**Originally appeared on Linked in and reposted with permission from the author.
At the end of hot yoga today, the instructor made it a point to kneel down in front of my mat to tell me, “You kicked butt today.” Let’s unpack this, shall we?
An hour earlier, I walked into the studio and let her know I was in a difficult head space. I didn’t tell her why, just informed her that I was walking into her class with a heightened level of tension and anxiety. And she said, “If all you do is breathe in and out today, that will be enough.” She gave me her big smile of encouragement, and I proceeded to roll out my mat and grab some blocks.
Usually I hide at the back of the class so no one behind me is distracted when I can’t quite hold a pose long enough or I need to pause to wipe the sweat dripping from my face. But today, the back row was taken. I landed right in the center of the floor – people to my left, to my right, and behind me. I had a great view of the instructor, however, and I could look her in the eyes and see her, even without my glasses. I thought, “This might be okay. Be brave.”
This particular hot yoga class is a level 1 – intermediate. Meaning, beginners are welcome, but advanced practitioners are also in the room. Some yoga teachers rely on unison in the room. Years ago, for example, I had an instructor point out that I might not want to come back to her particular class. You see, I wasn’t in the flow. Not my instructor here, though. She will encourage you to be human and embrace your own practice even if it doesn’t look like the person next to you.
So when I wobbled in the one-legged poses and giggled at an “attempt” to try handstand pose, she didn’t judge. I navigated my own personal adjustments and breathed into my practice to stay connected with the class, even when I couldn’t always keep up. I did my best. And if you’ve never attended hot yoga, its intensely active, your heart rate goes up, and you sweat a lot holding poses using muscles you forgot you had.
Yoga practitioners come in every shape, size, color, and levels. Men and women. And while my current instructor makes it a point to add levity at what seems like the impossible, she never diminishes your effort or your achievement – or the courage she’s asking of you. I think she’s both Maximizer and Developer for those of you familiar with the Clifton Strengths language. I also hypothesize Connectedness and Positivity. And I might guess Learner.
No matter what her top five Strengths are, this woman is a great leader. And this is why. In a studio full of twenty people, she finds what is right with each one. She doesn’t obsess on our weaknesses, but helps us to navigate our practice around them until we grow stronger and more confident. She acknowledges each of us, never ignoring or taking any one of us for granted. She connects to each soul in the room with kindness and generosity – with a servant’s heart. And without ever asking me, she was able to distinguish my language of appreciation: words of affirmation. To keep me engaged, to fill my bucket, she used four simple words that elicited a wholehearted smile. “You kicked butt today.”
*Better Buzz Yoga, Sunnyside, Denver (Instructor: Taylor Rose)
Testimonial from Sarah Engel-