Today's Daily Tip
Teaching Through Tough Times
Amy Ippoliti, a senior certified Anusara Yoga teacher based in Boulder, Colorado, felt vulnerable and fragile as she attempted to pull herself together to teach in New York City following September 11, 2001.
"Despite my own grief, I tried to acknowledge the pain everyone felt and uplift them in the face of such madness," she says.
At the end of the day when she returned to her apartment, Ippoliti would fall onto the floor and cry. The experience helped her learn to integrate grieving with teaching. "The more I experience the full spectrum of life, the easier it gets to hold the polarity of despair along with the ecstatic moments," she says.
Whether it's the experience of a death, divorce, or health complication, everyone has to deal with a crisis at sometime. There's no way a yoga teacher can escape the challenge of teaching during difficult times. How can you use your suffering to fuel your teachings? How can your own life challenges inspire your students to face theirs? And is it ever appropriate to throw your hands up, step out of your role as a teacher, and just take care of yourself?
Personal challenges brought Kalimaya Girasek, a Kripalu Yoga teacher based in Florida, to the yoga mat first as a student and later as a teacher. As a result of surgery, Girasek had suffered a stroke, and, in turn, multiple physical difficulties. In addition, she broke her leg twice within two years. She has also struggled with bouts of depression and the inevitable forces of aging.
Nevertheless, her desire to teach continues. "I teach others that yoga is a way to live," she says. "We use the yoga mat to practice on and take our thoughts and beliefs into the world so that we may touch others."
For some, hardship is not a sporadic event but a way of life. This is the case for Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher and founder of the nonprofit Mind Body Solutions, author of Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, and paraplegic as the result of a car accident 29 years ago. Paralyzed from the chest down, Sanford teaches weekly classes to both "abled" and disabled students.
No stranger to pain, Sanford has learned how to manage it skillfully, both in his life and in his teachings.
"When I'm in pain, I emphasize the nourishing aspects of the poses rather than the challenges that they present," says Sanford. "A balanced, nourishing response to pain is something everyone needs to practice."
In addition to the challenges of his paralysis, Sanford has faced the loss in utero of one of his twin sons. "For me, personal hardship has led me to step more deeply into my life's work," he says.
When we open up to view difficulty as the keystone for transformation, we allow every experience in our lives to be an opportunity to practice and experience yoga.