Fear and Doubt: The Dark Side of Being a Yoga Teacher
Posted on 22 June 2015
Last week I walked into my Friday morning class. It was the same class I had taught a hundred times before. Almost all of the students in the class were my regulars. But this week something was different.
I was filled with fear. My heart was beating so strongly, I doubted if I could even get through my first om nama shivaya.
What changed? Nothing, except I now knew that one of my regular students was a top yoga teacher in my town. Last week she was just Susan in the back corner. This week she became my arch nemesis, waiting, I was sure, for me to make the smallest slip so that she could jump up from her down dog and reconfirm all those voices in my head telling me I am a terrible teacher.
Would I ever admit to hearing these voices to anyone other than my mother or husband? No way. I keep all of these doubts and fears tucked away, safe and sound and well off of my Facebook page. I hide them away in a deep, dark, safe space until moments like this. Moments when I find myself sitting at the front of a class asking, “How could I have been so foolish to think that I could do this?”
Ironically, the practice of yoga can often lead us to this place of fear and doubt.
Yoga fills us with a light and determination that feeds an inevitable need to pursue and discover. Once we have tasted the joy of our first headstand or wheel, nothing seems impossible. So we venture out. We move towards our fear with confidence, until that moment when our ever so human nature kicks in and the fear bubbles back up as an overwhelming cloud of doubt.
Yoga has pushed me to this place twice now. Once as a teacher but also as an entrepreneur, and, here come the most honest thing I may have ever typed: most days I am scared out of my mind.
We yogis, by nature, tend to be entrepreneurs. We dance to a different rhythm and look at life through a slightly different lens. We learn to practice strength and flexibility, to lay our own path built out of the things that fill us up with passion. We tend to look at the world and said, “we can do this a better way.”
As yoga teachers, we are salesmen, public speakers, marketing mavens, accountants and product developers. It takes guts, courage and a whole lot of confidence, attributes not often fostered in young girls, to be your own agent, to sell yourself and build “you” as a brand.
What makes this all even more intimidating is that on any given newsstand you can find articles, magazine covers and photographs of smiling, successful yogis and yoginis making it look so easy.
Every time I need a quart of milk, I find myself staring at the magazine holder questioning, “How did they get all this confidence, and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I teach to a class of five people?”
But here is the catch. Those are only snapshots, only one layer of the beautiful soul residing beneath the glossy cover.
As I sat at the front of my Friday morning class, shaking with nervousness, trying to catch my breath, I remembered one of the most important facts of life. These people, all of these teachers, including my fear inducing Susan, are only human. Each of them is filled with the same questions, doubts and insecurities that I have.
Sit through an Aim True class with Kathryn Budig, and she will tell you the story of being denied a DVD spot because she wasn’t “camera ready.” Attend a lecture with Seane Corn, and she will tell you about the class she taught early on where students walked out. Listen to Colleen Saidman Yee in an interview, and she will tell you that in the beginning, she didn’t even want to teach. She thought she was too shy.
Does the fear and doubt stay with us forever as a yoga teacher? Will they still be there 20 or 30 years down the road?
I don’t know for sure. I haven’t gotten there yet.
What I do know is that the next time I walk into a classroom full of fear and doubt, I will remind myself that if these amazing women can overcome their own hesitations and make it all look so easy, then so can I. And so can you.