When you’re a yoga instructor, you’re a guide. You take students along on a journey. Yes, you’re a ‘teacher’ when you need to be. But you are mostly guiding them. And as a guide, it’s your job to also try to make the ride inspiring – sometimes challenging, maybe enlightening – but mostly you want your students to walk away saying, “That was great. I so needed that.”
My students were recovering addicts. They were going through divorces, career changes, and life crises. They were broken-hearted and they were healing. They were in the middle of finals and dissertations and other hard freaking shit and yoga was helping them get back to themselves.
Then one day, I was in the middle of some hard freaking shit.
During my time as an instructor, I was a queen of quotes, sharing wisdom from those that inspired me. I counseled my students, trying to give them something that would help them through whatever transition they found themselves in. I wanted them to walk away from my class feeling able, brave, replenished, supported, cared for, ready for the next thing life threw their way. I told them things like,
- Be gentle with yourself.
- Take your time. Baby steps.
- Balance changes daily, even hourly. Let yourself sway.
- Some days are strong days. Some days are not.
I said these things to my students and they thanked me afterwards. I loved guiding students. But it turns out, the hardest student to guide was myself.
When I became a new mom all those words of wisdom were lost on me. I wasn’t gentle with myself. I dwelled on my mistakes. I didn’t take my time; when I wanted results, I wanted them fast. I beat myself up for not finding balance in a day, an hour, a moment. I felt weak and tired and like I was failing again and again and again.
I couldn’t find inspiration anywhere.
But my husband, who had taken my yoga classes (many, many times), saw that I needed a guide. So, one day he stepped up and started repeating all the things I had ever said in yoga class. It was as if he had been storing them all up in a bottle that read, In case of emergency, break glass.
I was a horrible student. I didn’t want to hear it. I was like those yoga students who would prefer a no-om zone. Get in, get out, and move on with life. I wanted him to help me with the baby. Quietly. Without showering me with happy thoughts. I wanted to wallow in my frustration.
That’s a bunch of bullshit. This sucks. Who said this was a good idea?
But he just kept talking. He kept reciting all that yogic wisdom. And then one day he said, “Isn’t this what you tell your students? You need to live what you preach.”
Eesh! That’s when I got it. I was being a really bad yogi. What a hypocrite!
I was in a difficult place making difficult decisions about what was best for my baby. Yet, when I was really honest with myself, what was best for my baby was having a peaceful mama that was patient, gentle, and kind. I had been talking the talk for a couple of years and when things got real, I chose not to walk the walk.
It’s okay to be hard on ourselves sometimes. Sometimes we need a good kick in the pants. But we mostly need to be kind to ourselves. Because the world is hard enough. Hard freaking shit is going to find us. It always does. But when it does, the last thing we need is to join in and beat ourselves up for just being human.
When you’re in a hard place and feel like you’re failing, ask yourself what you would say to your student, your niece, or your best friend. What would you say to your 12-year-old self? Speak to yourself the way you would speak to them – with kind and encouraging words. Be patient. Be gentle. Be kind. Because you’re doing the best you can.
*Photo by Keleigh Layton
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