When the yoga teacher invites the class I’m in to thank themselves for coming to class or to thank themselves for taking the time to take care of themselves, it takes supreme effort not to allow my groan to become audible.
The people that I admire in the world: Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc. are not individuals known for taking care of themselves but rather for taking care of those around them. Now I’m sure that all of them took needed time to get nourishment and rest when they could – but taking care of themselves wasn’t their prime directive. So why in the yogic community are we pushing hedonistic behaviour?
Continuing along this line of thinking and using another yoga teacher favourite phrase: Thank yourself for showing up. That seems to be the problem – many people simply show up and delude themselves into thinking that they are engaged. Being present for a yoga class is one thing. Being engaged in the class, putting in the physical and mental effort needed is an entirely different matter.
It reminds me of a time a fellow dancer and I both enrolled in a series of fitness classes to augment our dance careers. I personally hated the classes – every class was a journey into my own personal hell. My friend loved them. One day I stood behind my friend for the class and was shocked to see that while I was standing in a pool of sweat – she didn’t have a single drop of sweat on her! My muscles were visibly quivering and she was happily bouncing along with the music. At first I thought it was me but in the end – I got stronger and she didn’t.
Isn’t one of the problems in our capitalist society the fact that everyone wants an instant return for their investment? Stores open and close, companies change direction, bankruptcies, refinancing. Then there’s the other obvious problem – who wants to take the longer route that benefits the earth when that route doesn’t have an instant return or a return that has a monetary value? Quality of life is not a quantitative value.
It seems to me that we can better serve the people that come into our classes by teaching with honest values, which in turn could help to bring about some needed changes to our society. Teach your students patience. Teach them hard work without reward. Teach them faith in themselves – that their efforts will have some affect on their lives – though maybe not what they planned. Teach them awareness to their fellow beings. Teach them gratitude that they are able to take a yoga class.
Teach to the person that you yourself want to become.