The Introverted Teacher

Where to begin.

This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile, but I wasn’t sure how to say it, or if it even needed to/should be said. And honestly, I still am not even sure I know the point that I’m going to try and convey throughout this post.

But bear with me.

I’m not sure if introverted is even the right word here. I definitely don’t have a problem speaking my mind, though, for the past few years I’ve been consciously trying to listen more, speak less and be more succinct with my words. I don’t shy away when people have a difference in opinion, as I’m sure most people who are close to me know. I’m a type A personality, I like things done a certain way and if that means I need to speak up, then so be it.

I guess it’s more of a social anxiety. If I get to many notifications, text messages, emails or phone calls I find myself ignoring everything, not just the calls, but the laundry and dishes as well. I just get overwhelmed. You can imagine the dilemma that may be when I teach large yoga classes and am connecting with people on a deeper level.

I am not a natural extrovert. Conversation (unless deep and interesting or hilarious) usually exhausts me. I find meeting new people tiring and the whole idea of socializing and networking is overwhelming to me. I am (for the most part) an introvert .

Those of you who take my class may be thinking, “this doesn’t seem like you at all”, that is because I have to mentally prepare myself and push that extroverted side. I don’t like making eye contact with people I know in the store or the gym because it feels overwhelming and exhausting to have a conversation that I was not prepared to have. This probably sounds crazy to a majority of the population, my husband is the exact opposite! It’s not that I don’t love and cherish those friendships, it’s just that I need that mental reset and recharge and if my mind is on buying groceries and then we have a 5 minute chat about kids and school, I am not actually focusing on our conversation, but thinking about what I need and then after the conversation when I’m back to shopping then I’m worried that I seemed rude or aloof and overthink it for the rest of the day.

But here’s the thing, I find a lot of my communication is superficial. In most aspects of my life. There are few (and I’m talking less than I can count on a hand) who I feel I have deep, meaningful conversations with. I envy so hard the people, in this specific case teachers, who are so bubbly and outgoing. Who seem to have instant connections with everyone they meet. People who hug their students at the end of class or go out with them after. People who seem to make those deep connections effortlessly almost instantly. The teachers who are connecting with other teachers on a regular basis.

I have a few students and colleagues who I know on a more personal level and who I share more with. But these are students who have maybe came to class for months or even years consistently.

I think what it comes down to is overthinking small talk. This has been the struggle for me as long as I can remember. I am just not a fan! I never know what to say and am not a prying or pushing person. (Those aren’t the exact words I’m looking for, because they sound like negative qualities, which I don’t mean for them to be at all) but I never want someone to feel pressure to share something maybe they aren’t comfortable with. I get so nervous about stepping on someone’s toes that I choose to say nothing or keep it very superficial.

I don’t know if this is a positive, negative or neutral trait, but, I do find it effects almost all aspects of my life. You text me or reach out to me on Facebook? Expect a delay in my response for days, or maybe until I forget about it and stumble back upon it.

You want to get together and have asked and I keep saying, “yes! I would love that” but I haven’t made an actual effort? I promise it’s not you! In fact, I crave and love those friendships.

You may be wondering, “ok, but what does this have to do with yoga and specifically, teaching yoga?” Through years of teaching yoga I have found that the classes that consistently grow and have a new wave of people coming in often are the teachers who are able to connect with people on another level. Of course, there are other factors like teaching styles, time of day, network, etc. but I’m talking about the classes where everyone seems to know everyone, there’s is talking and connection after class, communication in between, and all the other connecting and communication that goes into those relationships.

This isn’t to say those introverted or socially awkward teachers are not good teachers, or even have small class sizes. I love my community of yogis but without all the extra advertising, reaching out, etc, I find myself teaching a lot of the same people. Again, I love my community! What I’ve noticed with this though is I know what they like! I know what are favorite asanas, I can read them and know exactly when to adjust the class to a lighter or heavier day. Again, not sure if this is positive, negative or neutral. And I mean this on a deeper level than noticing the class is tired and adding in more of one thing or another or noticing if a class needs motivation, I mean specifically knowing a group and the exact poses they want to do, what they want/like to be adjusted in, etc. One thing I would find as a negative about this is I am not stepping out of MY comfort zone and then I am setting a precedent for students to not step out of their comfort zones.

See where I’m getting with this? When I am failing to bring in more and more people through outside of class communication, then I feel as though I am not progressing or truly helping my students progress. I notice I take less classes, have less of a home practice and am less motivated in general. I am a routine person. And boy, do I love a consistent week. I like to wake up at the same time, eat the same things, go to bed at the same time and just keep it all nice and comfy. But I truly do believe growth comes from being slightly uncomfortable. From pushing yourself.

I think, all of this was a roundabout way of saying it’s time.

It’s time to step out of comfort zones.

It’s time to work on meaningful connections.

It’s time to stop comparing to others and just be my true, authentic self.

The socially introverted and anxious side of me is hesitant to even post this. I keep thinking to myself, maybe it was theraputic just to write it all down and now I can delete it and move on back to my normal routine.

But screw that.