Being a Yoga Teacher Is A Great Gig

On Monday I had an amazing yoga class. 

Here’s what happened.

I started them in Mountain pose. There were about a dozen of them, a mix of men and women,— mostly people who’ve been practicing together for years.  

They know each other. 

They like each other. 

They’re yoga friends.

I started them in Mountain pose and then I called on them, one by one, to take us into the next pose. 

 It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure class. 

Nobody could predict what was coming next, or when their name would be called. They had to be thinking all the time: What will I do next if she happens to call on me?

And I had to be thinking all the time: Who is going to pick something challenging here? And: Who is going to pick something easier?

So I was kinda orchestrating it, based on what I knew about them, and what kind of practice they like.

I told them at the start the only 2 poses that were off-limits were Child and Savasana. 

They groaned. Then laughed.

What transpired was freaking amazing.  

Warriors, a triangle, a balance pose, and a Surya B.

There were some lunges, pigeon, and a bridge. Then fish, and a twist. 

Each person talked the class through their pose. Their sequencing was intelligent and fun. I did it with them. 

It was awesome. They were amazing. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen, about it.

I’ve had a perma-grin since Monday.

Being a yoga teacher is the best gig ever. 

Especially here. With these people. 

I’m so lucky.

The Story of Main Street Yoga, part 3

Jenny

I never wanted to be a yoga teacher.

(Check that.)

I never thought “yoga teacher” was something I could be.

I couldn’t be a yoga teacher for the same reason I couldn’t be a ballerina or a tightrope walker or a surgeon.  It was too late, and I didn’t have the feet or the hands or the back for it.

I couldn’t kiss my knees in a standing forward fold, or drop into a backbend, or do a split, or stand on my head, or touch my sternum to the floor in a wide angle seated forward fold.

And it wasn’t that I couldn’t do these things yet, but in time and with practice I would eventually be able to do them. No.  I would never be able to do some of these things.

(At this time I was in my late 40s, and although I was trim and fit and looked and felt much younger, I knew my body’s anatomical limitations, and that kind of stuff just wasn’t in the cards for me.)

And that was perfectly okay.  I was going deep in this practice anyway.  I almost lost track of my body entirely on some days, so that it really didn’t matter what I could do physically, because in some place in my mind, on some level, I could stand on my head.  And was already standing on my head.  And had always stood on my head.

My teachers, Reetha and Doris, could do amazing yoga tricks. None of the other students in class could do what they did.  They could do the full expressions of all the postures they taught. It gave us students something to strive for, or at least something to talk about after class.  “Did you see that back bend??? That was SICK!”

It was around this time that a woman I knew of, but really didn’t know, got certified to teach yoga at Kripalu and she was running classes out of the University gym.

So I went. And it was a revelation.

She was really soft-spoken, and she smiled a lot, and talked slowly and I eased into the postures under her guidance like I would ease into a warm bath.   I noticed that unlike Doris and Reetha, Jenny didn’t do all the postures she taught. Sometimes she just gave really explicit directions.  Sometimes she only went half-way into a pose and talked us through the rest of it.

Afterwards I talked to her about her experience at Kripalu. I had been there for a Rodney Yee program with Reetha and loved it.  I told Jenny that when I was there, I so wished that I could do Yoga Teacher Training . I told her that I thought it would be so cool to be able to guide people into their bodies like that.

Jenny said, “Well, why don’t you?”

I said, “Because I can’t do half the postures.”

She said, “You don’t have to be able to do the postures yourself to teach them. You just have to know how to teach them.”

“Say what??”

“Think about it,” she said, “can every basketball coach slam-dunk a basketball?  Can every baseball coach hit the ball out of the park? No.  But can they nurture that skill in bodies capable of those feats? Yes.  And it’s the same with yoga postures.  You don’t have to be able to do them yourself, you just need to be able to show people who can do them, how to, and more importantly, why to.”

And this opened Pandora’s Box.

This little conversation was a bomb dropped on my world.

(to be continued…)

There’s No Place Like Home

“The only constant is change.”

That quote is from Heraclitus.  True dat.

I went to Kripalu to “fill my cup” after the “30 Days for $30 Yoga Challenge.”  .

I needed lots of sleep, good food (that I did not have to prepare), and lots of yoga (that I did not have to lead.)

For me, Kripalu has always been my destination of choice for a few days of R&R.  It is one of my favorite HDIZs (High Density Inspiration Zones.)  It’s a place that is totally “count-on-able” for meeting my physical and spiritual needs.

Except this time it didn’t.  And it “didn’t” in a big way.  And here is where Heraclitus steps in (again).

‘You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.’
(Heraclitus)

Damn that Heraclitus.

I don’t know if Kripalu has changed or I have changed but the experience did not meet my needs for inspiration.  I found the yoga classes flat, boring, uninspired.  The teachers seemed tired and just “phoning it in.”

I used to love going to Kripalu mainly because I loved being in an environment where people were streaming out of classes all lit up by their programs or the yoga they just experienced.

I loved over-hearing them bubble over with joy and excitement.  It was crazy, infectious and I felt a tribal affinity there.  This time, all I heard were dull, cranky conversations about nothing from the people exiting the practice rooms.

But since I have taken a vow of non-complaining, (ahem), here’s all I want to say:  Either  I have changed, or it has changed, but something changed, and as a result, I won’t be going back to Kripalu again for R&R.

I was in deep mourning about this for awhile, but I have come to realize that, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who goes looking for her heart’s desire over the rainbow, but comes to find out that it was in her own backyard all along, I too have a High Density Inspiration Zone right here at Main Street Yoga.

During the month of April, I would come home from my classes reeling, my head spinning from all the vitality, the energy, the smiles, the expressed gratitude of my students.  I could not fall asleep at night because I was so high from it all.  It was such a rush!  The small container of “me” couldn’t contain all of it.

It was powerful, but also exhausting.  That’s why, when it ended, I needed to rest and be nurtured. I was hoping to surrender my body to the reliable guidance of Kripalu yoga teachers whose cups were full and who could lead me into new places in my own practice.  I was hoping that I could then bring the news of those new places back to my own students.  “Hey guys!  Look what I found!  And I can show you how to get there, too!

But, no.

Instead, my trip became a cautionary tale.  Here is what I learned:

I learned that to do the work I do, it is not just good to be inspired, it is absolutely essential.

I learned that the most important part of being a yoga teacher is to love your students.  Swami Kripalu once said:  “I have not come here to teach you; I have come here to love you.  The love itself will teach you.”

I learned that this kind of “love” is not a “job.”   But teaching yoga can be relegated to “job” status, but as soon as it does, it’s time to walk away from it until you can find the juice in it, the love in it, the joy in it again.

I learned to never, never, never step on the teacher’s mat unless I am full of love, and feeling “juicy.”

My teachers at Kripalu this time were burnt out.  It was clear.  It was unmistakable.  It was sad.

I was sad for them.  I was sad for me.  The whole experience was pathetic and regrettable.

I learned (again) the importance of staying inspired and juicy in my life.

I learned that “There’s no place like home.”