Yoga Teacher Goes Crazy

I started teaching a yoga class called Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a deeply relaxing guided meditation. It’s similar to Corpse Pose or Shavasana that you may be familiar with at the end of many yoga classes. Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep” and takes you to the place between waking and sleep where you can experience such profound stillness and silence that you can awaken to your essential nature as pure awareness.

I consider it a privilege to have the honor to be a guide for people in this way. The only problem is that I find myself having reactions to people’s reactions. People love to IMG_1004give you feedback which is their prerogative, but what they might not realize is that just because they like it a certain way that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is going to like it that way. One person likes this; the other likes that. I was starting to go crazy managing all the needs and responses of my students when I decided I needed to take my own advice and use my reactions to dive deeper into my own defensiveness and resistance.

Yoga by its very nature is a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, you are there to reach that blissful state of union with the All, and, on the other, there are forces conspiring against your ability to get there. It could be an external distraction like traffic noise that just gets stuck in your craw. Or (more likely) it could be an internal disturbance like “I can’t do this yoga pose perfectly, so the teacher shouldn’t ask me to do it. I’m going to talk with her after class about the scientific research that shows IMG_0688that pose is bad for your body.” It is these internal conflicts that disguise themselves so well that we don’t recognize that they coming from our own conflicts between our ego minds and reality.

Yoga teachers, myself included, make sure to provide the precaution to “Listen to your body,” and give you adaptive poses for the more difficult ones. But still our comparing minds persist and insist.

So why was I getting so upset by the feedback?

Then I remembered a phrase that my yoga teacher, Yogi Amrit Desai, often uses. “Let go of the need to do it perfectly.” Ah ha! I was putting pressure on myself to do it perfectly not only so that everyone had a great experience, but also so I wouldn’t get in trouble for not doing it perfectly. This deep belief goes back to childhood when we would get punished or lose love and attention if we spilled our milk or pooped our pants. Many of us learned that it is essential to try to control our impulses to avoid the shame and embarrassment, and, when that failed, try to control the environment. A lot of us also learned that adults often blame outside circumstances for their mistakes, and we adopted that approach by default.

So where do I go from here? What if I could let go of the shame and blame just long enough to be with the impossible imperfection of the All?