A confession. I did something I tell all my students not to do.
When I was in high school, I took yoga every weekend with a woman who came up to Connecticut from New York. She'd breeze into the studio with this electric energy trailing her. She was beautiful but approachable, with kind eyes and a warm smile. And she was always really mellow - one of those people you feel like you could chat with about anything. Clearly passionate about her work, her eyes lit up in class, and she could twist her body into shapes I was certain I could never make. Her classes were the perfect blend of soul nourishment and physical challenge. I'd always float out of the room on a yoga high. My yoga teacher and her work were inspiring. And I definitely put her on a pedestal.
I mean, everyone did. Our little yoga community loved her. She could do no wrong in our eyes. And I think she sensed that. Because slowly, she began to open up in class. "I'm not perfect by any means," she laughed in November, when telling us how awful she felt after stuffing herself at Thanksgiving. Months later, she laughed about her New Year's Day hangover. In March, she shared that it was always a dreary, tough month for her to get through. She disclosed, in a hushed voice, that she wasn't a morning person and "couldn't function" without coffee. Each time she shared something we had previously labeled "unyogic," we'd get wild eyes and Looks were exchanged around the room as if to say, 'She's human after all!' (Cue the Hallelujah music.)
A couple people in our yoga community were seemingly crushed that our teacher wasn't the other worldly creature we thought she was, but I felt inspired by her honesty and integrity. I mean, she could have easily let the class fawn over her and feed her ego. Instead, she noticed what was transpiring and turned to the foundations of yoga- that we are all equal - to show us the truth.
Further, her honesty made me realize that nothing had really changed about her. She had her own demons, as we all do, but she still exuded that same sense of peace and calm that I had wanted for myself. Her authenticity and creativity continued to shine through during her classes, which were still just as moving as when I had placed her on the pedestal. It was a revelation for me that living a so-called "yogic life" didn't require that I rise at 5:00am and do two hours of asana daily. I didn't have to stop wearing nail polish, stop watching tv, or stop drinking coffee. It dawned on me how simple it was to have what she had. Her example showed me that all that was required was to be myself, come to the mat, do the work, and reap the benefits.
*Confessions of a Yoga Teacher will be a new series on my website. I am looking forward to sharing the funny, interesting, inspiring and humbling things I encounter on my journey as a yoga instructor.