In one of those "isn't it ironic?" moments, I heard a story as a kid from my neighbor who had to see a specialist for a health issue. The doctor sat at his desk across from my neighbor and told him that he had to lose weight. My neighbor took offense, as the doctor himself was at least 50 lbs. overweight. My neighbor never returned to that "hypocritical" (neighbor's words, not mine) doctor, but did go on to lose weight himself. [The ironic part of the story is that I would end up meeting that very doctor when I was dating his son...small world, eh?]
It's no different than the yoga teacher who doesn't practice yoga or the couple's therapist who's in an unhappy marriage or the parent who disciplines a child for cursing even though he/she cusses regularly. I think this is part of being human. After all, it's often easier to point something out to or teach another what isn't obvious or is difficult for us to master ourselves. I don't think that not practicing what we preach is necessarily hypocrisy but perhaps humanity.
I, too, am human. I've done some small business consulting and recommended things that I, myself, have not done (definitely a case of "I should be doing this myself because it works but...I'm just not doing it."). Interestingly enough, that doesn't happen often in my yoga teaching. I do the practices that I recommend to my clients. Just today I was dealing with some low energy and I did a few practices that I readily recommend to my clients on a regular basis.
Just yesterday a teacher who's class I'm currently in related a story in which she was experiencing an emotional block. Her solution was to go through the process that she had taught us in class. Many of my classmates chimed in with admiration, for seeing a teacher following her own teachings can be inspiring. Perhaps that perception is that if the teacher doesn't practice what he/she teaches then that means that the teachings aren't valuable/won't work for us.
Of course teachers are people too. And sometimes doing what we know is good for us can be the hardest thing to do. Maybe you're the yoga teacher who has a hard time getting onto the mat regularly yet you tell your students to commit to a mere 10 minutes a day to ingrain the regular yoga habit. Yet there you are, resisting unrolling your mat and setting your timer for 10 minutes. Does this make you a bad teacher? I say it merely makes you a human one.
I am well acquainted with resistance. The difference between then and now is that then I used to ignore resistance's existence whereas now I say hi and give it a big hug. Today, for example, I was resisting writing a blog post. I didn't think I had anything to say, I wasn't feeling like sitting in front of the computer to write, I was simply having a two year old "I don't wanna" moment. Ignoring the resistance probably would have led to me to wasting time with email and surfing the Internet. Acknowledging its presence and giving it a hug felt a bit lighter. As I went with the flow of resistance, I engaged in some movement and in the middle of it, the topic of this post came to me.
Personally, I like the intimacy of teaching practices that I regularly engage in. I've traveled the road, so I know where the potholes are and can understand what my student is going through. Since I've practiced something myself I understand the nuances of it and can better teach it to my students. I enjoy bringing my experiences into the teachings and then encouraging my students to find their own experience. I also learn from my students and their experiences, so the fact that we're sharing some of the same practices can be enriching for me both personally and professionally.
When I'm on the other side of the student-teacher fence, I appreciate when a teacher is walking their talk. There's something about their presence and their relationship to their teachings...and the authenticity...that I find attractive. I've studied with teachers who don't exactly follow their own teachings and while it may not take away from their skill and experience, it does leave me feeling a bit disenchanted. I notice that while I still respect teachers who don't walk their talk, I don't often return to learn with them.
For a long time I was hesitant to teach. I didn't have a practice that was mine. I could teach yoga, yes. I could teach what had been taught to me. These days, I'm more focused on how I want to be in the world and that's given life to certain practices and things that I do to that end. It's changed the direction of my career a bit and is informing how I live and teach.
Of course I am far from perfect and I will sometimes shy away from what I advise others to do. Sometimes the fact that I do teach brings me back to myself. If I'm struggling, I'll just bring myself back to home base -- what I teach -- and start there. I'm simply a human being (emphasis on the being) who endeavors to walk her talk but sometimes ends up crawling instead.