Planting Seeds: seeing the fruits of your teaching and practice

Sometimes, I walk out of my yoga class, feeling just a bit disheartened. Sometimes my jokes don’t go over so well, sometimes I feel people’s body cringe when I speak of energy or cultivating positive thoughts, and sometimes, just as were about to hit the awesomest of awesome peak pose, people drop out of my flow and wither into childs pose. On these days, I take it all personally. Did I ask too much? Was I bringing more challenging than people were ready for? Should I adapt my own feelings about energy and meditation/mindfulness to make everyone in class comfortable?

I have done a lot of soul searching, about how to gauge myself as a teacher. More and more, it depends less on what is happening in the room, and more on how I feel when I walk out—did I teach with integrity? Did I teach yoga, as I know it, and did it sit right with the teachings that have been passed down to me? I know this comes as not-so-new of a lesson, but you can’t please everyone. But I want to take this idea even further…. What if our effect as a teacher isn’t measured by the immediate ‘smile’ or ‘no smile’ face of the student who exits  right after class? Perhaps, we need to take our perspective a bit wider.

I bring this up, as this week I found myself teaching a Thich Nhat Hanh meditation during one of my own classes. I originally heard this from a chaplain at my high school, who I wasn’t especially fond of, and who I resented for being attached to a religion I didn’t consider myself apart of. One day in required chapel, instead of leaving us with a prayer, he ended by having us sit, and breathe in while “seeing myself as a flower”. I wasn’t so into meditating in this time of my life, and thought it seemed a pretty ridiculous—breathing in as a flower? This was hippy-dippy, even for me. He kept going, Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh.  Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain, Breathing out, I feel solid

While I walked out of the chapel, looking sometimes as my disgruntled yogis do, with a fair amount of angst written all across my face, I have to admit I have returned to these simple words more times than I can count throughout my life. When I summitted my first mountain, it came to me as a mantra for each step. From that one moment in high school chapel, a seed was planted, that has shaped my own meditation practice, and now that of my students as well. Heck, sometimes now I like to just sit in nature and make up my own breath mantras!

So yoga teachers, I encourage you to follow the wise words of this tree I found on a stumble through a forest wat in Thailand:


 And then after you do that, realize that all that you do might not be readily apparent. Who knows how many years it may take for a seed to sprout, for the guidance you give someone a journey to really take hold.

**Here is the original meditation included below, from Thich Nhat Hanh, Breathe! You are alive: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, (Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax Press, 1988).

Mindful Sitting


Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.                                                                             In

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.                                                                       Out

Breathing in, I notice that my in-breath is deep.                                                            Deep

Breathing out, I notice that my out-breath goes slowly.                                             Slow

Breathing in, I calm my whole body.                                                                                  Calm

Breathing out, I feel ease.                                                                                                         Ease

Breathing in, I smile (at everything – including my worries!)                                   Smile

Breathing out, I release (everything including all tension)                                       Release

Breathing in, I am aware that I am dwelling in the present moment.                    Present moment

Breathing out, I know this is a moment of happiness, a wonderful moment.     Wonderful moment


Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.                                                                             In

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.                                                                       Out

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.                                                                               Flower

Breathing out, I feel fresh.                                                                                                     Fresh

Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.                                                                        Mountain

Breathing out, I feel solid.                                                                                                     Solid

Breathing in, I see myself as still water.                                                                           Still water

Breathing out, I reflect things as they truly are.                                                          Reflecting

Breathing in, I see myself as space.                                                                                   Space

Breathing out, I feel free.                                                                                                       Free

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