Last weekend, eight of my lovelies graduated from the first ever Soul Collective Yoga Teacher Training. What a joy to see them spread their wings and fly! And what sadness to know that my role as their “mother hen” was over.
In November 2018, these women gathered in my home for the first YTT class, full of anticipation with a splash of worry. Were they good enough? Could they master all the elements of being a yoga teacher? How the heck did you put together a playlist for class? I felt the same: worried I wouldn’t measure up as a teacher of teachers; anxious about my health over the nine months the YTT would take; and, joyous that these women trusted me (and my exceptional co-trainers, Jen Lenhart and Jen McCarter) to teach them. All of us in the room knew that the path we were about to embark on would change us. We just couldn’t see yet how, or how much.
Last weekend at YTT graduation, I realized it was the weekend before Mother’s Day. As most of you know, I don’t have children, and hence missed the hilarity and joy and frustration of raising a family. But on our final Sunday morning class, I looked around at the women who were about to graduate and realized I had raised them. I had raised them from students to teachers, coaxing and hugging and sharing and encouraging. Much of the training was at my house, and I spent hours planning healthy meals, making sure the fridge was stocked with healthy goodies and creating a comfortable place for us to gather.
Over the course of the nine long weekends we spent together, there were moments when someone was overwhelmed with the coursework, or needed to vent about juggling homework and family and classes or just wanted to talk a bit. I realized I was responsible for their growth as teachers. I needed to help them become fearless in pursuing their dreams. To leave perfection behind and just be. To experience how to give back to the community. And most of all, to simply teach, love and inspire. Each one of them, in different ways, needed me at some point in the training. And regardless of what might have been happening in my own life, I needed to make enough space for that student, at that moment.
That last Sunday together, listening to Soul Stretch teacher Dr. Diana teach a lesson on detachment, the tears started. And they didn’t stop until class was over. My chicks were leaving, and I was having an “empty nest” moment. My “otherhood” was over. This was what it was like to be a mom. To provide and nurture and love your family, unstintingly and unselfishly. And then, when it is time, to let them go and hope to God you’ve given them everything they’ll need.
Family isn’t always blood relatives. It’s the people you want to be in your life … and they want you in theirs. The ones who accept you as you are, hold your hand during the bumps, lift you up when life hurts. The ones who walk into your life during a shit storm, while others walk out. The ones who love to make you smile and give really good hugs.
These eight women, my students, became family. We went through some rough patches together and it was my honor and my privilege to be their backbone of support. Of all the wisdom I tried to impart, I hope what sticks is this: Let go of your resentments and open your hearts.
And the wisdom they gave me? That my age-old soundtrack that maybe I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough, to be a mom was nonsense. And that motherhood isn’t always about physically giving birth. The word educator comes from the Latin verb “educere,” which means to lead forth or draw out. Midwives interpreted it as “to be present at the birth of.”
Author and yoga teacher Rolf Gates believes teaching yoga is about drawing forth that which is already in a student. He says: “Alignment, breath, a sequence of poses - these are simply the tools with which the teacher grabs the students attention. But if education is really the art of helping to develop each individual's innate capacities, then teaching yoga becomes much more than just a litany of poses and explanations.”
It’s been five years since I graduated from my own YTT. I have finally seen the truth that my teaching is a divine opportunity to be present at the birth of an individual’s true authentic self. My dreams of having a sweet little girl, doing a butterfly pose in a yellow leotard, never materialized. Instead, God brought me these eight women to love and inspire, and allowed me to be present at the birth of their authentic selves. What a gift.
We are blessings to each other. Teachers to students. Children to parents. Strangers and friends. Mothers and Others. This Mother’s Day, lovelies, be a blessing … and so you too will be blessed.