On February 23rd, I celebrated my 19th year of teaching. In reflecting on my years of teaching yoga, I thought about what first brought me to the discipline as well as the changing nature of my relationship to both my practice and my teaching.
I initially began teaching in an effort to commit fully to the practice that inspired me so. I figured that if I were to teach, then I would have to be the ultimate student of yoga which would embed the practice in my life. I was correct about that and continue to view my teaching through the eyes of my practice. But when I first discovered yoga, I wanted everyone to know exactly what I was working on. I wanted friends and strangers to see me as a yogi and to associate me with all those things with which yoga was associated. I dropped the topic of yoga into conversations whenever I could, carried books on yoga with me, wore jewelry that announced my yoga practice to everyone and proudly displayed my practice on my sleeve (literally). It seemed important to talk about my dedication and transformation all the time, as if it would disappear if I didn't.
Over time, I've grown into a more silent occupation of the practice. I no longer believe that my yoga practice is something I need to share. I like to share it when others ask and I obviously share it though my teaching, but I no longer need others to validate it. My yoga practice is private, personal and quiet because it is about the kind of life I want to lead. It is between me and my Source. It is a reflection of the kind of human I want to be and the evolution of my spirit in this life. Any illusion that a public declaration of my practice legitimizes it has been shattered. Because, at the end of the day, the practice of yoga requires that I fulfill the foundations of the practice when no one is looking and that I do the right thing even if no one ever knows.
How frequently do we drop the tip into the jar at our local coffee house when the barista turns his/her back? Or do we wait so that our gesture is recognized? An authentic practice must acknowledge that our work might go unrecognized but we do it anyway because it is the right thing to do. We do the work because it is important to us, not based on how others view us. I have changed from a talker to a walker as the practice has become a part of me.
The next time you have an opportunity, drop that tip into the jar when the barista turns away. Your knowledge that you've done the right thing can be enough. When you do something for the right reason, that is the reward. That is the inner practice. That is the real practice of yoga.