Yes, I did get up from this

The labels of TEACHER and STUDENT are interesting. I recently assumed the label of TEACHER for a new outdoor yoga class I started offering. However, after the very first class, someone labeled STUDENT solidified my belief that those roles are often exchanged in any given moment.

In the first class I taught in Sea Canyon Park, the Universe decided it would also be the first ever yoga class for one lovely student. We moved through the postures and it was all very nice. I offered freedom for crunched shoulders and helped others relax into a twist. There were moments when breath was connected to the breeze and the different bird songs vibrated through each body.  The students immersed themselves into the nature around them, becoming completely present in the moment. Ah yes, it was seemingly a yoga teacher’s success.

The following afternoon, I received a text message from one of the students sharing a picture drawn by another student. The student who drew it was the woman who claimed that class as her first ever yoga class. I was instantly flooded with so many things; joy, softness, peace, confusion, challenge, but most of all, light. Part of the text said, “I have a big blank sheet of paper on the wall in my office that says, ‘What brings you happiness?’” I looked at the adorable picture but my attention was most drawn to her caption. It said, “Yes, I did get up from this.”

Teacher_StudentIn that moment, in that flood of pure light, the Student was my Teacher. Sure, during the class, I may have offered some sort of freedom or provided space to connect to the present moment. Certainly I was as present, infiltrated by the birds and the soft grass beneath my feet. However, I was not connected to that moment with that student. From my perspective she was doing just fine. She followed instruction and kept up with the class. In my mind, she was there. However, I had no idea how great her internal battle was, no idea how foreign this all felt to her.

As I looked at that picture, she reminded me how powerful it is to stand after we face a challenge and how capable we all are of standing no matter what we face. It also served as a reminder that despite what may show outwardly, there could be something very different happening inside. I stared at the zigzagged expression on her perfectly toppling stick figure and smiled so big. It was also incredible to me that she depicted that moment of immense challenge on a paper that said, “What brings you happiness?” This was so moving to me. She found happiness and pure joy when confronted with something difficult. She got up from a very challenging moment, never once outwardly expressing any doubt she may have felt. Even more moving, she continues to come to my class week after week, honoring herself, making time for herself to face her challenges again and again.

I now keep her picture at MY desk, as my own response (with a minor addition) to, “What brings you happiness?” It serves as a reminder that there are beautifully strong people around us every day who offer us great lessons, even when we’ve assumed the title of TEACHER and they’ve assumed the role of STUDENT.