Today I learned that my new yoga teacher is about to be a high school senior. I knew she was young, but not that young. She had just led us through a vinyasa flow class that was challenging, yet gentle; energetic, yet calming. Everyone thought it was great.
I am amazed by the grace and composure of this 17-year-old. When I think back to myself at that age, I can’t imagine even doing what she does, let alone doing it so well.
What makes a good teacher? Passion, confidence, knowledge? Along with those attributes, I believe that a good teacher cares deeply about her students, demonstrates it, and has the wisdom to know that there is as much to learn from them as there is to teach to them.
We benefit most as students when we let go of any expectations we have about what our teacher should be. Age, sex and size don’t define a talented yoga teacher, just as degrees and credentials don’t define talent in a college professor. Losing the words “should”, “ought”, and “must” from our vocabulary opens the door to invaluable experiences, and prevents a lot of the stress that comes from the belief that situations have to evolve in a certain way. Opening that door prepares us to engage, learn and make the most of what life, and our teachers, offer.
Certainly I used to be more rigid than I am today. From my children, I learned to be patient and adaptable. From my older relatives, I learned about dignity. From my friends, I learned to be compassionate and understanding. From my neighbors, I learned about community. From difficult people, I learned to forgive and let go.
Perhaps the most self-discovery comes when the lines between teacher and student blur, and we realize that there is something to be learned from everyone we meet. Every interaction is an opportunity to uncover something we already knew, but weren’t seeing. I only hope that I am able to touch other people the way my new yoga teacher touches me.