Teaching yoga abroad sounds pretty awesome, and in many ways, it is. But it's not without its own set of sweat-inducing awkwardness.
Challenges Teaching Yoga Abroad
My biggest challenge is the language barrier. There are things I want to say to help people better understand how to get into the poses, but my vocabulary just isn't there yet. I have recently learned the verb "to melt," though, so I'm on my way. Until then, I try to learn the main word of the point I want to make and then do a quick game of charades. Eventually the point is made.
Check Your Ego at the Door
The other day, I wanted to talk about how instead of resting on our hand in poses like trikonasana, we should think of the hand like a suction, or like a straw. Straw is a word I know in German, so along with my ridiculous acting (complete with sound effects), they got it. It's a challenge, but it is funny and if acting like a clown in front of thirty of forty people doesn't put your ego in check, nothing will. So it's good for me, too.
The Yoga Class Vibe
This language barrier and need to overact a bit brings a sense of lightheartedness to the class environment and thus, transforms the space from a stuffy, intimidating platform to a safe place to ask questions, be yourself and learn. The other day, a woman came up to me before class. She doesn't speak any English, but through German and charades, was able to let me know that her wrists hurt in crow pose and wondered what she could do about it. I was blown away by her courage and determination for information. It was an awesome experience to be able to help her.
The other challenge is my own preconceived ideas about how a class should go. In the states, yoga often ends very quietly, as people pull themselves out of savasana and move on with their day. In Germany, the exact opposite happens. People clap.
At first I was shocked. To be honest, I didn't really want them to clap because the class is not about me. It's about them. It's for them. And what goes on in the class has nothing to do with me. I felt like I was being put on a pedestal. But when I stepped back from it, I realized that this is a cultural norm, and a beautiful way of showing appreciation for a nice class.
For me, teaching abroad is much like the yoga practice itself. It is inspiring, humbling, and a constant reminder to let go of what I can't control. And those challenges and doses of inspiration are precisely why I love it.
PS- More confessions.