the door for an eggy sandwich at M&S!
Yes, I am focused on the physical. On the core and the biceps and the hamstrings. I am focused on the aesthetics of a pose, on how the breath can help you not only get into a posture but stay there comfortably and even, dare I say, happily! I want my students to feel energized and uplifted when they leave my class, to feel like they have worked their entire bodies, inside and out. And I do that, knowing that the calm and focus of the mental and emotional states will follow.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am well versed in yoga philosophy. I know my Shiva from my Shakti, my ajna from my anahata, my satya from my svadhyaya. I just choose not to bang on about it in class.
There's too much other juicy stuff to be talking about, like how if you press your little toes strongly into the mat whilst sending your little fingers towards the sky in Warrior I you get the most amazing energy and stretch through your whole body. Or, if you think about grounding the shoulder blades down to the mat and opening across the collar bones in Shoulderstand, all the time imagining your jeans are a little too tight around the waist you will get that extra lift you need to feel strong and confident in the pose.
This is me! I am an individual who has been transformed by my own physical practice enough to want to share it with others in a fun, non-intimidating and genuine way.
So thanks Jo (Ooops!) for giving me the courage to continue being myself...I also promise that you will never be thrown out for giggling!