A crisis of confidence

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Yoga class

l have spent an incredible three days learning about teaching yoga to autistic kids. A humbling experience when you see the joy in these children, who are often physically and cognitively different from us ‘normal’ or neuro-typical people.

The leaning was made even more inspiring because of the love and humality that exudes from Jo Manuel, the course leader and founder of The Special Yoga Foundation.

While that, in many ways, produced its own crisis of confidence about whether I could work with people at the more challenging ends of the spectrum that isn’t the reason l am writing.

The three days away meant l asked a friend, and wonderful yoga teacher, to cover my corporate class.

l was delighted to receive an email from one of my students saying what a great class they had in my absence. But then that inner voice kicked in: ‘they prefer her,’ ‘you’re not good enough’  etc… etc… l put it to one side and decided to focus on it later, after all I had the final afternoon of my course to focus on.

Arriving at the station I received an email from my friend. She had five students – more than I’ve had in weeks. I challenged that inner voice to stay quiet. Two of them asked her if she taught elsewhere. Now the self-doubt was in full flow. Neither of these students responded when I sent an email about an evening class I was running.  ‘I am no good and need to give up this yoga teaching thing,’ ‘I’ll do the next 10 classes I have planned then at Christmas I’ll knock it on the head’.

l am not hugely surprised by my reaction. l often look at other teachers and feel that they are so much better than me. I remember all the positive feedback after my first teaching assessment, and thinking those people had obviously attended a different class to me. Clearly I have self-worth issues I need to work through.

Confronting issues that are difficult for you, and facing them, has been a big topic of discussion the last three days . How can you expect these children to face what is going on for them if you can’t do it yourself. So I guess that is my challenge: Face it, sit with it, see what comes up, and deal with it.

l sat at the station and pondered how I felt. Anxious definitely; was I on the wrong path, had I made a huge mistake deciding to tech yoga? Anger, anger that I had ‘failed’, angry at myself for not trying harder. Then deep sadness. Sadness that l always felt I had to be the best, something drummed into as a child, always be in the top set, get the best grades, why are your friends doing better etc.. Not through any malice on the part of my Dad (mum wasn’t around) but just because he wanted me to do well and be the best I could be.

As the tears began to well I decided Paddington Station wasn’t the place to confront this and pushed it back down inside for later. Then a thought struck me – had I been the best I could be?

When I began teaching I spent an hour at least planning each class. I would run through the class myself. Initially I also taught each class to my partner so he could give me feedback.

l would arrive for my classes at least 15 minutes early and would warm up and go through the class again and make sure I was grounded and ready to teach a spiritual practice. Recently I’ve been busy. Class planning has been minimal – no time. Practicing the class – well there wasn’t a class to practice. I’d been arriving seconds before my students, no time to warm up – but at least I didn’t need to go through my non-existant class plan. l was still frazzled from the day job, my energy all over the place, head still at my desk and certainly not grounded and inhabiting my body.

Is it any wonder my students had a great time being taught by someone else. My friend will have meticulously planned her class. Arrived early, been, present, calm and centered. Even I want to go to her class instead of mine!

So that’s my answer. My anxiety, anger and sadness are because I haven’t been doing my students, or myself, justice. l haven’t been the best yoga teacher l can be. If I want to find peace l need to change that. Then maybe next time I need another teacher to cover my class the students will still have a great class, but I won’t feel inferior because I’ll know that each week I take the best possible version of me into the teaching room and give the students the best class I can.

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