Years ago, Chris and I visited New Orleans together with Todd. We noticed that most all of the street performers had their own milk crate. That crate acted as a stage or a seat or even as part of the act as one performer balanced a milk crate on his head. If you had a milk crate, you had a job. The milk crate made Chris come up with an idea for a self help book called "What's Your Milk Crate?" The basic concept of the book was discovering the base for the job you wanted to do. It was really a great idea, one of the many on Chris's list of ideas, but nothing ever really came out of it. What's Your Milk Crate was a self help book for the creative type; at least that's what I believed for many years. It took me awhile to figure out that everyone needs a milk crate. It took me even longer to realize that I have many milk crates. Like a milk crate for science and a milk crate for yoga. Sometimes a crate wears out and needs to be replaced with a new one of a different color. Sometimes you have too many milk crates and you need to dump a few.
Our kayaking tour group were all standing around on a beach eating lunch and chit-chatting. One of our guides, Katie, and another woman were talking about combining kayaking with yoga. Katie said that she'd love to take a group over to one of the islands to camp and do yoga, but she needed a teacher. Michael chimed in at this and said "Cindy could teach for you!" Suddenly, all eyes turned towards me like they expected me to start leading vinyasa right then and there. I stood there with my eyebrows raised and sort of stammered for a minute before I finally spit out that I used to teach. Meaning, I don't teach anymore. Though, I had to admit that it would be really great to be part of a kayaking yoga retreat. Then words starting falling from mouth in an effort to explain myself and why I don't teach any more. I feel like I've told this story a lot lately and it needs a rewrite. I talk about taking time off from teaching to get used to a new job and a new city. I talk about volunteering a little and then I say "my husband got sick and died and I just kind of stopped teaching all together at that point." Then I scramble back around and say something like "I didn't stop teaching because of Chris. I just stopped teaching."
My milk crate changed colors.
That should be my answer when someone asks me why I don't teach any more. My milk crate changed colors. I am not opposed to teaching. I loved teaching yoga. Loved it! When I moved from a job that brought me joy to a job that was just a job, I taught lots of yoga. Teaching made feel good and balanced out the job that made me feel awful, but it made sense for me to take a break from teaching once we moved to Kansas City. Moving is stressful. Moving to completely unknown territory is a different level of stress and exhilaration. There was a whole lot of new happening around me with a new job, a new home, a new city. Adding to all of that with new classes and new students didn't seem like the smartest thing or the most economical. I spent more money maintaining my teaching certification than I did making money as a teacher. But these are not all of the reasons for stepping away from teaching.
My yoga teacher once told me that people who really get yoga and the concept of yoga, don't teach. Those old gurus that hang out in Yogaville teach a workshop about once year just to help pay for their living, but they don't teach daily classes. I don't know if I "get" yoga, but I understand what happens to your personal practice when you are a teacher and I understand what can happen to your personal practice when you stop teaching. I understand why those old gurus don't teach daily classes. When I stopped teaching, my yoga practice shifted. Before, my practice was one sided plus a savasana. I did all the poses on the left because I usually demonstrated by doing poses on the right and I never got a savasana. The shift in my practice was more than just one sided poses and savasana though. I've noticed this more lately. I find that being alone on my mat brings me the same kind of joy that teaching yoga did. There are times when being on my mat is so sweet, so juicy, that I don't want to leave.
Up until this very moment, I struggled with what I guess I could call guilt over not teaching. To go through all that training and work and then not use it seems wasteful or worse, it seems like a failure. I was good at teaching. It is not often I am going to admit at being good at anything, but this? I was good at teaching yoga. My students loved me. I still get the occasional "I sure do miss you" message from an old student. And there are times when I hear something and my inner yoga teacher wants to blurt out an alternative way of doing things, but most of the time I keep my mouth shut. I do occasionally toy with the idea of starting a yoga podcast or putting together a workshop and that may or may not happen. Who knows. Right now though, I'm going to stop making excuses for not teaching. I'm going to stop making my decision for not teaching any more sound so negative. I'm going to stop apologizing for putting my practice first.
I'm going to stop apologizing for putting me first.