This month, I started teaching beginner-friendly yoga classes again. For a good long while, and simply to reduce a physically-punishing and emotionally-taxing workload, I’d focused almost exclusively on intermediate- to advanced-level classes.
I didn’t think it would matter, to be honest.
Which is a sign of how burned out I was when I started decreasing my teaching load.
But this week, on returning to classes where the majority of students are new to yoga, I discovered a startling and surprising thing:
I’ve really, truly and profoundly missed teaching newbies.
It’s startling and surprising, because teaching novices is significantly more demanding than teaching veterans. There’s literally more that needs to be said, more that needs to be done and more that needs to be shown. With advanced students, you just have to give them the name of the pose and they flow beautifully into it with grace, elegance and precision.
But the challenges of teaching beginners comes with its own unique rewards, my most favorite of which is seeing yoga anew (again and again) through the lenses of my student’s experiences. When someone who’s never been athletic discovers her own capacity for flexibility and strength for the first time; when someone’s eyes light up because they balanced on one foot, reached their toes, or did the full Chaturanga Dandasana for the first time; when someone carries her infant son without experiencing lower back pain for the first time—it returns me to the first times I dismissed, overlooked, or took for granted because my own journey into yoga began as an attempt to subjugate and reshape a weak and recalcitrant body into something supple and strong.
In short, it’s my beginners who’ve taught me (and who continue to teach me) what yoga really is about: compassion, patience, perseverance, lightheartedness and ridiculous amounts of joy at the smallest wins. Because even if you teach yoga, it’s all too easy to forget what it’s all about.
After all, you can stand neck-deep in a river and still die of thirst.
So here’s to all the beginner students (and by implication, all the intermediate- and advanced-level students who were beginners once too) who’ve reminded me of the waters swirling all around, and through their example, invited me to—
Drink. Drink. And drink.
I bow to you all in gratitude and joy.