Thursday, July 5, 2012

The greatest thing you'll ever learn...

The more I teach, the more I learn.  And the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know.  And then the doubt sets in.  Do my students hate me?  Am I doing this completely wrong?  What if I am the WORST TEACHER EVER?

As I mentioned before, I am prone to anxiety (you know, having a anxiety disorder and all).  Part of this anxiety is a crippling perfectionist tendency.  When I am objective about my classes, I think they are pretty okay!  But the little slip ups...a mix up between right and left, forgetting to balance both sides equally, even a stumble over a me to obsession over my doubts.  It doesn't matter how many students tell me they enjoyed the class afterwards.  It doesn't matter that I have been a student that has enjoyed less than perfect yoga classes.  It is the one mistake that I will linger on.

One of my fellow classmates once said I was a natural at teaching!  And admittedly, I love performing, I have no fears of public speaking, I am naturally sociable and chatty.  I am always the first to volunteer for audience participation, always the first to break the silence in class discussions.  But this easiness does not belie the demons in my head and does not silence my harshest critic.  

But there is one thing that I am learning...

On that last weekend of teaching training in Kripalu, one of our teachers taught us a little chant.  It goes "Just love them, the way we were loved.  The love alone will teach."

Honestly, my first few classes (before the Kripalu weekend) went technically pretty well.  I remembered ground up cues, anatomy and how to mirror, and all of those things that you learn how to do in teacher training.  But I felt unsettled and a little unnerved.  Teaching a class of 10 people is very different from teaching a group of your friends, family or fellow teacher trainees.  I could feel that everything was fine, but I felt dissociated from the experience.

And then I went to Kripalu.  And came back to teach a class the next day.  I went with something completely different and new in my class.  I themed the class around the moon, yin, a lot of goddess poses, etc.  It was sloppier than my previous classes.  I have taught sun salutations and DONE sun salutations a ton of times.  But to do these new poses and was unfamiliar and yet exciting.  As I messed up a cue, or said right instead of left, I kept repeating to myself "Just love them...."*

It made all the difference for me.  In the end, all I can offer is love, compassion and kindness.  And if all the words don't come out right, or the sequence goes a little wonky, I hope that I can still impart a bit of that feeling to my students.  Perhaps the students cared that I stumbled, perhaps they didn't.  All I knew was that I felt connected and happy in that class.  It wasn't just saying the same old cues.  I just wanted to share yoga with these beautiful people in the room.  I think this is what will keep me teaching, these flickering moments of really connecting with people.  And perhaps this is the hardest thing to learn.

*I wrote a post on why I love mantra, and here it is in action again!  Also, I shared this on my Twitter but wanted to repost it here.  I read Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot yesterday and for the most part I did not like it.  It was contrived, derivative, pretentious and did not show off his beautiful writing ability.  But I did love this quote about a character who was exploring different religions and would repeat the Jesus prayer. And maybe I love this so much because it's actually from Franny and Zooey.  Regardless, here it is "Mitchell liked the chant-like quality of the prayer. Franny said you didn’t even have to think about what you were saying; you just kept repeating the prayer until your heart took over and started repeating it for you."

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