By Sarah Huntington
As a high school English teacher, it has taken me four years of undergraduate work in English, Education, and History; two more years to “master” my craft at a reputable university; and ten years in the profession to even remotely feel like I know what I am doing.
While some people see teaching as a “job,” I have seen it as a calling. I remember at seven or eight years old, lining my stuffed animals in rows and teaching them lessons on my kiddie chalkboard. I think I was born to be a teacher. I know I was born to be a teacher. I remember, when thinking about what I was going to study in college, my aunt adamantly said, “Don’t be a teacher, you’ll be a lonely spinster.” I may be a spinster, but I am far from lonely.
My teaching continues to expand. After practicing yoga for about eight years (on and off), I have decided to enter yoga teacher training at one of my favorite yoga studios.
As I embark on this new teaching journey, I continue to ponder, what makes a good teacher? Yoga has gained a great deal of popularity. The 21st century has found us in, as Elizabeth Lesser has claimed, “a rebirth of spirituality.” (The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure) But, does a four-week intensive course, or a trip to an ashram in India, or even a teacher training course from a revered yoga studio create good yoga teachers?
"As I embark on this new teaching journey, I continue to ponder, what makes a good teacher?"
Just as there is grave concern about the teaching profession, similarly there are doubts about the yoga teacher training system. What is the making of a good teacher, and how can we create more of them? With the overabundance of trainings available, how do we know which one is right? Which one is better?
On the precipice of my yoga training, I think about what really does make a good teacher, and the first thing that comes to mind is authenticity. Certainly some of my favorite yoga teachers can break down asanas, and are able to blend backbends and balancing tough postures with presence, compassion, and kindness – a feat seemingly impossible not only on the mat, but also in the world.
"On the precipice of my yoga training, I think about what really does make a good teacher, and the first thing that comes to mind is authenticity."
Being a high school English teacher, authenticity is essential. If I am not authentic to the most judgmental and astute population, they see right through it, and they are sure to call me out on it. This authenticity has to be raw and real, but it also has to be gentle and caring. I am an older sister, a mother, a counselor, a teacher, an intellectual, a mediator, a secretary, an editor, a wellness coach, a motivational speaker, an enthusiast…
The best yoga teachers I have been in class with vary and are as expansive as the human race. Some are soft spoken, some push me, some allow me to rest when I need to, some touch my soul so deeply I start crying in pigeon, and some make me laugh and take myself a little less seriously (thank goodness). One thing they all have is enthusiasm for their practice and knowledge of the practice. Some of them can contort their bodies in ways I could only dream, while others are nursing injuries, and still others just aren’t capable of certain poses, because ultimately we have to meet ourselves where we are at.
"The best yoga teachers I have been in class with vary and are as expansive as the human race."
So, as I embark on my own teacher training, I realize that teaching is a tricky balancing act. Perhaps this is the challenge in life and on the mat, to balance the difficult with the easy, joy with sadness, the posture with the spiritual path. Most importantly as Baron Baptiste emphasizes, keep it simple and perfectly imperfect. Imperfection is certainly something I know I am authentic at.
Sarah is training in alignment-based vinyasa yoga, through Saraswati Yoga Joint in South Norwalk.
A vagabond by nature, Sarah Huntington has traveled to Egypt, Argentina, Turkey, Austria, Vietnam, London, and France... to name a few. She loves to travel, hike, and explore the world. She played collegiate basketball and studied Literature, History and Education at Connecticut College, and is currently a high school English teacher and basketball coach. Sarah is also a runner (completed the NYC Marathon), and her newest workout obsession is kickboxing. Sarah currently lives in Wilton, CT with her pitbull Jada, and enjoys spending her "free" time writing, reading, practicing yoga, working on meditating, and investigating all things related to fitness, fashion, and literature.