Learning to Lead by Example

“Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.”
Chinese Proverb

Week 3 of Yoga Teacher Training

The dust is starting to settle. If my yoga was a house getting remodeled, the clearing out has happened and the rebuilding has started, from the ground up. I am starting to realize, as I suspect many of us in the training are, that the yoga we’re learning is much different from the yoga we thought we knew.

This is necessary. This starting point, this unlayering, this seeing clearly where we are. As our teacher pointed out, a map is no good if you don’t know where you are.

In this third week I’m starting to get a clearer visual of where I’m at and a clearer vision of where I can go.

This part feels so grounding. This placing my feet with care, pressing into the support of the earth, blending my energy with gravity and receiving the earth energy in exchange. Setting my foundation both figuratively and literally.

How do you define “There”?

This question was posed to us in the course of discussing how to get into a certain pose.

Isn’t this always the question? In yoga and in life. Where are you trying to go?

The answer is different for everyone, but for me there is no there. There is only here. Here becomes there, but it is always really here. I forget this often because it sometimes seems like there is a “there.” A pose, a success, a peak, a result.

In my heart I know time only exists in my head and that everything is fleeting. This reinforces to me that yoga is not the culmination of a class or years of practice or getting stronger. It’s every moment, transition, movement, inhale and exhale along the way.

In the words of our teacher, “Yoga is a how, not a what.”

When I step into my own skin, the container for my own spirit, and listen, this is yoga.

As much as we mentally comprehend that yoga is not about a pinnacle pose or pushing through to the end, we can often lose sight of this higher truth when we get tangled in patterns of perceived truth. The perceived truth of, My hips should be more open. I should be more balanced. I should be better at this by now. As if our practice and the poses were something we need to conquer.

I am learning to listen the voice that asks, How does it feel instead of How should it feel.

Backing Up & Diving In

These are two concepts I’ve started to appreciate on a new level this week. Although they seem mutually exclusive – to back out of something (such as a yoga pose) versus diving deeper into something – I’m starting to see them as two sides of a whole. As is often the case, two opposite energies create the balance, not just one alone.

When I back out of my deepest version of a pose, I have a chance to reexamine my alignment, my breath, and where there is freedom and tightness in my body. This cultivates in me a deeper connection to then unfold from. Perhaps the final version of my pose isn’t the one I’m used to doing, but it’s a truer, fuller version of it.

And that’s what I want to offer. True and full. It’s only from that place of true and full that I actually have something to offer.

I once heard a teacher say in Paschimottanasana (intense forward fold), “You work so hard to reach the floor only to find that the floor gets in your way.”

Just as in life, backing away gives us perspective, time to reconnect, and a deeper place to reengage from. This is sustainable opening. This is planting roots that will support us as we grow.

God vs. The Universe

We dove a little deeper into yoga philosophy and history this week. All of us in the class come from different religious backgrounds, and it’s a fascinating experience for me to sit in a roomful of people and be able to hear differing concepts and questions on spirituality aired in a nonjudgemental way. In a world where conversations on religion usually result in a heated debate, the curiosity and investigation of my fellow teachers-in-training is refreshing.

This openness is something I hope we all carry with us off our mats and into our lives. This respect and curiosity for the new, the different, and the difficult.

Leading by Example

I’ve been blessed with exceptional teachers on my yoga path, and they all have one thing in common. They lead by example. They are imparting as much knowledge by their actions as through their words.

I am learning so much about how to teach yoga by how they are teaching us yoga. How they relate to students, to each other, in and out of the classroom.

I believe leading by example is the invitation for all of us. I believe we are all leading by example, whether we intend to or not. People are learning from what we do and how we live. Our words are just the icing on the cake.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Lead by Example

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