Yoga Teacher Confessions: Octavia Raheem

I have been practicing yoga nine years. I have been teaching yoga four years. I still feel butterfly wings flap against my chest before every single class I teach.

“I still feel butterfly wings flap against my chest before every single class I teach.”

Today I am teaching at a brand new studio. New people. New faces. New eyes to be seen through.

My teacher, Graham Fowler, he always says, “We are both the witness and the one being witnessed” I apply this thought to my present state: I am both the teacher and the one being taught. I am both the one seeing and the one being seen. I have to remember that.

But I am still nervous. Excited. Heart pulsing. Rehearsing my sequence in my mind. Forgetting that very same sequence to leave space for me to feel the energy of the room and be fully present to respond to it…repeat…

Back to rehearsing my sequence again.

A splattering of thoughts parade through my mind:

Will I put my mat down? Will I not?

Will I adjust individuals or will I use today and the next few classes to observe the bodies in the room and their moving habits, range of motion, energetic patterns…

What if there is no “other time…” like what if they don’t come back.

Umm, What if someone leaves in the middle of class? What if I attempt to speak and nothing comes out, or worse some ridiculous indecipherable thing explodes from my mouth. You know the kind of yoga teacher talk that makes you scratch your head or decide that the teacher is full of vegan mush and glitterdust.

Through this parade of hanging thoughts, something flutters in the distance, quietly waving like rainbow colored prayer flags through the darkened sky of my mind.

The flags are smudged with the scent of sage, their edges kissed with hope, surfing against a soundless pulse.

A knowing is invoked:

Be. Be authentic. All. All you can offer is your best in the moment.

That knowing transforms into a gentle whisper:

Hold this practice sacred, but don’t take yourself so serious. Get out of your way.

The whisper is transformed to a dusk hued chant:

Babygirl, get out of your head. Step off the ledge; Babygirl get out of your head. Breath. Repeat.

That lightning bolt of energy in my heart, that surge I feel in moments (like now) when I know I have only two choices: fall or fly-

The one that makes me feel like I want to laugh hysterically, cry uncontrollably, or run screaming into oblivion- yes that energy-

That energy transforms from a bluesy chant into a gospel riffed song I close my eyes and rock back and forth to:

Use it. Direct it Channel it.

Walk with me now. Walk with me now.

Every inhale; draw on the strength and power of this tradition.

Every exhale, lean on my truth.

Teach from that place.

Breath in. Breath out.

Use it. Direct it. Channel it.

Use it. Direct it Channel it.

Use it. Direct it Channel it.

I open my eyes. A shaky smile flickers across my face. Butterfly wings still flap against my chest. Beneath the flapping I hear an invocation, a whisper, a blues chanting, a gospel humming. And I remember how much this practice has healed; transformed, and loved me and I decide to give all of it away.

Over and over again.

*Octavia Raheem is an educator who teaches language arts and yoga to 6th and 8th graders in Atlanta Georgia. She also teaches yoga to adults at local studios. To read more about Octavia’s work and practice, check out her Yogi in the Community Profile. 


  1. OK ladies! My sistas! I’ve just stumbled on your site and would love to attend one of your classes. I teach too and I’m so glad we have this connection. Please, do visit my Twitter page, I’d love to stay connected in the yogi spirit: #CherylKarina
    Love & Light :)))

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