Covered In Divine Slobber: Teaching With Tenderness.
Yoga is a strange profession.
As an instructor, I find myself constantly amazed at the invisible and transformative aspects that appear, in unusual and unexpected moments.
Today was a day that I was not supposed to teach Yoga — all the fates were aligned against me. Struggling with my own health issues, internally exhausted, and deeply fatigued, the road of least resistance would be to stay at home, and rest.
Don’t get me wrong; as Yoga teachers, we often give way more often than we receive. Sometimes, the most mindful and loving decision is to sip tea, throw a soft blanket over your head, and find a sub. The world will still go on.
But a quiet voice, deep within, told me to teach today.
Walking to the studio, my body slugged forward, resisting with every step. My mind threw temper tantrums and held very convincing debates, listing all the reasons this decision made no sense at all. There were many.
But that quiet voice persisted.
In fact, I could even sense an amusement within me — some part of me was observing the small inner child stomping her feet and whining, and smiled softly and lovingly.
I knew I needed to teach. It was a mindful Yoga class. Exactly what I needed to take.
I walked into the studio. The lights were dim, candles lit, and a statue of Buddha greeted me with his hands on his heart.
I sensed, immediately, that my own internal fatigue was creating an inner opening, a vacuum that was to allow some larger presence to move through me. I nodded, making a semi-conscious decision to get out of my own way.
When we feel internally tired from life’s fluctuations, the defenses of the ego are down. We no longer think about being that rock-star Yoga teacher with perfect clothes, precise wording, and majorly inspiring sequences. We are simply here, human and vulnerable.
I had not planned one part of the class. I stopped doing that long ago, but inspiration and clear guidance flowed through me with incredible softness. When we feel internally tired, mindfulness, at first, may feel like an effort, another practice.
But, mindfulness is the opposite of effort. Mindfulness pulls us into the tides of tenderness and loving-kindness.
We don’t have to change anything. We don’t have to be anyone we are not. Mary Oliver’s famous lines now feel more powerful than ever: “You don’t have to be good. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
I found myself, today, falling deeply in love with my students, deeply in love with the body, deeply in love with our ability to access mysterious places within ourselves, without effort.
I was once asked to describe what the practice of Yoga is to me in one or two sentences. This was my answer :
“An intersecting point, where breath, mind, and body mix to form a messy and beautiful substance of soul. A sacred place to purge, purify, and be with what is, to lay down my armor and be swallowed by the Holy Giant… that spits me back out into the world covered in Divine Slobber. This, to me, is Yoga.”
I wonder, when we are all dolled up in our armor of agenda, defenses, mascara, and ego-emphasis, if the Holy Giant of the Self refuses to even take us in.
When we practice and teach from a space of open tenderness, from a holy recognition that there is a whole lot more going on than what happens in our body and with our voice, the Holy Giant sniffs a receptive and soft soul that is easy to swallow.
Today, more than ever, I left that class feeling completely covered in Divine Slobber.
And we rarely know, until it is upon our skin, how necessary that is for our Soul.