If we wish to teach our students life’s greatest lesson-that it is only love that really matters-we must start by learning to love the work of teaching. Perhaps the greatest service we can do for our students is to remind them in both obvious and subtle ways to find their true calling in life, and to provide them with tools to help them on their quest. As our students physically open their hearts while doing back bends and become more aware of their feelings from doing inversions, they cultivate the sensitivity to separate what is essential from what is merely urgent. It is only when we take care of what is essential that we can die without regret.
As yoga teachers, perhaps our central practice is to watch everything we teach-every method, every word, every action-and ask if the approach is merely a means to achieving a greater pose or a deeper breath, or is it essentially helping my student to love their life more? Are you merely teaching poses or are you teaching students to love more abundantly and die contented?”
As teachers, we must first love ourselves and our work. We can do no better than to follow this timeless advice of doing what you love, love what you are doing, and deliver more than you promise. The true passion for teaching lives only within teachers who love both their subject and the teaching. This is because they know they are living their dharma. When I feel my dharma, I have no choice but to be in love with my subject and my teaching. Then teaching is no longer a job, but a fulfilling way of self-expression that allows me to manifest the love I feel for who I am. It is a way of spreading the joy and peace of yoga and creating an inner balance that leads to bliss. When I feel this, I am living my dharma. I am fulfilled.
Mother Theresa said, “We can do no great things-only small things with great love.” The most important thing we can do for our students is to feel a great love for our teaching and our practice. If you have lost your love of teaching, it is time to learn something new. Just as married couples need to take time out for themselves and go on “dates” to restore feelings of love and joy, we need to take time to renew and refresh the love of our craft. Just as our bodies need regular asana practice to be restored, so our teaching needs regular care in order to remain healthy and vibrant. Find a teacher, take a workshop, go on a retreat. Find a mentor who truly loves yoga so that you can absorb some of that love and inspiration. Going to workshops or retreats and studying with master teachers is not indulgent, but essential.
Another way to renew our love of teaching is to remind ourselves that we are participating in the cosmic drama. As we help others embody their dharma, we are assisting the spirits that guide their lives. As we love our students and enter into the mystery of their unfolding, our teaching is filled with unexpected magic.
The greatest service we can give our students is to love our own practice–our teaching, our students, and, above all, our own self. Then, as we breathe our last, we will smile knowing that we have lived, loved, and died without regret.
If we wish to teach our students life’s greatest lesson-that it is only love that really matters-we must start by learning to love the work of teaching.
2008 Aadil Palkhivala