Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Christmas Train: What to Get Your Yoga Teacher for Christmas

This is not a shameless ask for Christmas gifts, so it's ok to keep reading.

I've been asked by a couple of students, "What can I get you for Christmas?"

It got me thinking about what I have given to my yoga teachers in the past, because I've never considered that I should get anything from my students for the holidays. As someone who has practiced yoga for dozens of years (literally, that's a weird thing to say) I've had dozens of teachers. Two stories immediately come to mind.

Story 1:
Several years ago I made a regular habit of joining my mother for her yoga classes when I was visiting. I would go to the class with her, and then stay for the "advanced" yoga class, because at the time I liked to consider myself "advanced." The instructor was truly amazing. He was a semi-retired engineer who had found yoga later in life and then been trained by some of the most well-known instructors in the now booming industry. His English was good, but his accent so strong I had a lot of difficulty understanding him. My visits were sporadic, as my visits to my parents' town were sporadic.

In one year I visited at Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas, and was surprised when I was greeted with, "Oh! Karen! I've made something special for you. I've made you soup/soap." I was thrilled and a little scared. Had he made me soup? Soap? And why me?!

Luck was with me as after class he presented me with two bars of soap he had recently made. He was in a soap-making class and really honing his skills by making all sorts of delicious scents.

He did not give soap to the other students, nor did he give them soup.

I do not know what the lesson was that I was supposed to learn from this experience, so those two bars of soap have sat in my bathroom, wrapped carefully in the brown paper they came in, waiting for the lesson to bubble up.

Story 2:
A few years ago I was working in a job that I'm so grateful to have outgrown and we were barely making ends meet financially as my husband was in school full time. Our only spending money was used to pay for a Netflix subscription and two meals at the local college cafeteria a week ($3 per person per meal).

As I was leaving work and heading to my yoga class one of my coworkers gave me two amazing-looking homemade and gift wrapped cookies to sample, in case I would want to order some for the holidays for my family. I thanked her and told her I wouldn't have the extra money to pay for them, so perhaps she should give them to someone else. She said I was crazy and I should take the cookies and enjoy them, and then maybe tell someone else how delicious they were.

Truly, I looked forward to eating both of these cookies. They looked amazing (I wish she had a little website so you could see them/order them for yourself!). As I pulled into the fitness center parking lot I was struck by the idea that I was supposed to give one of these cookies to my yoga teacher.

I was not happy with this idea. I had a really hard time with it, particularly because I was enjoying my pity party.

I took both cookies into the gym in my purse and went through the entire class. At the end, I felt like an absolute imbecile, I approached the instructor with one of the cookies and said, "I have this overwhelming sense that I'm supposed to give this to you." To her credit, she looked at me like I might be slightly nuts. But she thanked me for the cookie.

I went home with one cookie that I planned to share with my husband, and I felt pretty good about whatever this mysterious urge had been. I checked the mail and found three unsolicited, unexpected checks waiting for me. They totaled more than a thousand dollars and came from people to whom I had lent money in the past or overpaid and forgotten about.

I nearly fell over with my keys still in the mailbox door.

SO: what are you to make of this? Give your yoga teacher cookies and The Universe will send you some fat checks? No. I don't think so. I mean, it couldn't hurt to try it, but I make no guarantees.

In fact, I believe the point I'm desperately trying to make, is that gift giving should well up in you. Rather than an obligation precipitated by a particular day on the calendar, you should consider getting quiet and letting someone else be in charge, like the You who is on the inside. The quiet You. The one who returns to yoga not because your butt looks so sweet in those pants, but because the outer you cracks a little bit more each time, revealing the inner you.

If you are not compelled by an inner force to provide a particular gift, then the best gifts you can give any teacher are participation and feedback. If someone has made an impact on you, tell them. Continue to support them so they can support you.

And if all else fails, give them mystery soup/soap and cookies.