September 28, 2018

My students and I often engage in conversation and wonder about the kind of behavior or stance a yoga teacher should display. This morning in meditation the question and a clear answer came up again in the words of the great Zen master, Suzuki Roshi. He said, “just to be yourself is enough.” I asked myself: What does it mean to be yourself? And are you being yourself right now? I think to be ourselves is to try to do our very best in each situation, while remaining true to our heart’ s intention. We may make mistakes; we may not always be skillful or succesful in our work, but what is important in taking the seat of a teacher, is the process of looking carefully at our motives and examining our stance.

I always ask of myself two things:

A) Do I have a clear intention in my heart?

B) Have I tried to be Upright ethically and morally in regards to telling others the truth, not trying to steal or gain something from them, acting with compassion and fairness?

We will be questioned and criticized by our students repeatedly. When we take a position of authority we should know that others will project on us their way of thinking and judging the world. This used to startle me. In the many years of teaching Yoga in Greece and being visible as a Yoga teacher educator, I have received boundless love and friendship, but was also the subject of many personal projections and preferences. Unfortunately, or, fortunately, we all know we cannot be all things to all people. A few years back a beloved student, whom I will call Yogini A, walked away from me as a teacher and our center, when I fired her Ashtanga tutor at our studio for amoral behavior. Recently I saw Yogini A on the street and we happily reunited. She said that it took her years to realize where I stood and to come full circle with deep respect for me as a yoga teacher and a strong leader in our community. She said that at the time she could not see the situation clearly. She had been completely blindsighed. After being manipulated by this man for years she reached the end of the rope and stepped way. Only then did she realize the motives of my actions.

This is a whole other subject for me, the way we trust, mistrust, or judge male versus female yoga teachers and our ingrained patters of perception. I will write about this another time.

Another dear student whom I will call Yogini B, after spending some time at our Zen Rocks Retreat center this summer told me that it touched her deeply to see the kind of beauty that my husband Eraj and I bring to our country through our work. I pleasantly marveled and rejoiced with Yogini B. In the past she had also perceived our working mode quiet differently. Over the last 15 years of working consciously in this country, we have been sometimes been subjected to criticism or resentment for creating successful, thriving businesses such as our Avocado vegetarian restaurant. In due time, people come around. They change their minds.

I tend to not mind, as those two things stay constant in my heart: I know my motivation is always love. And, in my business ethics, I try to be honest and fair. That is all I can say about being a Yoga Teacher. Some people in our beautiful country seem to think that I should be doing more; some think I should be doing less. Recently, another yoga teacher who had gone through our TT programs, and whom I will call Yogini C came from her far away country to spend a week at Zen rocks. She was in a particularly mellow mode and suggested that I too should be moving much slower. “A yoga teacher,” she suggested, “should be more present, more conscious…” Maybe, if that is how she sees it, but I cannot be someone else’ s idea of a good Yoga teacher. When I am feeling healthy and energetic, my impulse is to create. I create spaces for practice to take place and for meaningful meetings and situations to unfold; I bring people together; I try to support our dear students, teachers, administrators, managers, construction workers, friends, relatives, and beloved pets in the best way that I can. This is who I am as a Yoga Teacher. Sometimes I get down on myself for not being all that my friends and students want me to be. Overall though, I feel really good about who I am, my motives, and contribution in this world. So this is my advice to all Yoga Teachers who are wondering about their role: “Just to be ourselves is enough.” Let us take a good look at our heart’s intention, and try to be our true, upright and honest self. Lets just do it wholeheartedly.

Vivi Letsou

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