The Enlightening Mat: Teaching by Being

being & teaching

Teaching is a universal need, and I've wanted to teach ever since I was a little girl. However, the way I fulfill this need has changed over the years. In the beginning, I taught friends by showing them how to do something better -- kind of taking over and not letting them experience things on their own. Ultimately, I was using teaching to feel more confident and empowered.

Later after going to school to be a teacher, I spent more time asking others how they would like to learn and what if anything I could do to facilitate that experience. Sometimes I struggled because underneath my yearning to share, I would experience people who were quite happy not receiving new information, and I would have to keep all my enthusiasm for some killer technique to myself. It was particularly frustrating when I was teaching computers, and I would discover an amazing tip that would cut a person's workload in half. Often I would become like an overbearing evangelist lightening bug trying to spread the word so intensely because I wanted everyone to know about this time-saving method that would make their life easier.

Nevertheless, I had to come to understand that perhaps in my zeal to help, I was ignoring what other people may need the most and that is to discover things in their own way and in their own time frame.

I've learned to be more of an indirect teacher by placing offerings out into the world through my blog and my book Lemonade Mantras -- tidbits or little seeds of things I've collected along the way from other helpful souls. I enjoy this approach of teaching by just being because it allows other people to casually connect to what speaks to them most and then add to these offerings in their own unique way.

Indirect teaching by just being is also another reason I love to practice Bikram yoga. Many times I purposely place my mat in the back of class near a new or beginning student. First of all it sets my intention for class that I will be the best role model possible because I know my actions may impact how easy or difficult it is for a new student to mimic the postures. Internally I vow to be the best demonstrator of Bikram yoga and move my arms, legs, and hands in ways that I hope give the other person a clear picture of how to set up a pose.

Also, it forces me to be extremely present and not give up on myself during class for I sense that when I'm near a beginning student my energy may help buoy up their spirit and keep them focused on getting through the experience. This kind of indirect support and teaching is one way I hope to serve my Bikram yoga community so that it grows and flourishes.

On the flip side, when I enter the Bikram yoga room, I am conscious of all the teachers around me. In fact, I think of Bikram yoga as a gathering of spiritual teachers. I never know what I'm going to learn from my fellow yogis, and it's always new and different. It's noticing the person silently sobbing next to me, and learning how to become vulnerable and let go of past hurts in a safe place surrounded by loving and caring supporters.

Or maybe it's the guy in the front row who is kicking butt and has an enormous amount of energy that is inspiring me to pull myself together and be a little bit stronger. Or sometimes it's watching a yogi who goes farther then they've ever been in a pose before and tumbles over. They get me curious about finding my own edge and wonder what it's like to fall.

Teaching is a universal need and to some degree I'm guessing we all have the urge to connect and share in this way. How you go about fulfilling this need may be different, but one of the most powerful ways I've found through Bikram yoga is simply by setting the intention to be the best role model possible -- teaching by being. Be the best in yourself and share that with the people around you, and the beauty of this intention spreads like wildfire, igniting the same desire in others.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.