Why I Teach Yoga by Nancy McCaochan

September 5, 2014
Katherine Austin Wooley


The year was 1992. At 46, I'd just finished an MA in English and secured my first real job as an adult. Hired to teach freshman composition at a small technical college in southern Ohio, I was excited about the impact I might make in the lives of my students.

Shortly after I began teaching, I visited an aunt and uncle whom I hadn't seen for several years. Instead of congratulating me on my successful employment, my aunt looked me squarely in the eye and said: "Those that can't, teach." This was the prevailing "wisdom" of the day in reference to artists of all kinds.

But it wasn't the kind of response I'd hoped for and it struck a nerve. My real love was writing, but I was skeptical about being able to support myself. Teaching others to write was the default position I'd settled for. Slightly ashamed and embarrassed for having had my cover blown, I said very little to her after her remark.

I learned a lot in the writing classroom. Not only did I become a better writer and an astute editor, I most importantly also learned about the art of teaching. It's an energetic dance that requires self-awareness, self-effacement and compassion.

Each day there was someone in one of my classes who triggered meanness, some judgment about people who misused pronouns or put apostrophes where they shouldn't be. The feelings felt terrible, and being dedicated to feeling good as often as I could, I found that letting go of my preconceptions allowed me to appreciate my students as human beings--sometimes even as souls brought by the creator into my classroom for MY education.

Eventually college politics and the rigors of institutional requirements wore me down and I left the college classroom to devote myself to yoga in metro Detroit.   At first I didn't teach. I was tired to the bone of feeling responsible for other people's lives. But ever so gradually I began to miss the recognition that my teacher friends were enjoying. I missed the interaction and I missed the synergy of the classroom situation that invariably took me out of the confines of my ego and into a more expansive place. Teaching had made me a better person--less selfish and far less self-absorbed. I wanted that back.

That was 2002. In 2006 I began teaching yoga full time and have not looked back. In many ways, it's the very best thing I do.

Today, as I took an early morning walk, I felt the teacher energy deeply. It brought purpose, weight. It filled the contours of my body with certainty--not the certainty of "one who knows" things. Rather it was a certainty that there is a larger energy field that I have access to. Its' this energy that comes into and through me when I'm in the classroom. It helps me forget myself. It brings me into "yug"--union--yoga.

Some would call it "channeling," and I suppose that's what I do when I walk into the classroom, put on the music and give myself over to the combined energies of the sound, my students and the sequences that are so deeply programmed within me.

Why do I teach? Not because I "can't do." I teach because I CAN. And gratefully so.

Study with Nancy this fall at Karma Yoga


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