I remember, during my first yoga teacher training, one of the trainers said, “Once you begin teaching, one of the first things that can go is your personal practice. Don’t let that happen.”
I remember thinking, “I cannot imagine a world where that would be true”. And, indeed, it was many years before I began to worry that my personal practice had slipped.
Eventually, though, it did. Practicing felt like an obligation, which I felt guilty about (‘If I’m not practicing this way, am I out of integrity as a teacher?’). For some reason, the love had been sucked out of the experience.
Looking back, there were a few reasons it happened. First, I was practicing in a way that didn’t ring true for me. I had an idea about how I was supposed to practice, which was different from how I wanted to practice and the gap was a source of stress.
Second, my personal practice and the practices I did to prepare for classes I taught had become blurred. When I stepped onto my mat, I was never sure if it was for me, or for others. Was my practice filling my cup, or emptying it?
These were uncomfortable moments. They were also important moments. In fact, one of the teachings within yoga is that our journey cannot happen without them.
Moments of doubt, feelings of loss, experiences of confusion are part of the journey. They’re important because they force us to examine our attachments to the things we’re most identified with.
If we identify as a ‘seeker’ and our seeking stops working, what then?
Then, we have to let go. The purpose of voids is to turn us inwards, to encourage us to ask better questions, and to pave the way for a different kind of journey to come.
What I learned was that my practice cannot be something I do to fulfil my responsibilities as a teacher. Practice has to be for me, and me alone.
As a result of my experience, I made a commitment: I will no longer teach what’s in my personal practice. For as long as something remains part of my practice, I will not give it away.
The commitment ensures that, when I step on to my mat, my attention is undivided.
I cannot tell you what a difference it made. My empty cup filled very quickly.
If this is something that resonates with you and you find yourself looking for ongoing practice support, keep an eye out towards the end of April for something new I’m releasing (and am very excited about).
Regular practice is oh-so-important and, like any relationship, we have to make regular deposits into the personal practice account, for it to bear fruit over time.
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