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  • Christina Helms

Everything I know about human nature, I’ve learned from teaching yoga

I have always been interested in human behavior; what makes people tick and why they do the often bizarre things they do. Yoga, meditation and therapy have certainly given me insight into my own thoughts, feelings and behavior, but sitting in the teacher’s seat at the front of a yoga class has given me more insight into human beings than anything else. Sometimes I feel like Jane Goodall out in the field, perched behind a bush. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1. We are creatures of habit.

There are habits of the mind - the student who needs to be in the back right corner, and the one who must be by a window. And, the habits of the body - the fidgeter, the turned out foot. Those grooves can run deep, but they can also change with attention and time. . In yoga we bring the unconscious to the conscious and, as Patanjali says“pratipaksha-bhavana” (cultivate the opposite) especially when those habits are harmful.

2. We fear being seen, but we want to be seen.

How many times have I had 40 square feet of available space right in front of me, and watched a student cram themselves between two mats in the back row. But here’s a little secret about what I see when I look at a room full of students - I see a room full of people showing up for themselves and doing their best, and I’m not looking for what you’re doing wrong, I’m looking for what you’re doing right.

3. We assume we are constantly being judged by others. Not only do students worry that I am judging them, they worry that other students are doing the same. From my catbird seat, I can tell you that most folks are deep in their own internal experience and not paying anyone else any mind. And, if they are looking at you, it’s because they aren't sure what they're doing ...”did she say uttanasana or utkatasana????” Aaaahhhh! 4. We are basically good. I don’t mean this in a begrudging way, I mean it in the Buddhist way, that at the core, human beings are good. Not only are the other students NOT judging you, they are ROOTING for you. The Pali word for delighting in the well-being of others is mudita and I see this all the time from the teacher’s seat. The smiles that appear on the faces of others when a student shares good news or is successful in doing a pose for the first time. Not envy or disdain, just pure joy. 5. We are pack animals. The pandemic made us all realize the benefits of real human connection. Even if it’s just hearing the sound of your neighbor's breath in class, or that brief time to chat at the beginning of class. We crave that closeness, even though we may bristle when that person tries to squeeze in next to us in the back row and there’s plenty of space in the front.

Have you ever considered what it might be like to sit in the teacher's seat? There is much to learn here, about yourself and others. You have a unique view from the front of the room and the unique experience of holding space and allowing your students to have a real human experience. If this interests you, I encourage you to consider our 200hr Yoga Teacher Training that start this September.

1 Comment

Aug 11, 2023

Lovely post Christina! Lots of beauty to be seen from the teachers seat xx

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