Teachers Don't Heal

This time of the year is a rough one for me. Not only are we faced with what feels like never ending winter in Wisconsin, but, historically, this week in particular also hasn’t been a lucky one for me.

Five years ago my grandmother passed away. And she wasn’t any ordinary grandma, she was my grandma. The grandma who loved me without question on my worst days and wasn’t surprised about my successes on my best days (because of course I would do great things). She also loved my dogs and insisted that they visit her even though she was insanely allergic to them. She also would call my boyfriend to ask for favors rather than me because she liked “good looking young men more” (and that boyfriend obliged her every time and eventually became my good looking husband). She was sassy. And stubborn. And everything to me.

My grandma just knew how to grandma. She was supposed to come to my wedding that fall. She didn’t make it. Instead, I tattooed the serenity prayer – her favorite prayer - in her handwriting on my side so she could walk down the aisle with me.

Two years ago – on the same day of my grandma’s passing – I was T-boned by a drunk driver. No less than five blocks from her house. Now my house.

He was going 50-60 mph in a residential neighborhood, blew through a stop sign and hit me. Nearly missing my husband who was following me in his car. My car picked up and flew across the intersection and landed in someone’s front yard. Nearly missing a light post that would have resulted in a different ending to this story.

One day, perhaps, I’ll write about the details of both of these occurrences. How they affected me deeply. How it changed my path. My practice. My outlook. But for now, I’ll say this. I am certain that my grandmother knew I was living a miserable life and needed to snap me out of it. I am also certain that she was the hand protecting me from any serious injury – or worse – that night.

What does this have to do with teaching? I see students come into the studio, visibly weighted by something. I’ve had students begin to cry. I’ve had students ask for a hug. I’ve had students roll up their mat and leave before anyone could see them breaking. I was that student. I still am that student some days, especially during this time of the year.

We all have our burdens that we carry, and I think yoga teachers too often want to help carry the load. But after dealing with my situations, I don’t think it’s a teacher’s place to do so. I’ve watched the desire to help and be involved muddy the relationship and the process of healing. Overcoming difficulties can be lonely, but I think, to a point, it has to be a solo journey. I most certainly believe that you should surround yourself with people who care, who understand and want to provide the tools to help you, but teachers placing the expectation to heal on themselves is far beyond our realm of responsibility. 

So, I think what I’m getting at is that, as teachers, it’s not our job to do the healing. It’s our job to create the space and experience where someone can heal themselves. Where someone can feel safe to come back time and time again, no matter how they are, and know that this practice is there for them, in their time, in their space.