I started my teaching career over 15 years ago in Kuwait, where I was one of the Al Saba family’s private teachers. In the Middle East, the children of the royal family do not attend school. They are educated at home in a nontraditional setting. It was an enlightening experience that sparked my love affair with education and motivated me to obtain my Master’s in Education & Curriculum Development. As I moved through my career, I knew I wanted to continue to teach outside the box. After returning to the U.S. and finishing my M.Ed, I started teaching in public schools. The more I saw, the more I longed for the nontraditional environment I first enjoyed. I began teaching yoga and yoga philosophy full time, and I instinctively knew that I wanted to instruct all over the world.

From the very first day I started teaching, my intention was set on teaching internationally. I decided I needed to learn from international teachers to become an international teacher, so I began my advanced training in Yoga Therapy in San Diego at The Soul of Yoga. There I was exposed to some of the most amazing teachers and guides in the Yoga community, including Dr. Richard Miller and Nischala Joy Devi. These two teachers, along with a handful of other influential mentors, helped to shape both my teaching style and boost my confidence.

Before finishing my Yoga Therapy certification in August of 2019, I was fortunate enough to meet a woman who owned a studio in Oklahoma City. She had enrolled in advanced training through a Yoga School that was no longer in business, and she was looking for someone to help her complete her advanced training. She showed up on my doorstep one day, and within thirty minutes had convinced me to come to Oklahoma to lead a 300-hour advanced training. At the time, I was about to leave to lead my first yoga retreat in Iceland, and my first international training in Ireland had just sold out. To be honest, I didn’t even know if the arrangement would pan out. I was in the middle of building out a brick and mortar studio in Austin, TX, at the time, and I had one hundred and one balls in the air. Nevertheless, I decided that if it were meant to be, it would happen, and I let go of any attachment to the outcome.

A week later, I left to go to Iceland to lead a seven-day yoga retreat. I returned to notifications from Facebook of events I was scheduled to co-host in Oklahoma. It was happening! My schedule was busting at the seams, and I was leading training both internationally and nationally, all while opening a new studio. I was a little giddy at first. It all seemed so surreal. I started the fall semester of 2019 with a 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher training going on in Austin, a 300 hour beginning in Oklahoma, and an international retreat scheduled for October. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, nor did I want to take on that burden, so I organized guest teachers to come in and help lead the training in both Austin and Oklahoma. I found a fantastic teacher to support me in Ireland, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.

As I sit here on the tarmac in Dallas awaiting air traffic control’s “all clear” to take off, I’m awestruck by the way everything unfolded. The Austin training filled with relatively little effort, and the Ireland training was full. Our Oklahoma training ended up filling and motivating me to move forward with our Yoga Therapy training, something I had been passionately working on behind the scenes. While in Ireland, our amazing team of teachers and Yoga therapists applied to become a part of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and successfully became a Member School with IAYT, which is the first step to having our Yoga Therapy program credentialed. From the outside looking in, I achieved my goal of becoming a traveling teacher and more, but on the inside, something had shifted.

Maybe it happened in Ireland, or perhaps it happened on one of my weekend trips to Oklahoma, but at some point, I began to ask myself, “why?”. For the past six years, this question has been an old standby. It has helped me to navigate and recalibrate everything from intention to emotion. This time I was using it to come back to my essential values. I asked myself why I was doing this and to what end was I working towards. I asked myself why I wanted to “travel teach” and how it was supporting my highest health and healing. The answers I received were not surprising. They were honest, raw, and, unfortunately, not in alignment with my family values.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that my values are critical to me. Professionally speaking, my values include accessibility, autonomy, interdependence, and peace. Personally, my values include accessibility, autonomy, interdependence, and peace. You might be scratching your head and wondering how my professional intention could be conflicting with my family values since my values are the same, both professionally and personally. Here it is in a nutshell, in trying to provide accessible, inclusive, affordable training in multiple locations, I was essentially robbing my family of access to me. My teaching was coming between my family and me.

When I was traveling all over the world, my husband was a rock star father all by himself. My kids were building bonds and deepening their relationship without having the option to include “mom,” and instead of interdependence, I was fostering insecurity. I also had to evaluate why it was important for M.E. to be the one to lead training, workshops, and retreats. After some healthy contemplation, I determined that it wasn’t important who was leading these offerings. I realized that offering them was enough and that the content was the same regardless of who was delivering the message. The more I sat, the more I realized what motivated me to build this infrastructure that now supports international training, retreats, and workshops; it was my own desire to prove my worth and ability.

It has been several months since I first started chewing on this, and now I have reached the place where the question “why” points to the underlying cause; the need to prove one’s self. In my opinion, it’s the reason we seek the reason we look for answers, and it’s the fundamental reason we suffer. The “why,” at least for me, could be answered simply by acknowledging the vulnerability that is human nature. I feel separate, so I want to be connected. Connection is conditional. If I’m not “worthy,” I won’t be wanted, and if I’m not wanted, I won’t be connected. In buying into this belief system, I’m telling myself that there is something more that I need to do to be seen, heard, and connected to, and that is fundamentally not true. In fact, buying into this misunderstanding only breeds more separation. Others perceive my efforts and ambitions in their own way through their lens. Their perceptions cause reactions to my “doing,” which can either perpetuate the separation or bring togetherness. There is no winning in this game; in fact, the more we try to win, the more we lose.

Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I decided to restructure and use this platform that I’ve built to continue offering authentic, accessible programming internationally with one change; it doesn’t have to be me who is doing the teaching. I’ve learned that everything we seek is already within us and that the role of the teacher is to illuminate the light within, not to be the light. There are so many gifted teachers just waiting to shine a light on their students’ internal wisdom, and what a gift I can give them by offering them the opportunity to go out into the world and teach. Sure, I love teaching, but I’m a teacher who believes that we teach others so that they can teach others. So now, I’m ready to pass the baton and share the wealth of experience.

I’m grateful and blessed beyond measure to both have had the experience and the wisdom to know when to shift my focus. In the process, I’ve had the fortune to see hundreds of people through 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher training, and I’ve been able to help people fulfill their dreams of becoming certified yoga teachers regardless of economic background or ability. It has been amazing to hold space in this way, and now I’m ready to hold the larger container for the growth and development of both teachers and students.
~Michelle

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