How Level One Changed My Teaching

Once upon a time, there was a yoga teacher who had it all figured out.

She had the Journey Into Power sequence memorized word for word. She knew all of the True North Alignment cues from top to bottom, off the top of her head. She filled all of the silence in her classes with inspirational quotes by Baron. Her teaching felt fine—comfortable.

And yet, something was missing. Her classes lacked the inspiration she sought to give.

That teacher was me, before my experience at Level One.

I figured that Level One would teach me how to teach, finally. It would give me what I was missing. I showed up eager for Baron to share his secrets, with my pen in hand, and listening intently. Then, Baron asked us, “Where in your life do you hide? Where do you pretend?” I resented the question at first. “I don’t hide,” I argued internally, “I’m as real as it gets! Just teach me how to teach yoga!”

It wasn’t until I considered the question further that I saw it: the invisible barrier between my students and me. The barrier that arises when you teach from what you know, rather than teaching in the moment.

Then it occurred to me: if I was being inauthentic with my students, it was possible that I was being inauthentic with, well… everyone in my life.

My parents.

My colleagues.

My friends.

Suddenly, I knew the answer to Baron’s question: everywhere. I hid everywhere. I pretended everywhere. In every class, in every interaction, in every relationship, I was pretending. I wasn’t in the moment. I was in my head, thinking of the next cool thing to say.

I had even been showing up that way in the training, until that moment. Operating behind an invisible barrier that protected me from pain and discomfort. If I act like I have it all together and I carefully calculate each moment, then the bad stuff can’t get to me, right?

The thing about these barriers is they aren’t selective. Sure, they keep out pain and discomfort. But they keep out love, too. With an invisible barrier up all the time, I had no access to the sweet stuff: connection with the people in my life, and all the possibility that comes with it.

So I showed up in a new way: present and open. With each exercise at the training, the barrier softened, and eventually dissolved completely. Suddenly, I wasn’t coming from anything. I was there—I was present, in the moment, creating something authentic from connection and experience.

It felt amazing.

By the last day of training, I knew I could never go back behind the barrier. My new way of being is of love, connection, and presence. It has given me lightness, and a freedom I hadn’t known before. More than that, it got me out of my own way—with my walls down, I am available to be of service to everyone in my life.

Now, each class I teach is something new. Each moment in every relationship—with my parents, my boyfriend, and my friends—is something new. It’s a creation in the moment, built from presence, service, and love. Sometimes I feel pain and discomfort, too. But now I know what’s on the other side: love. Level One didn’t teach me how to teach. It gave me access to love. And through love, all things are possible.

Nicole Milano is a yoga instructor at Breathe Yoga in Rochester, NY.