It was raining. I remember being so happy we had a day of rain. Finally. After all of the heat and dryness our region has experienced. I walked my familiar route to my class that night and suddenly had the terrifying feeling that no one was going to show up. I remember feeling that crush of expectation before even walking into the building. I remember feeling failure before I'd even taken the first step into the classroom.
I share my experience here because let's face it - if you're a yoga teacher, there will come a day when no one comes to your class. You run that risk. (You might even say this of all teaching. There will be a day when the room doesn't fill up with students. And it's not because the studio where you're teaching didn't market it correctly or work to get people in the room. It just happens.) People have exciting, loving, busy lives. Some days they want to be in their life and not in a yoga class. And that's okay. It has to be.
It has to be okay because that's the truth of it. Don't ask me how I had that uncanny insight and could see the lack of students. I sometimes have this sense, a sense of what's to come. So I try to listen to it when it comes. And this voice was calling on the present moment - a hot day in the middle of summer when people are away on vacation - to form its opinion of what was coming next. All of the circumstances aligned to suggest that yes, your yoga class will be empty.
And it was empty. For the first five minutes. Then one of my loyal students showed up. We proceeded to have a very nice one-on-one session. It was lovely and true. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work with her in that way for the evening.
But it was still one student. I try to have between five and ten a night. In those moments preceding when my one student showed up, I went through an onslaught of negative thinking, I can tell you that. The ugly critic in my head reared its ugly head and feasted.
Who are you to think you can teach? Why are you even trying? You suck. You've failed. No one wants to take class from you. You're a horrible teacher. I hate your class. You could care less about your students. Your classes are all about you and your skinny body. You just show off when you teach. Just because you're a dancer doesn't mean you're a good yoga teacher.
And on it went. I took deep breaths and let it feast. I've learned by now that to try and shut off that voice or ignore it doesn't help. I have to embrace it and hold on.
So I took deep breaths. I imagined the voice as a dragon, trying to hose me down with its fiery breath. With each in breath I took I imagined joy, coolness, light. With each out breath I took I imagined all of the heat, fire and disappointment moving out of me into the rain.
I imagined going home for a moment. Yes, I can just go home and enjoy the evening with my husband. An opportunity, this is. But then I thought, No, there is something deeper here that wants to reveal itself to me.
So I continued to feel sorry for myself, hate myself as a teacher, but also feel grounded and strong in the negative feelings.
And then I heard a different voice. You are a good teacher. You are one of the best teachers that some of your students have ever had, and you know that because they've told you that. You have a whole world to offer to them. Do not give up. You're at the beginning of your teaching career. You're just where you need to be.
It was patience. And a devotion to the practice that pulled me through. It was a rich patience, made of something dark and strong, like iron, and it's what I was able to impart to my one student as we worked together that evening.
When I got home and made myself a cup of tea it was lovely to read the message on the tea tag: "Patience gives the power to practice; practice gives the power that leads to perfection."
Sipping my tea, I remembered that teaching is not about perfection for me. It's about the pursuit of finding my dance with being human and wanting to be perfect. It's about honoring my knowing and creating a safe, comfortable, celebratory space for others to explore their knowing and their deep, deep desire for perfection.
The day no one came to my yoga class was a day I came to my yoga class in all of my glory and despair.
And that, my friends, was a gift.