For the yoga teacher who triggered me…
Before any other words are written, I want to say one thing.
I forgive you. I know it wasn’t your intention, and I know –I think – that you did your best.
The seat of the teacher is weighty with the meaning that you prescribe to it and your students give it, and you also must be willing to carry the ancient teachings, your own teachers’ interpretations, each student, their expectations, and their own baggage.
It is a heavy burden. As a teacher, you must be ready to be responsible for a lot.
That is why you asked us to come each day as washed pots: clean, right side up, and empty. We needed to be perfectly void of our own preconceptions, beliefs, and ideas so that you could fill us up with the teachings.
It was partly my fault, really. My pot is still a little dirty. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t something that I can easily wash away.
Maybe it was my mistake, but I expected you to come to us as an empty pot, as well: a vessel of the teachings, but clean of your own ego, your own agenda, your own desire for power plays and personal gratification.
That was a tall order, and I apologize if it was too much to ask. But I wanted you to be a great teacher, not just another yoga teacher, caught up in their own need and ego.
I hoped that I would find in you what I have found in the few greats I have been honored to sit with: humility, wisdom, and that word that you kept tossing around- lineage. I hoped that you would be a transmitter of this lineage, of this ancient wisdom. That, like the greats, you would offer it to your students as a gift:
Take it, if you would like. Leave behind what doesn’t make sense for you right now.
Question it all, and make sure that it resonates with you, that it doesn’t feel forced or fake.
I was disappointed.
We began Language Refinement. I thought that it was going to be a class where we discovered new ways to instruct our students; in our group we had shared how we were feeling stagnant in our instruction, like there had to be more ways to say, “please lift your leg up and back,” or “inhale to a flat back.”It was not.
We stood in a circle and started a group beat box: one by one, we moved to the center of the circle and conducted an orchestra of sound. We sang, made noises, and danced. For someone that spent a long time trying to not be loud, not stand out, not draw attention to myself, this was terrifying.
I drew up my breath and told you so. You told me to go next so that I wouldn’t have to wait.
We then got into the part where you critiqued us: one by one, we went around the circle and repeated a statement. You had us repeat ourselves often, modulating volume, inflection, and tone.
I’m not sure what was going through your mind, but your feedback was neither supportive nor positive: when it came to the turn of the man next to me, he didn’t change his volume, despite your requests.
“This is tough for me – it’s bringing up a lot, it reminds me of when I was in the forces and I had to stand in a corner and yell at a trash can for two hours.”
I was horrified.
You looked at him and cocked your head. “So… do you not want to go again? Do you not want to grow?”
Double horrified. Since when was a yoga space a place where we called each other out for having traumatic memories? Stuff that stuck in us so deeply that we were affected years, decades later?
We kept moving. My anxiety kept mounting. I frantically searched inside my head for why this particular exercise was becoming so triggering for me, why my skin was crawling, why my stomach seemed ready to lurch up my throat and my eyeballs were pressing against their sockets.
And then it came to me.
As things do, when we search long enough, when we are desperate to unpack the thing that keeps our door blocked, to scratch the itch that is driving us mad – that’s when it hit me. Flashes of hours-long rages where I wasn’t allowed to get a word in. Rants echoed in my memory, each one pulling apart words I had misused or presumed I knew the meaning of, things I misunderstood, only to be picked apart for hours while his eyes went cold and his body shook with rage.
I stopped trusting my voice. My words were worthless. My sense of Self was destroyed. To go back to a place where my words were being picked apart, without any hint of compassion or positivity, was like finding myself sitting on that couch, or that bed, or that chair again.
How could I even think that was right?
Shaking, I told you, and the group, what was going on, and why. You told me I was free to leave or take breaks. After lunch, you told me that it was clear that I was being triggered, but you needed to teach, and you felt that you were being censored. I could leave, but you needed to be able to feel free to teach your class. Your energy is ferocious, you said. You had to feel safe to express yourself.
Having just paid over a thousand dollars for your time and expertise, I asked to stay.
An hour later, another student asked you a question. You asked us why we were being so feisty today, that you had never encountered so much resistance. She said she wasn’t: that she didn’t understand and wanted to learn.
You lost control.
You had a petty, bickering fight with a student in front of the class.
It was too much for me. I grabbed my things and ran out, tears pouring out and over, from a place that I didn’t know still existed. You didn’t reach out to me. The next day, you didn’t look at me. You never asked anything at all.
What did I expect?
Yoga brings together all sorts for all reasons.
And we came to you.
We are not all perfect students that come to your class regularly, that pretend we have cured all of our issues with mantra and mandala and blessings from holy teachers.
What did I expect?
For you to drop your ego at the door, just like you asked us to drop ours.
Teachers become such for many reasons, and the best are usually born through their circumstances and by people being drawn to their authenticity, their strength of character. They are generally not made, successfully so, because they call themselves such.
But I have to thank you, too.You showed me that I still have a lot of work to do: in my heart, in my mind, on my soul. Wounds that I thought were healed were only scabs.
Thank you for picking mine.
The world is always coming from us, not at us. We discussed this many times.
Next time, try bringing a clean pot before expecting one to show up. And I will focus on healing myself before I expect someone that is healed.