the price and privilege of visibility

“When I began competing I was very nervous. Here you are, all alone on stage, demonstrating something extremely personal. But there is a shift the more you practice. I realized it just wasn’t about me. Win or lose, I was a role player, a participant along with everyone else … For me getting on stage to compete is an act of generosity, realization and love.”

-Courtney Mace (2009 International Yoga Asana Champion)

This is how it feels to practice as a teacher. My practice is no longer just about me. It happened when I started to work the front desk at my studio, and I resisted and resented the intrusion–my practice was no longer about just how I felt. I couldn’t be weak, or have a lazy class, because now others were looking to me as an example. Ugh!

After training, I have less resistance and resentment of this fact. After teacher training, thanks to camaraderie and humility, my practice is stronger and more disciplined. Even when my postures aren’t as deep, or I’m really struggling with resistance in my mind or a part of my body, I am more capable of carrying others. I can feel my presence ground the students around me.

The parallels to Courtney’s statement run deep. My personal practice, something I will always cherish and depend upon as necessary to my physical and mental health, was at first difficult to share (and sometimes, still is). It was mine, and I needed it. I didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t want to share; I wanted the anonymity of struggling along with everyone else.

Becoming a teacher, you lose that privilege–but it turns out that privilege is also a handicap. In being even more visible (as if all those mirrors weren’t enough, right?), and in having my practice be not just about me but about being strong for other people, I found more strength in myself. It’s easy to underestimate ourselves; harder to fail others. It seems that the limits of what we are capable of change according to our perception of our limits. And every day I practice I test (and therefore expand) both my perception and my limits.

So, yes, now my practice–in both its strengths and its vulnerabilities–is an act of generosity, realization and love.

With this in mind, I have signed up for the 60 day challenge. Not for me–I don’t need to prove to myself I can do it, I did it last year (with pneumonia) and then upped the ante with teacher training a few months later. I’m doing it because I think it’s important for my students to see me do it and to encourage them to try it. It begins, quite appropriately, tomorrow.