Teaching Yoga: The Most Selfishly Selfless Act

Teaching Yoga: The Most Selfishly Selfless Act

From Student to Teacher, A Humbling Journey of Self-Discovery and Service - By Paul Calarco

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The moment I began my yogic journey just about a decade ago, I had the desire to become a yoga instructor.  As a career educator with more degrees than a thermometer, it was both a logical desire to acquire another credential on my ever-expanding resume and an illogical fixation that is part and parcel to my relentlessly obsessive “Type-A” personality.

The latter is another story, another article and another time where I may thank yoga for helping me re-gain the years I was destined to lose due to the respective stress that is self-imposed by living such an achievement-oriented existence.  Life as it has illustrated to this point, is a most interesting journey of twists, turns and unexpected plot twists.

An old adage comes to mind: when the student is ready the teacher appears.  The clarity of retrospect brings me to the reason why I needed to wait: preparation.  It took six years for my desire to learn to teach, my spirit to understand yoga to my core and to merge with a studio that would become my yogic home for two years.

The most powerful part of the training were the years prior to its start.  Everyone was forced inward and for me this was literal.  It was at this moment I began my intensely intimate and solitary journey into myself with my yoga practice as the vessel.  Yoga means union between body, mind and spirit; it was not until that period of my life did I truly commune with myself.

Flash forward to now being at the helm of the ship.  An intense and unanticipated shift in perspective that was garnered at the front of the room, instantly, was one of humility.  To lead students in practice is both an honor and service.  We are both responsible for sequencing the asana but to as well be aware that we are the catalyst to transmit the eight limbs of yoga.  As a teacher, we need to be mindful to be inclusive and commensurate to the diversity that are present in the space.

Yoga is an ancient healing practice and is misunderstood by much of the modern practitioners and social media influencers.  It is  in so many ways a vulnerably sacred practice and there is an infinite spiritual, mental,  emotional, energetic value that gets lost in translation in most classes.

As teachers and representatives of yoga, we have to be aware that not only are we opening the tight muscular fascia but that we have to be mindful of our spiritual presence in the room.  We must be aware of what potentially our students will experience not just physically but psychically during and even hours after the final Savasana.  I have been to so many classes as a participant/practitioner and felt the need to debrief the students that were new to the room.

I recall one young man that looked a little dazed after a POWER VINYASA FLOW class about his experience: how are you feeling?  He immediately replied: angry.  I then offered him a little primer that emotional release was not an atypical experience and that he should take time to understand the source and origin and provided my contact information if he wished to contact me in the future.

As I proceed along this teaching path, there is an immense joy to watch individual growth as it happens before our eyes.  The unexpected gifts of being a yoga teacher are at the top of Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs and the end of a class is always fulfilling as a participant but when you are the facilitator, it truly fills your cup.

The consequent realization and affirmation that you have made a positive contribution to the world providing your students with skills that they will take with them the rest of their lives is remuneration in and of itself.  Furthermore, that big checkmark in the self-actualization box when the gifts of gratitude are presented from the student.  I will never forget a student say to me after class: Paul, you are exceptional, you are a teacher. The irony is the student is the teacher and I am merely a channel.

I later came to find out as I got to know that student that he was a retired brain surgeon, which completely humbled me to reflect on his compliment.  Pablo Picasso once said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”  I was granted the blessed gift of yoga and I always tell others that I cannot imagine my life without it.  It is my honor and privilege to share the wisdom of my practice wherever I am provided the opportunity irrespective of fiscal remuneration.  Namaste and may peace be with you.


Paul Calarco

Dr. Paul E Calarco, Jr. is at heart a seeker of truth, truthfully a seeker of knowledge. He feels that this lifetime is the opportunity to pursue passion and love. He says, “I have found both and it is my responsibility to share the journey.”