Yoga With Leo

Tell Me... Are Yoga Teachers Artists Too?

Teaching YogaLeo CheungComment

Length: 4 Min Read

I'm not an artist by the conventional sense, but I do enjoy writing, making music and concocting meals out of last weeks leftovers. I'm sure you're some kind of artist too: a daytime dancer, a wool knitter, a paper napkin cartoonist, a youtube documentarian or a smoothie blendista.

And if you're none of the above and truly believe you're not creative, I have a feeling that years ago, you've once drawn a picture to put on your family's fridge. That's art too!

It's easy when you're five and anything you made was showered with praise and validation. It didn't matter if you drew a square shaped banana with a blue crayon, you were loved either way.

It's not so bright and beautiful out there now, in the "adult" world, at least not in my internal perception. If I write a song or make a fried egg, my friends will tell me (if they're honest, which I hope they'd be) what they think. "You got to work on those high notes, maybe play in a lower key." "Not enough salt, and the eggs are overcooked. Just saying..."

Is teaching yoga like creating art? I walk in with a sequence, pair it with a playlist that complement the poses, and throw in a theme to chew on. Mix and match them all together to create what I'd call a yoga class and hope that people enjoy it...? Kind of not really.

Now I've heard that for artists, that one should do it for your own self satisfaction and not for any particular audience. That if a writer changes his script because so and so would approve, that it would eventually lead to resentment and artistic burnout. Knowing this, I still can't help it (actually I can, but sometimes I choose not to) but to consider what my students want and what would please them. There is a part of me that just wants to be liked. There's no doubt about that. What I need more of is Leo liking Leo.

I continually remind myself that the honour of being a yoga teacher is the opportunity to practice. The practice is being able to show up and express myself artistically through my words and my body as a means of understanding who I am. Like any other type of art, there will be preferences. Some styles of yoga are like an abstract Picaso, others are like cosmic surrealist Dali, and others are real and raw like Herzog photos. Everyone has their favourites, and someones like or dislike has nothing to do with my self worth.

I think everyone has a gift of some kind. But are some artists (yoga teachers) better than others? Is it true it's "just a popularity contest?" If I post more photos of me on social media and get more virtual followers, would more students come to my class, and my art would be grow in considerable value? Are yoga teachers ill-fated like artists too, with money mismanagement, internal self-sabotage and substance abuse (coconut water, mala beads and herbal incense to name a few...)

I'm not really sure. Sometimes I question why a white canvas is art, or why turning my food into foam is special. It doesn't always make sense to me, but I have heard that some types of art are meant to provoke an emotion or internal experience. Ever have that feeling of walking out of a movie and being in deep thought, of having your world flipped upside down? Ya... the trailer never warns you.

And kind of like our fleeting feelings, the art of teaching begins and ends in that hour. No one really remembers the sequence, who was there, what was said. You can't hang a yoga class up on a wall, or rewind it to watch it over and over again. The teaching of yoga is the moment, another day lived, one each never the same.

Perhaps I have a similar intention, of creating an internal experience of deep no-thought and flipping your wild downdog upside down. There are times I've walk out of class and considered a perspective I've never considered before, or felt a part of my body I've never felt before. Best of all, been present with another person I've never been so present with before.

I've heard a chef (David Chang) once say in a podcast, that if a meal arrives at his guest's table and the couple eat without saying a word to each other because the food is that damn-fucking good, then he's done his job. I too savor the silence of sitting post Savasana, but my job is done when I've put myself out into the world, with a disregard for validation and a high regard for celebrating who I am. The practice continues...