Yoga Teachers as Healers
As I edited this post, what stood out in the first paragraphs were all the I‘s I used to get my thoughts across. I just don’t know how to write without being personal! It’s a style for which I can forgive myself, and hopefully you will, too.
I don’t pretend to be enlightened in any shape or form. Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean you are immune to any of the frailties and suffering of humankind. In fact, you might just end up like me being even more sensitive to them. I pat attention to stuff someone else might sweep under the carpet. Digging it out is better than tripping over it, I say.
I’m still working on my own personal development as an almost 70 year old. To that end, this year I’m enrolled in an on-line course that has me journaling, reading and pondering. The course is all about being a carer for the dying. sometimes called a death dula.
At the moment, I’m studying what it means to be a healing presence. I think this is something to which yoga teachers aspire. It is an elusive quality that has me examining my prejudices, conditioning, reactivity, as well as the question ‘what does yoga mean to me?’. Ultimately I’m sure the course work will prove to be beneficial, in the sense of lessons learned and integrated into my life. But, at this stage, it has also caused some churning over what I perceive as my chinks.
I want to share some inspiring writing from the course material. It comes from a book by James E. Miller (with Susan C. Cutshall) and is called The Art of Being A Healing Presence – A Guide for Those in Caring Relationships.
Miller’s “Steps for Being a Healing Presence” are beautifully laid out and resonate with me. I hope you will find some resonance for you, too.
(I’ve taken the liberty to ‘bend’ these suggestions just a little to reflect the way I teach yoga.)
To develop healing presence:
1. Be vulnerable
Open yourself. Become present to yourself in a way that is honest, insightful and accepting. Open to your uniqueness, humanness, prejudices, brokenness and whole-ness. Do this by owning your life story, continually fathoming who you are in a holistic way, and having a support system to which you hold yourself accountable. This might be your church, a yoga community or your extended family, for example.
2. Intend to be a healing presence
The quality of being present needs to be cultivated and happens by choosing to do so. The tools of yoga and meditation are two ways that allow presence to emerge. In fostering presence, be compassionate and patient in letting the process unfold.
3. Create a space
Design a calm and safe space, a refuge from the storms of life for you and for others. As well, develop a peaceful internal space through practices such as mindfulness mediation and yoga. These let you get yourself out of the way. Drop your personal expectations of what others should be or do, i.e., your kids or spouse or boss.
4. Practice honouring
Offer those in your life and in your care dignity and respect. Demonstrate your regard for them by honouring their individuality, equality, humanness, separateness and sacredness. We’re not here to fix anyone, so respect others’ natural and unique healing capacities.
5. Offer your gifts
Freely and simply make available what you have to give. Remember that it’s up to the other to accept or not. Your presence is the greatest gift. Offer others tolerance, empathy, dependability, your belief in them, your willingness to follow their lead, and, as much as anything, hope.
6. Receive the gifts that come
Accept with a grateful heart what is yours to receive. It may be that you live your life more fully as a result of this practice. Other gifts may include uncovering your genuine self, enjoying wonderful relationships, finding personal satisfaction, realising you have made a difference, receiving your own healing, and exploring some of life’s most valuable lessons.
7. Live a life of balance
There is more to life than being a healing presence. Live your days fully, caring for your own needs, setting appropriate boundaries, encouraging your own growth and nurturing a loving attitude to life, including the sacred dimension. Affirm and live out the truth of the transforming potential of healing presence. Be grateful.