When Jessica Berger Gross discovered yoga, she fell in love. But after dedicating herself to becoming a yoga teacher, she realized that she still had much to learn and decided against teaching yoga.
When I began practicing yoga, I fell in love. I was 26 and in love with the practice, in love with the community, in love with the ritual of heading to my favorite yoga center every other night after work. Soon enough I wanted more, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to change my life.
I wanted—you guessed it—to quit my job and become a yoga teacher. How else could I wholeheartedly embrace my new passion? Sure enough, a few years later, I left my non-profit research job, enrolled in a yoga teacher training course (a mere two weeks in Mexico with a dynamic teacher), moved from Brooklyn to a small rural town near the Massachusetts, Vermont, New York border, and—thanks to a slashed cost of living and my then boyfriend’s generous financial support and emotional encouragement—I traded in my New York University office for a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon packed with yoga mats and props.
I was a yoga teacher. Or so I thought. I did, I hope, a decent job of taking my students through a yoga practice. We saluted the sun, worked on our standing poses, moved through backbends and forward bends and ended class with a peaceful Savasana. I threw in the yoga philosophy I was reading in my spare time, played Krishna Das and Wah! and hoped for the best. I charged a sliding scale in community center basements, subbed at Canyon Ranch, taught college students and employees at Williams College, booked the occasional private lesson. The boyfriend and I married and moved to LA. I did another, much more thorough teacher training, began studying Iyengar Yoga, and taught a few classes a week. But I was way over my head in a town that knows its yoga. Still, I tried my best, teaching at a yoga center in a canyon community and volunteering at an inner city public school where I led 50-plus kids in an improvised curriculum.
The problem? The more I taught, the more I realized how little I knew. After a miscarriage, I experienced an internal shift. I was too sad to show up in front of a class, but more, the miscarriage offered me the chance to pause and reflect on where I fit within the yoga world. Did I have something to offer my students that other teachers didn’t? Wouldn’t my students be better off taking classes with the teachers with whom I was studying?
I ended up giving up my classes and concentrating on my writing career, my other true love. (Writing about yoga was a bridge between these two worlds, something I could offer to the yoga community outside of the classroom.) Then, I became a mother. My teachers, wise and deeply experienced, not only took me from pregnancy to postpartum, but provided a foundation for the physical and emotional wellness I continue to seek out.
My yoga practice has grown and deepened and matured in the years in which I have given myself over to being a student. My days are jam packed between writing projects and childcare responsibilities. Now, when yoga world peers ask me if I teach I say no, without hesitation. Maybe one day, years from now, I’ll know enough to begin teaching again. Maybe when I have more books written, when my son is older, I’ll go back to teacher training and devote myself wholeheartedly to helping others learn the poses and philosophy that have so changed my life.
For now, I’m more than content to be a student.
Are you seeking to refine your teaching skills under the expert instruction of a mentor? Join our three-day program, The Art of Teaching Yoga at Yoga Journal LIVE, April 21-24. Sign up today!
About Our Writer
Jessica Berger Gross is the author of enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer.