The Teacher Within

This month I wanted to share a bit about what are essential ingredients for progressing forward, in anything that we do.

My 5-year-old daughter started swim lessons last week, after missing them last summer. And while she is around water often, mostly the beach, she had become timid about putting her face in the water and completely afraid of going under. I watched on her first day as she entered the pool with fellow classmates – she did everything possible to avoid having her face in the water. Even at the end of class where they have a few minutes of free play with swim/dive toys, she was so committed to not getting her face wet, she picked up the diving rings with her toes!

The next day she returned to class a little more confident. After watching her peers and with gentle encouragement from her teacher, she decided to try putting her face in the water. Realizing that it wasn’t so bad, she tried it a few times more, and by day three, not only was she going all the way under, you could barely get her to keep her head above water as it was all she wanted to do!

I watched as each day she progressed more and more, now fully embracing anything new that was offered. It was astounding to watch her comfort in the water grow so quickly. Here’s what I noted that supported this happening for her.

Repetition – certain skills were presented again and again, in familiar and unfamiliar ways. This kept her engaged and curious while reinforcing what she was learning. And I noticed that in the repetition, she gradually shifted from the initial large and clumsy movements to the refinement of more controlled and smooth movements.

Support – the staff created a safe and supportive environment, she knew what to expect and that she could trust her instructors. This allowed her mind and body to relax while in the water, so she could receive and practice the instructions offered.

Confidence – above all else, my daughter began to trust herself. Yes, the instructors supported her and gave her guidance, but she began to find the teacher within herself, which allowed for her own creativity and exploration of new things in the water.

To me, it is these three things that are the heart of our yoga practice. Through the guidance and support of a skillful and experienced teacher, we are introduced to various pieces of the practice, and then we repeat them again and again. In this process, we gain courage and confidence in our own capability to start trusting and guiding ourselves. This process is self-reinforcing, for the more confident we become, the more willing we are to explore on our own. It is this principal that we can apply to any experience both on and off the mat.

Summer schedules may not always afford us the time to get into a class at the studio, but I’m hoping this will encourage you to get on the mat with your own home practice. Take with you all the guidance your teachers have shared with you and then look deep within to discover the teacher that was there all along.

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