We had been waiting for more than an hour in the shala when the secretary told us that the teacher was not coming.
Disappointed, we tried making up for a wasted yogaless evening by exchanging other yoga teachers' addresses. When that was done, I suggested extending the conversation over coffee.
Only one of the students, a pretty 30-something Canadian, took bait. We crossed the street, entered a crowded coffee shop and sipped on cappuccinos, conversing about our practices and credentials.
She told me about was Thai masseuse and a Yoga teacher from out of town, came all the way here to train. And I asked her the one question that I shy asking about teaching.
"Does teaching take you away from your own practice?"
"Teachers don't teach. Their role is to make themselves an exemplar of practice. That's what makes teachers worthy of their their students' time: to train hard and become powerful in their practice, so that when the student comes they can answer, 'Yes, it is difficult, but it will get easier. Yes, it seems pointless, but it does not matter because practice is faith.' So that when it is your turn to teach, you must offer it not torn with lonesome aches, but hot…"
- she sucked a passionate breath,
"- HOT, I tell you, with belief in what you do and say. That is why they pay teachers. That is why we seek teachers too. Anything else can be taught on YouTube, in books and DVDs. But the embodiment of belief and practice can only be shared in the glimpses of those hourly classes or rarer day-long workshops, and if you cannot convey that strength and confidence and faith from the first 5 minutes, then there is nothing else that you can teach to anyone."
I stared at her throughout the monologue. There were hints of enviable crazy in every word. No matter. I asked, and this was the answer I wanted.
There is a tradition by the Prophet that the Angels bless every step taken by the student to and fro the sake of learning. Perhaps, that was how the Angels found the yoga students from out of town, and the Angels wanted to assure them with blessings upon the path which these two have been introduced, whether or not there were ordained teachers and classrooms certify their learning.