The Reluctant Yoga Teacher
It was 2005. I had turned forty years old a month earlier and was the owner of a struggling bakery in the Chicago suburbs, looking into the abyss of the future. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t see what my next step would be. Pastry, my passion, was no longer economically viable. My kids were too old for me to retreat into full-time parenting while I figured out a way to reinvent myself. And while I could always go back to being a lawyer, I told myself, the idea of returning to a stressful, often soul-sucking, job gave me knots in my stomach.
This is the part where I write, “Yoga entered my life and everything changed.” And to a certain extent, that’s true—just not in the way of the typical yoga teacher’s story. It happened slowly and it definitely wasn’t love at first sight.
I wasn’t a complete yoga neophyte. I had about thirty to forty classes under my belt. But my practice was borne from a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment or enlightenment. I knew yoga was supposed to be good for me. I liked the way people who “did” yoga looked. So I dragged myself to class every once in a while, and usually by the time I was done, I was either discouraged (from going to a class that was way beyond my abilities) or bored. I remember savasana after savasana thinking, “I’m paying for child care and lying on the floor when I would be doing something like WORKING OUT!!!” So when I joined the gym and started up with yoga again, I didn’t have any expectations. It was just something to do while I was figuring things out.
If there had been anything else in my life at the time, I’m convinced that yoga wouldn’t have stuck. But I was at an impasse, and going to the gym (an hour on the elliptical and a 90 minute yoga practice) was all I had each day. I kept returning day after day until I realized I was looking forward to yoga more than anything else the gym had to offer. I branched out to other classes, and eventually started going to studios. I couldn’t figure out where this new thing was going, but I went along with it, without any agenda.
My physical practice grew stronger and stronger and in 2007, I enrolled in my first teacher training. I had no interest in the subtler teachings, the philosophy and the Sutras. I just wanted to get better at asana. But the universe had other plans; upon completing my training, I found myself with two jobs teaching yoga. For lack of anything better to do, I began teaching.
The sheer discomfort of teaching threw me for a loop. It brought me (and continues to bring me) face to face with all of my insecurities. I cried before teaching, dreaded the next week’s class, and was often known to stress-eat donuts to mitigate my anxiety. I thought about quitting every day. But the pain of teaching was not as great as the pain of not knowing what I did, so I showed up for my classes and never stopped being a student.
Over time, my teaching improved and after five or six years, I realized that I wasn’t dissolving before each class. Even more surprisingly, the stuff I had found so boring in my training—the yamas and niyamas, pranayama, the subtle quality of energy in a well sequenced class, and the negative space of silence—became the force that drew me to the mat. Today, while I still enjoy a sweaty practice, it’s the little things—knowing where my weight is on my foot, observing the cadence of my breath, allowing the inner critic to speak without attaching to the meaning of the words—that keep me coming back.
Teaching yoga is anything but linear. Some days I think I rock; other days, I think I suck. I go through phases when I’m inspired, and then there are times when I question what I’m doing, just like I did at the beginning. My practice, my body, and my life have all changed since I walked into the gym in 2005. But the beauty of yoga is that it’s always there for me, just like it’s always there for my students. It may not be the yoga we think we want, but it’s always the yoga that we need. And these days, when I struggle with my teaching and my life, I find some comfort in remembering that the struggle is part of the process.
Marjorie Fradin received her 200 and 500 hour trainings from Moksha Yoga in Chicago. She is also a Level 2 Forrest Yoga certified instructor, having completed both the Foundation and Advanced Teacher training. She is currently studying the neuroscience of movement, based on the works of Thomas Hanna, and is a certified Clinical Somatic Educator through Essential Somatics.