by: Lisa Alexander
I never, ever thought that I would become a yoga teacher. I’ve always viewed my yoga teachers as perfect, ethereal beings, who were born flexible and at peace with themselves. Although I’ve worked out regularly since college, I am not very flexible. I was not a dancer or a gymnast when I was young. I’m not super thin, my hair is not blonde and I’m 54, for god’s sake. And, even at this age, I’m still on a journey of self-acceptance. The yoga studio where I practice is owned by a gorgeous, sweet, young (and 0% body fat) friend of my son’s, who teaches most of the classes. Over the past couple of years, I had been doing more and more yoga. I couldn’t run anymore, due to low back pain. A fall on the tennis court last summer put me out of tennis for a year. Yoga seemed to help me feel better. Most of all, yoga didn’t make me feel like I needed to lose weight or change myself to advance in the poses. When the opportunity for a 200-hour yoga teacher training class opened up five minutes from my house, it seemed like the universe was conspiring to give me more yoga in my life. I had thought about training, but thoughts like I cannot do the splits, I’m old, and I don’t look like those yoga girls on Instagram, kept me from taking action. Until the training was practically dumped in my lap. I signed up and then thought: What did I just do? I’m going to make a fool of myself. Surely enough, the other students in the class were mostly in their 20’s. Thin. Flexible. Beautiful, and all with the requisite tattoos that look great on young skin. I was intimidated from the first day. Because I’m an English teacher, teaching part time at a local community college, I purchased and read all the yoga textbooks before the class even started. One of the first things I learned is that yoga is not just about the poses (asanas). In fact, the asanas were originally designed to help the body be able to sit for hours in meditation. I learned that everyone will look different in the same poses, because our bone structures are different. I learned that stilling your mind and following your breath can take you to places in the pose, and in your life, that you never, ever thought you would go. I found out that doing my training with young, talented yogis only made me try harder and become stronger. About six weeks into the training, I did a backbend for the first time in my life. At 54. I was terrified before teaching my first official (read: paid) yoga class. Then, two of my best friends walked in. And then some 20 year olds. And they all loved it. I am still unable to do the splits, but I have discovered that being able to do fancy poses is not what makes a good yoga teacher. What matters is having a genuine desire to share the benefits of yoga with other people. My students can see that I’m not perfect. And that’s OK.