Teaching You, Teaching Me

Jai Bhagwan!

lotusLast night was my first opportunity to teach since returning from Florida.  When I finally returned home, Shanna asked me how class went—she went to a Relief Society Enrichment meeting last night instead of class, which made me very happy—I told her that it was incredible and so it was.  I arrived about 45 minutes early to give myself time to practice briefly by myself and to re-center myself as a teacher as well as a student.  Soon it was time to bring the sound system and extra mats from upstairs and begin class.  I talked a bit more than I normally would, sharing some of my experience and explaining that while things would not change too radically that I would be making definite shifts in my teaching.  As I said this last piece, I felt that oh so welcome and familiar feeling of a puzzle piece shifting into place in my mind.  The Amrit Yoga script is quite succinct so that the instuctions needing to be given provide as little distruption as possible and this is the same method I use when teaching.  I give as few directions as possible but I also give possible modifications, encourage all my students to explore the modifications and give general encouragement.  The puzzle piece that slipped into place assured me that my students would have little problem embracing the minor modifications to my teaching that I would be making.

We began with four part warm-up breath and then moved into surya namaskar.  We took plenty of time to allow each part of the sequence to really sink in and integrate.  I’m sure I felt a sigh of relief when we didn’t repeat surya namaskar with my typical prolonged holding, little did they realize that I would simply be building that same holding into every posture we did.  I could hear the changes in breath as we held each posture and so reminded them to breathe.  I could feel their struggle to hold yoga mudra and so encouraged them to listen to their bodies to remain safe—my first rule in class is that no one hurt themselves—and if they were still safe to accept the powerful sensations in their arms and trust that the pose would last only as long as it should.  This continued through the entire class:  Hold.  Breathe.  Relax.  Experience.  I honestly did not feel that my teaching style had shifted much but rather the focus of what I was teaching had shifted to a subtler level.  Apparently I was mistaken.

After class, a number of my regular students came up to talk with me.  The first—one of my students that has been with me the longest—said that she had never felt my presence so strongly in the room and how sorry she was that she had come in later and missed my sharing about my experience.  Another group wanted me to know that they would be leaving on vacation for two weeks, they wanted to be sure I knew they loved the new style of teaching and weren’t skipping out of my classes.

This same attraction continued after class, I stopped by my mother-in-law’s home to pick up some laundry—our dryer’s heating element failed while I was away.  I’ve never hidden my practice of Yoga but last night she wanted to know about my class, wanted to know if Yoga could help her scoliosis and if she could come to my class even with her injured leg.  She isn’t allowed to put any stress on the outside of her right foot or leg so the ligaments—superior and inferior fibular retinaculum actually—can heal and reattach.  As a result, she sits in a recliner all day and that is aggravating her scoliosis.  Taking all that into consideration, I told her to not come to my class but that I would work with her on some poses she can do sitting in a chair.  I have wanted to help her and even mentioned that Yoga can help reduce scoliosis related pain and slow or sometimes even reverse its progress.  The interest, however, has simply not been there, not even when I mentioned that the exercises her doctor had given her were all mainly Yoga postures.  Last night was different.  Clearly her need had changed but I had no intention of trying to convince her to give Yoga a try.  It seems that I really didn’t need to try and convince her, all I had to do was be me and let things happen as they should happen.

It is not only on the mat where one must learn to breathe, relax and let go.

Jai Bhagwan!