Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To teach is to serve

To teach is to serve. I became a yoga instructor with the sole purpose of serving my students. They entrust me with their bodies, mind and breath and in turn I give them all I have to offer, and all I know, if not more. Along with that, comes a responsibility of seeing that your students grow, learn and to be able to see themselves in a different way, to make their own lives better, to bring forth the feeling of hope and joy. My students come to class looking for answers in life, even if they don't know it. I don't have the answers for them ready at hand, neither do I claim to have all the answers to all their questions but I do have the passion to show them ways to understand themselves more on and off the mat, which also sometimes leads to the answers they have been searching for.

A great philosopher Osho once said, when the student is ready, the master will appear. I like to think that I took this to heart when I approached my student Evan(name has been altered to protect my student's identity) at the end of class. I felt like it went a little like this, when a student offers himself up to a higher power, a path will appear. I took my chances with Evan, because earlier in the month before, he had disclosed to me he had sleeping problems and the inability to shut his mind off at bedtime. For me, what I had experienced with Evan in the same room as I, sent frightening chills down my spine. I guess I was detecting his subconscious energy which is released during a physical practice. When students entrust me with their bodies, this is what happens... I sense things. I pick up on the finer details, unseen. Its an energy I feel so intense that I know what my student is feeling at that point. And with Evan, it was anger, searing anger, if not hatred or worse contempt. It really scared me. I knew the anger was not directed at me. It was pent up in him and  it was "screaming" in my face. It was Evan's tumultuous silent cry for help, and perhaps he didn't even realize it.

Then I reminded myself, I'm there to serve my students. And for me, what better way to serve my students in offering my effort towards a higher power. I love the fact that I can combine what I know from psychology study and being a yoga teacher for the past 9 years or so. I feel that I'm in a position to help others find their path, regardless of whatever answers they are looking for. So I asked Evan, "How do you manage conflict, do you get angry, if so, how often in a day?" He looked surprised and stunned for a moment. Like he was found out like a school boy who had been caught playing truant. What ensued confirmed my suspicion that he was indeed having issues dealing with anger at work, and perhaps that anger spilling over at home too.

We talked for a good 20 minutes after. He too agreed that he was getting angry and annoyed over the work phone calls, and surprisingly enough, inducing a Pavlov-like conditioned fear of answering his phone at work or after. Anger and fear had tied in. Did him in at night resulting in disrupted sleep, with not much of quality resting time for the mind and body. Hence, leading him to see the world at a slightly more pessimistic angle. The brain cannot function properly with lack of sleep, or without quality rest. Hormone levels decrease, putting the body in a state of high acidity causing depression, obstructed circulation and weight gain among other unpleasant side effects. It really broke my heart to speak to him about his pent up anger, as I think it broke his heart too to acknowledge it, as I could have sworn I saw him tear up(but he held it in like he felt was needed) as we spoke. My whole heart went out to him, and I truly wanted to help him, however way I could.

I told him, when we get angry, we lose ourselves. But if we watch our anger, it disappears just like that. No magic or sorcery involved. As a teacher, we have got to truly want to serve our students, as long as it does not damage ourselves. And I knew, Evan needed help. Everyone needs help from time to time. I find nowadays people don't take the time to care about others, as we are too busy taking care of ourselves. Where is the universal love in that? Where is the OM in our day? Who are we if we do not reach out to our fellow men, seeing that they need help? Do we turn a blind eye? I have come across many a time yoga teachers so called teaching yoga but treating it like a perfunctory cardio class and no more. I am appalled at how the gall some people have to call themselves yoga teachers. Especially remains true for fresh out the mill yoga teachers, who only think about how they perform(what super yogi advanced poses they can hold and how fancy it looks) instead of the welfare of their students. That's what teaching means to me. To give yourself to students, as a stepping stone along the path they are looking for, or to keep them on the right track, to reassure them that they are doing well, or could use to reflection time upon their quality of life. If one is to be called a yoga teacher, you have to be ready, available and truly want to give to your students, its not about the teacher, and never will be. That is what I call a teacher indeed, someone who inspires, gives people hope, teaches students to love themselves, and to accept or change whatever comes their way, knowing that they will be only given what they can handle by the big guy up there.

I could see by the end of our little heart to heart talk with Evan, I could see a part of him had softened and melted knowing that someone out there cared and wanted him to experience a better quality of life, and was able to give him hope that things could be turned around, if, and only if he decided to make the change, by watching how he responded to life, instead of reacting. He told me that he would feel his blood boil to his face, and he would mouth off to his colleagues or anyone who would listen to his rant. I said to him, now you are reacting. Its time to respond, to watch your anger as it rises, as quickly as it does, it will disappear. But Evan has to do the work. I can't do it for him. He has to become the watcher, not the person who does. Only to watch. He can still go about his work, but he has to be aware. With awareness comes relaxation.

We left the room, knowing that he had also indirectly taught me a lesson in forgiveness in my own life, and letting go of anger is crucial to one's spiritual growth and health. Whereas I hope Evan went home knowing that he has the ability to respond in life, instead of his bursting reactions, so that in turn he may be fully present to experience his life and moments as a loving father, supportive husband and a happy worker at his company.