Teaching through challenging times

Navigating difficult personal circumstances as a yoga teacher. By Paula Hines

My dad died on a sunny October morning when I was in a different country, away working. I didn’t know that he had died until I arrived back in the UK in the early hours of a dark, cold Wednesday.
He was ill and he was old. So, it should not have come as a shock. But it did.
When my dad died, I stuck with my regular teaching schedule. I took no time off. In fact, I remember that just a few days later I solo taught a weekend yoga retreat – something I had committed to many months before. In hindsight, I should not have. The retreat went well, everyone was happy. I carried on… at my expense. I don’t think I mentioned during the retreat that my dad had died as I was meant to be holding space for everyone else, and at the time I deemed it would be unprofessional. I now see that as ludicrous. I was incredibly unkind to myself.
I spent most of the next year in a haze, carrying on and sort of functioning but not really. I forgot a load of things that I had

committed to (sincerest apologies to anyone out there who was on the receiving end of this), and tiny things often overwhelmed me.
Everyone is different. We all grieve differently, and you really don’t know how you will react until it happens to you. For some people throwing themselves into work is the right thing. It turns out that it was not right for me. I also think in Western societies we tend not to do death or grief very well. We don’t know what to say, so often don’t say anything at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. A lot of the people I did tell, especially with regard to yoga-related work, said that I seemed fine. (How would they know? !) And, how long is ‘long enough’ before you get back to ‘normal’? In a way, you are expected to carry on as usual because the rest of the world does.
If you are a teacher, whether you do or do not teach through challenging times, be it bereavement or something else, it is for you, and only you, to decide. It may mean disappointing some people in the short term, but it so very important to take care of you first

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