Before starting to talk about authenticity in teaching yoga, let’s look first at what is personal authenticity? Authentic, that is something genuine… Authenticity; being real, being true to yourself…
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” ~Oscar Wilde
The root of the word “authenticity” in Latin language is “author”, so being “authentic” is mostly about being the “author” of your own personality.
Referring to Art (we all humans are a work of art eventually, no?), Tate Gallery shares that; ”Authenticity is a term used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.”
Which is, no room for copying…
To put it in an another way, authenticity is living your life in such a way that every one of your actions is aligned with your real purpose. Not changing things according to other people’s beliefs, or not wearing any other people’s authenticity on you. And it is not a question of whether you have it or not. We all do, we are all authentic. As I said, we are all already a piece of art. But it is a matter of how you practice your authenticity and how much of it you want to have. No one can be you, and you cannot be anyone. That is for sure. But how much are your actions aligned with ”your” purpose, not anyone else’s?
In Bhagavad Gita Verse 3.35, Krishna says that; ”It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous” (Bhagavad -gita As It Is, Swami Prabhupada).
We cannot separate yoga from life.
Actually, it is not really necessary to make a difference between being an authentic person and an authentic yoga teacher. We cannot separate the practice of teaching from the practice of being human, but we can at least try to narrow down the scope, special to yoga teachers.
I like to approach authenticity in teaching yoga in two different ways. First one is sticking to ”being yourself”, not stepping back from it and the second one is not trying to be ”anybody else”, or in another way, not using any other person’s voice. They may sound the same but let me explain.
How to define an authentic yoga teacher?
If we look back to the definition of authenticity, it says ”living a life in such a way that every one of the actions are aligned with one’s real purpose”. It brings us to the point of living a life with yogic understanding, and here, I do not mean a yogic life with only practicing yoga poses. Basically, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga into life.
And when you live in this way, it will make you a passionate, balanced and present yoga teacher, who is being her / himself and not trying to make everyone happy, with the risk of losing authenticity.
What is this ”voice”?
Let’s take a look at authenticity from the other perspective, from the perspective of having a ”voice”.
Finding your own voice as a yoga teacher is not easy, it takes years of teaching and this ”voice” is also something that is changing and evolving over time. And it is not something that you can bring from outside, it needs to arise from within you.
But yes for inspiration…
Let’s put first things first: None of the teachings belong to one yoga teacher and we are all just servers, to the goodness and happiness of all beings. We just transmit the teachings that we learn from our teachers. When we think like this, none of us are authentic, right?
But are we not really?
The key here is, being yourself, being authentic, while creating your own voice, with the same teachings we all share.
It is all in our mind-set. For example when we learn or hear something new, first of all we need to think about: Does it really make sense to me? Can I really feel that expression, that cue? Or do we just want to use it exactly as it is because it sounds nice…
So what about first fully understanding, feeling and digesting the new things and after expressing them with our own words and authentic voice? You can use it in such a way in your flow of teaching that it can be ”yours”. And then you will let it go and another authentic teacher will take it from you and express it with his or her own style. Beautiful, isn’t it? We are all students and teachers, at the same time.
Derya’s passion for lifelong learning and her curiosity about different cultures, different bodies and energy work brought her to Southeast Asia 3 years ago. She started her yoga and Thai yoga massage journey in Turkey and has been sharing her love for these two abroad in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Once she found “home” within herself, all countries became her home. Derya’s passion is movement and her goal is to show the strength, gracefulness and beauty of being in a body when it is aligned inwardly and supported by a steady breath. She wants to inspire her students with the possibility of waking up every morning with an enthusiasm and thirst for learning new things.
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