The Secret Lives Of Yoga Teachers.
I was in the lobby of my fave Yoga studio in Kitsilano, sitting cross-legged in a sunbeam that was streaming through the window, sipping wild lavender tea from a perfectly simple white teacup, wearing my usual Lululemons and a tank top that read Chill and be still.
My hair was in a ponytail. I was smiling, taking deep centering breaths with my hands in my lap, and waiting to teach my 630 Hot Yoga class. I looked very, well, yogic… I guess. Calm, still, peaceful.
One of my regular students, Randy, went rushing by in a suit. He was carrying a gym bag and a briefcase. His jacket was thrown over one shoulder. He was trying to find a place for his keys.
He was frazzled because he was worried he wasn’t going to make it to class on time. When he spotted me, he smiled and said, “You are so lucky you don’t have to sit indoors in an office all day.” Then he rushed off.
I called out after him to say that I had just arrived minutes earlier, but he was already gone.
I had done the same mad dash he was doing now.
I had woven through rush hour traffic like a ninja, swearing more than once, aggressively changing lanes to constantly manoeuvre into a better position, going head to head with a Ford Bronco for the last remaining parking spot near the studio (don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact).
Then I had started sprinting. I transformed myself into a human version of Frogger as I crossed W 4th without waiting for the light, and then ran up the stairs, pushing aside old people and children to get to the second floor studio.
Okay, I didn’t really push aside old people and children, but… I might have.
Then a quick wave to the girls at the front to let them know I had arrived — miraculously on time — and then off to change out of my boardroom attire (tights, high heels, and a very sensible grey dress) to become the Yoga teacher version of myself that Randy had just encountered.
His comment has stayed with me because I realized that most people probably have no idea how I spend my hours outside the Yoga studio.
That is despite the fact that I try to show up with authenticity and honesty… really sharing the stuff that is on my mind and in my heart with the people who come to my classes.
However, I guess I’m not sharing about the presentation I gave earlier in the day to try and convince stakeholders to realign the system of supports we offer to people with developmental disabilities in this province, or about the six meetings in a row I had to discuss a few of the projects I manage.
I’m not sharing about the 50+ hours a week I spend sitting at my desk, at a boardroom table, pounding out emails, arguing with colleagues about the next priority, writing reports, and all the other stuff that happens within the walls of my office on the seventh floor of an incredibly uninspiring building near the airport.
I’m not intentionally hiding that part of my life from people. It’s just that I already have a forum to talk about all of that stuff… M-F 800-500 (give or take a few hours).
I absolutely love the field I’m in, and will keep fighting to make a difference in that sector.
It’s just that when I stand at the front of a class, I want to talk about all of the other stuff that bounces around in my head all week long — stuff like creativity, connection, kindness, transformation… the stuff I don’t necessarily get to talk about elsewhere.
I often have people make comments on my social media sites, like “Wow, you are always doing such fun stuff,” and “Don’t you ever work?”
Those comments surprise me, and I kind of get irritated, but then I realize that’s the stuff I’m sharing there too. I’m not sharing about the 30% of my life that is devoted to my day job.
Plus, for the record, not sleeping does help me pack quite a few extra things into the day.
As I’ve thought about how Randy possibly sees me, I realize I have made similar assumptions about the lives of my own Yoga teachers.
For example, I am convinced that one of my faves is an ocean nymph who spends her days making up gooey delicious sequences, meditating in sunbeams while the wind blows salty warm air through her hair, and scouring Soundcloud to make tragically cool playlists that are full of the most ridiculously beautiful and obscure tunes.
I believe she touches down in the real world to teach classes, and then disappears to that otherworldly place in which she spends the rest of her time — that place where things are shiny and beautiful all the time… full of laughter, kissing, debates about the nature of the universe, green juice, dancing, and making art.
So, I’d like to set the record straight about the secret lives of Yoga teachers. Here are a few things that you might not know:
1. Most of us have day jobs. We are project managers, actors, architects, IT consultants, physiotherapists, business owners. We work in restaurants, retail, hospitals, garages, et cetera.
2. We are not immune to life’s frustrations. We argue with the people we love, even though we know we should let things go. We swear and road rage. We get scared and sad and anxious. Sometimes we overreact to things.
3. We, as a group, probably like green juice, quinoa salads, and ethically sourced kale more than the average person but… we also like beer and nachos, burgers, pizza, and ice cream. I mean, really, who can resist ice cream?
Sometimes we even go to Starbucks… often in disguise.
4. We do not have a direct mind-link to Eckhart Tolle, Rumi, and Buddha. We use Google to find those quotations we share at the beginning and end of class.
Yes, we do search them out because we have things to express that have been said before by people who are super articulate and creative and tapped into the pulse of the Universe.
We get very excited when we find that someone has perfectly captured exactly what it is we want to share with you. Like when MLK Jr said, “Hate cannot drive out hate… only love can do that.” I mean, how could anyone improve on that?
5. Some of us (okay, me… and maybe others) can’t sit still to save our lives. I’m the one lying next to you in Savasana who keeps wiggling around and comes out of it at least two minutes ahead of everyone else.
I’m most at peace when I’m in motion. It’s just the way it is. So, when you see me sitting still, know that it’s something I’m practicing. It does not come naturally or easily.
6. We spend hours searching out cool tunes and putting together playlists.
7. We randomly drop into Yoga poses as we go through our day-to-day lives.
I’ve been caught doing handstands in a meeting room at the office, sitting in Padmasana (Lotus pose) on my chair at work, standing in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance pose) while waiting in a long line, secretly doing Tittibhasana (Firefly pose) during meetings or at restaurants, and doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog pose) on my kitchen counters (as pictured above).
This sometimes embarrasses our friends. We know it’s kind of weird, but we can’t help it. It just happens.
9. None of us were born on a Yoga mat. Well, that might not be true… I know one or two who might have been.
We found our way to Yoga from a million different places. Looking for physical healing, recovery of all sorts, connection to community, peace.
We came because we were curious, bored with the other stuff we were doing, injured, coerced or dared by friends.
We came because our bodies needed to stretch and strengthen, or because our hearts were heavy, or maybe bursting at the seams with happiness, or because our souls were searching for something that is kind of elusive in the 21st century world.
What we all have in common is a huge gratitude for finding it — whatever it is for us — and a huge desire to share what we found with others.
10. Sometimes we have big things happen right before we stand at the front of the class to teach. It could be something good, bad, or ugly. Teaching a class in that state can be really challenging, but that’s part of the practice too.
Filling that role for 60 or 90 minutes helps us keep our lives in perspective. It helps us practice being grounded and in the moment. It helps us focus on people other than ourselves. We are there to serve and offer what we know.
If we don’t pull it off perfectly, we are always grateful for those of you who see that part of us, those of you who recognize that we’re all in this together, and those of you who treat us with gentleness.
We love it when you realize that we happened to be at the front of the room for that particular class, but that we’re all learning from one another all the time.
So, that’s it. Myths busted. The secret lives of Yoga teachers exposed. My work here is done. Baker Out.
Andrea Baker has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology and once knew everything there was to know about Byron and Bundy. She is a certified Yoga teacher and ever-evolving student in Vancouver’s beautiful Yoga community. She has divided her life equally between Canada’s east and west coast … never living far from the sea. The ocean has influenced her writing, her Yoga practice, and her approach to life. She distrusts capital letters, loves sticking eka pada koundinyasana, and wishes she was just a tiny bit taller. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or her blog.