I follow gymnastics. And even if I didn’t right now, you’d have to be oblivious to the horrors that are finally being addressed (don’t even get me started here) in the sport. And with that, more and more are finding their courage and their voice and their strength to speak out. And among that, people are speaking out against coaches. Claims of verbal and mental abuse. And it makes you ask the very simple question – how does one person of power hold so much sway over a young person’s life and gymnastics career? And then I must ask, is this specific to gymnastics? How is that small piece of it any different than my experience in grad school. So I ask the very simple question again – how does one person of power hold so much sway over a young person’s life and career?
I never claimed clarity with this blog. I don’t pretend to understand what these women are going through. But I can understand concepts. I can understand the fear of speaking up about things that are so far on the other side of ‘unfair’ for risk of how that will affect your future. Your career. Your livelihood. But how there is a system set up that does not provide a realistic alternative path to address matters. All the power is with one person. It’s twisted. And to be blunt, it’s fucked up. To put in hours of sweat and tears and hard work. To be broken down by the people who on paper, should be the person who pushes you and guides you. To be abused by the person who is supposed to teach you. That, I understand. To take the thing that brings you joy, and to suck the joy out of it, to the point where you need space form it because it literally makes you sick when you think about it. That, I understand.
There are many places where the balance of power is pretty much exactly not that. There is no balance. None. And I can’t be the only one who struggles with exactly how to address this. How do you create real meaningful change? How do you do this without affecting those who still rely on the current system? How do we speak out and be heard?
I completed my yoga TT almost 3 years ago, and I’ve been teaching for just over 2 years. Last night during class, I was theming on how yoga can provide an hour away from life. Whether that’s the good, the bad, or the neutral. I had my second unexpected crown in the last 6 weeks that morning, and my mouth and my spirits (and my wallet) were not feeling so hot. I was currently sick. And was pulling some extra hours at work to make up for my unexpected dentist trip. So I shared. I shared how when I stepped into the studio, my mood changed. I left my crappy day outside and I had an entire hour of teaching class to be present in a new space. An away space. It’s amazing how much overlap there is being a student and being a teacher.
But as I try to speak and share with my classes, I find time and time again I underestimate my students. I judge them, if you will. I think they are only half listening to me. While in fact, based on our conversations after, they are fully present. They took my theme and applied it to them and their practice. 14 different souls all finding their own interpretation and embodiement of my words. They always listen. And it makes me time and time again appreciate the power of my voice and my words. To not underestimate them and myself.
I try to being an authenticity to my classes. I may not be the best teacher. I think I can put together a pretty good sequence and teach it fairly well. But I could theme a whole lot better and I struggle how to do that while allowing it to be real and not contrived. My playlists are complimented. And sometimes I lack confidence with names and assist and adjustments. Strengths. And weaknesses. And places to learn and grow. But I try to do all of that with an authenticity to myself. And I think and I hope, that my students can resonate with that. That there are pieces of me that web themselves through my teaching. Whether that contributes to a strength or a weakness. I hope that at the end of the day, that is how I can connect and teach my students. And for me, not only is that me contributing to purely be me, but also trusting my words, and trusting that my students are there with me. Leaning and listening. And finding a piece of that moment to take as their own.