“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” George Bernard Shaw.
I have never been particularly driven to be the best in any of my athletic endeavors. Instead, I am perfectly content knowing I am better than average, but not good enough to be exceptional. I have participated in triathlons, 10Ks, and ½ marathons, always performing in the top 20%, but never breaking the top 10%. I am a strong and capable Ashtanga yoga practitioner, but there are plenty who practice more advanced postures with ease and continue to advance, while I am okay never putting my legs behind my head. I am capable of challenging, impressive looking exercises in the weight room, but there will always be a more advanced version that I don’t aspire to perform. For whatever reason, I am content working hard enough to be pretty good, but not hard enough to be the best.
This is in stark contrast to my professional goals. When I began personal training, I was so impressed by how the body worked, how strong and flexible it could become with just a little work, that I began learning all I could to make people fitter. As I became a little more knowledgeable, I became curious about the injury process, and began to explore how it affected other areas of the body. At this point, I began to realize I could stop learning and skate by, going through the motions and be a slightly better than average trainer. Instead, something pushed me to continue to learn, eventually landing me in graduate school with aspirations of teaching trainers how to train. While there is always someone out there who is more skilled, I continue to push and learn to be as good as I possibly can.
Teaching yoga is similar to personal training. When I began teaching yoga, I felt fraudulent. I had been a student of the class I was now leading for a year. I wasn’t an extremely advanced practitioner, but I understood body mechanics, and was in the process of deepening my anatomical knowledge. Slowly, with practice, my teaching became less forced, less rehearsed sounding. I continued to go to workshops and learn. I ended up collecting a handful of private yoga clients along the way. I taught two other yoga classes for beginners. I found myself improving, feeling more confident. While I understood that without devoting myself to teaching yoga, I would never be the best yoga teacher (the greats are an amazing force), I didn’t suck, either.
In the midst of all of this, the class I had taken over continued to get smaller and smaller, dwindling in participants until there were two regulars. For an entire year, I diligently showed up, hoping for four or (gasp!) five people. As the months passed, I realized I had to let go of the class that had allowed me to practice, both as a student and as a teacher, and find my teaching style. A sense of sadness appeared as I locked the door for the last time last Thursday, after no one came. Along with the sadness was a sense of gratitude for those who had stuck with me all of those lean months. While that class has passed, I continue to teach others. Maybe not in the same way or the same sequence, but I will continue to learn and improve. And if all else fails, I can do as the great Woody Allen once said, “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
Yours in health and wellness,