The more I teach, the more I must practice. Some days, teaching takes every last ounce of my energy. On Tuesdays, I teach ESOL yoga to middle schoolers. It is always the most challenging, and powerful, part of my week. Many of my students are refugees, having only been in the USA for a short number of months, and a very rough few months at that.
I am about halfway through my program with them, and I have lost about half of my students as they continue to be displaced and face adversity and uncertainty. I see the struggle on their faces. They may not know where they are going to sleep next week, or if they will still be in school. They likely feel a lot of anger and will face a lot of adversity from peers. These students already are and will continue to face more adversity than ever before. They very likely don’t know how to navigate through a system that is currently working against them.
In order to be successful, yoga is necessary to help navigate through the uncertainty they face on a daily basis.
I don’t teach because I want my students to make a specific pose on their mats. I teach in order to provide them with the tools to find a sense of peace and inner stillness from within, despite the inexplicable chaos of the world around them. I can provide them with ways to handle their stress, provide tools for resilience, to practice self-regulation and open the doors to healing.
Holding that space is challenging. Seeing what they are going through breaks my heart. Most days, tears roll down my face the second I step out the door. Some days I give them every last ounce of optimism, compassion, and strength that I have. But when I leave, I must remember to practice what I preach and always remember the importance of honoring and taking care of myself and my practices in order to share them with others.
Tips for teachers:
- Honor yourself
- You cannot take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Make sure you are rested and have had some time to do what makes you feel like you. It will make you a better person and teacher.
- Know that there is a limit to what you can do
- You can be there, you can offer support, but you cannot do it all. I constantly remind myself of this one. You are not, and can not, be the expert for everything that everyone needs. But you can navigate them to those professionals. Sometimes remember that the best I can do and be is simply being there and offering compassion and support helps me to be a better me.
- Practice what you preach
- Make sure you are incorporating the practices and teachings that you share into your daily life as well!
- Let go
- Practice taking a step back and being able to say when it is something to let go of. It may help if you establish your role for yourself and what you will and will not be able to do before entering a situation.
- Find beauty
- Go on a walk and take a moment to pause. No matter what, find a reason to smile. Make sure that there is something little each day that reminds you why you choose to do what you do.