Difference Between Being a Student and a Teacher (4/6 – Stephanie Chua)

A few weeks back, we were told to memorize Surya Namaskar A & B in Sanskirt and to try teaching our classmates. My first thought was “Ok, just memorise the Sanskirt terms and then recite it out to my classmates.” I thought that was the hardest part actually. Boy, I was so wrong.

The thing is being a yoga student, is not easy. We need to listen to our teacher’s instructions to breathe, move and flow. When it came to arm balances, super flexible poses and inversions, we be like “Golly, I can’t do this.” Then as time goes by, class after class, you successfully achieve SOME of the arm balances, super flexible pose and that couple of inversions hovering maybe 2 seconds away from the wall. You feel a huge sense of achievement and somehow everyone around you be like “Oh my! You are so advanced!” You feel confident, you felt you grew and you know you did it under the guidance of your teacher. Basically, anything you don’t know, just ask teacher. Feeling tired? Just put in maybe 30% effort, not like teacher will have the time to eyeball you and point out you are slacking. It’s so easy to blend in. At some point, you find being a student is much, much easier than what you thought initially, you just focus on yourself, what you want to achieve and where you can ‘improve’. That’s how I feel being a yoga student.

After signing up for Yoga Teacher training and we were told to memorise Sanskirt etc, I was like “Ok, I can do this, just memorise, pay attention to class, take notes and done!” Well, I soon learnt it was more than that. I always felt that presentations and talking in front of a crowd doesn’t scare me. I have done that for peer support, my work presentations and all that. It was only when I stood in front of my classmates, fumbled and struggled through the Sanskirt terms, getting the inhaling and exhaling all jumbled up for the sequence then I felt the nervousness and anxiety seeping in. It was a crushing feeling and the worst part is, because everyone is looking at you for instructions, you can’t just freak out and run away. It was then I realized, what a humbling and somewhat mind blowing experience it was. Presenting is easy, you won’t have to care if they are interested in your topic or whatever, you just prattle on. Being a yoga student is easy too, don’t like class or tired? Just make an excuse and leave class. Teaching is different. Everyone is counting on you to instruct. You need to factor in the time, how clearly you articulate your Sanskirt terms, breathing and as the teacher training weeks progresses, I learnt that you need to multitask with helping your students adjust their poses safely while ensuring the yoga sequence is planned according to your students’ levels while being mindful that it should have asanas leading to the a peak pose with options in case your class have multiple student levels to finally winding it down with a shavasana. Teaching also means that you do have to care what people can take home from your classes, did they leave learning something? If you are a complete bore, no one will show up for your classes. It also teaches you, the teacher, patience. Are you counting the breaths too fast or too slowly? Also where you adjust your student, is where you are adjusting acceptable? Are your adjustments too rough that it may hurt your student or too soft that people don’t even feel you adjusting them? How do you deal with safely adjusting your students in difficult inversion poses where you ensure they leave happily instead of out the door in a stretcher to the hospital? Suddenly, you realize, being a student is so much easier. Being a teacher comes with a lot of responsibilities, extra reading, planning and continuous learning.

Though I must admit, under the guidance of the teachers at The Yoga Mandala and the support of my classmates, it has made my current and still ongoing YTT journey a fruitful and fulfilling self-discovery. Yes, I still do feel nervous but the constant opportunities given for me to teach my classmates plus the feedback from classmates and teachers have helped me a lot and I do appreciate it.