It’s said that the best teachers first make the best students. The longer I teach yoga, the more I realize this is true. In the past two years I’ve learned a lot about speaking, listening, absorbing, and breathing in the things that serve me.
I once had a friend who was generally annoyed by her best friend. This friend was constantly giving ‘advice’ on things, often when it was not solicited. On this particular occasion, the best friend was going on about how to properly fill in eyebrows. My former friend (who is rather sensitive about her half brows and has actually mastered the art of filling them in for her face shape) quipped “I really think she could stand to benefit from a set of braces, but I’m polite enough to keep that to myself.” The point was, sometimes in an effort to help we end up causing harm.
I have found this particularly true in my new yoga community. Because I work in a culture of feedback, there are plenty of people around me willing to offer ‘advice’ on how to best teach my classes. Some of the advice is completely logical and is easy to apply and grow with. But some of it is ego-based, and it comes across with the intention to ‘show me a better (read: their) way’ instead of opening up to the possibility of actually learning from me. To say that this is annoying is an understatement. I’m learning to see ‘through’ the advice to the person giving it, assess the intention behind said advice, and adjust accordingly. I’m learning to breathe. But MY GOD sometimes I just want to cuss.
Sound anti-yogic? It is. It’s also pro-human. Since I am both yogi and human, that contradiction surfaces from time to time.
One teacher in particular (for whom I have a great deal of respect) is guilty of this. It’s my opinion that she feels she can learn nothing from me. While I respect this, here’s what chaps my ass: why do you insist on taking my classes if 1)You don’t feel that you can learn anything from me and 2) if you’re going to use it as an opportunity to criticize every breath? The last time she gave me ‘advice’ I completely changed training plans to better suit my peace of mind. How’s that for impact?
Here’s the truth: I USED TO BE HER. I gave advice when NO ONE ASKED FOR IT and (more importantly) WHEN NO ONE WAS TALKING TO ME IN THE FIRST PLACE. The essential cost of this practice is often not realized until the window has closed and we are caught gazing upon the ruins of something once beautiful. Sometimes it takes the reflection of your former self to recognize the harm you’ve done to others.
In our practice of feedback, we are often asked to consider two things: Is it kind? Is it necessary? If the answer to either of these things is no, please shut the hell up. Just take the class, breathe, and smile. Maybe open up to the possibility of learning something from an unexpected source… like a zygote teacher who’s working to blossom into a full grown yogi.