My first advanced class was quite an experience. I went to the West Roxbury studio because Diane Ducharme was holding a coaching session for anyone who is going to compete in the New England Regionals. She suggested that I take the beginners class first so that I would be warmed up enough to get into some of the advanced postures. The first class was amazing. Really hard, really juicy, and one of those mind-over-matter classes that when you are done, you feel like you really accomplished something.
I’m sitting in the studio after class with some fellow teachers, sweating my ass off for a good half hour, trying to regain some semblance of normalcy, and realize that *shit* I have to take another class!! Whoa. A few grapes, some coconut water, a liter of Smart Water, some internal positive reinforcement, and I’m good to go.
The Advanced class starts. It starts with the same breathing exercise as in the beginner class, Pranayama Breathing - only, like, 168 times faster. After 4 breaths, I’m totally lost. I catch back on again toward the end. Just in time for the breathing to be over. Super. Next we do these salutes to the sun gods or moon goddesses or both, I’m not sure. Ummm… ok??!?! Can someone please slow down and let me catch up?!?! By now, I’m back to being completely doused in sweat, and we haven’t really even begun!
This is pretty much how the class went. Every so often I’d be in sync with everyone, but more often than not, I’m looking around, just trying to see what it is I’m supposed to be doing, or looking at other people completely dumbfounded. A few times, I would think ‘I will never be able to do that’. Only to remember my first few months practicing Bikram yoga, and realizing that YES, with practice, yes, I will be able do that. It has given me a whole new appreciation for the new students that come into class. We were all there once. But after you’ve been practicing for a while, it is easy to forget what it is like. As a teacher, getting those looks that say, “Am I doing this right?” or “What the hell am I supposed to do?” is always hard. I just want to say “Listen to my words; I’m telling you exactly what to do!” But when you are new to something, you don’t hear even half of what you are being told. In the advanced class, I was laughing at myself even doing the postures that I knew incorrectly! Sensation overload! Systems crashing!!
It was so wonderful to get that new student/beginner perspective again. I mean, I felt like I had never practiced yoga before in my life!! Lucky for me, I can easily laugh at myself. I certainly wasn’t getting frustrated at all, just amused at how clumsy I must have looked. There was a point in class, where I was doing a posture called Frog Pose (I think). You sit on the floor with your legs spread wide, then kind of get your arms under your legs and you sort of are flattened to the floor. I was much better at it than I thought I would be until... Uh oh. I’m stuck. Really stuck!!! Someone call an ambulance, my legs are strapped over my shoulders!!! Oh man, I laughed and laughed. (I almost dislocated my shoulder, but dammit, I’ll laugh while doing it!!)
It was so much fun to see the possibilities before me. I was completely humbled watching all of these amazing bodies go into such strong postures. Knowing now that our bodies (and minds) are pliable and can be trained to do things you never thought possible, I have new goals, new aspirations, new ambitions. I have a renewed sense of where I can go. All these fresh aches and pains have made me feel so alive, and so sure that there is so much more in me that I haven’t even seen yet.
I took my first advanced class today. Took the beginners class prior to that, which had already kicked my ass, then became a beginner all over again in the advanced class. What I want to share is that I've been staring at a blank page for about 15 minutes. My ass was literally handed to me today. I'm hoping tomorrow I have some brain cells left that did not sweat out onto mat so I can actually recap my experience. Until then... I'll just limp around. :)
How about this… I freaking LOVE teaching Bikram Yoga. L-O-V-E Love it. Every day that I lead a class through the series, I fall more and more in love with it. I am starting to find my way up on the podium. I really feel like I am finally making connections with the students and the dialogue. I’m giving corrections without losing my flow of class. And I’m even cracking jokes and (what???) having FUN UP THERE!!
I have to start off my saying, I know teaching is not about me. I know this. But I think it is healthy and wonderful to have my own sense of accomplishment. I think back to the panic attacks I would have during posture clinics at training, and can see just how far I have really come. Deep down, I always knew I would be ok when I got back to actually teaching, but there was always that anticipation and anxiety and unknown element. So here I am. Me. The teacher. It’s finally happening. I’ve had the certificate for about 11 weeks now. But in the last few weeks, I really feel like I have become a teacher.
This just occurred to me: I think it might all be connected. My previous post about my own practice suddenly evolving into this power-house 90 minutes, I think it could be connected to the real understanding that I am having of the dialogue. Of course it is connected!! (Dope slap to the forehead.) It’s all developing simultaneously, 50/50. This is the reason why we were told time and time again that our own practice is just as important as teaching. You can’t have one without the other. Well, I suppose you can but without one, the other will suffer. The fact is, I have finally gotten back to a consistent practice. For a while, I was struggling with the balance of everything in life, and I was only taking class 3 – 5 times a week. But I am back to practicing almost daily. Can I say it again? Of course it’s ALL CONNECTED!!
So I just had the above revelation while writing, and at this point have no idea where I was going pre-dope-slap. (Crap!) For fear of not making any sense at all, I will sign off and catch some early zzz’s., so I can get up early for 6am class and keep this momentum going!! Good night!!
The past week I have felt like someone new in my practice. I walk out of the room after my 90 minutes feeling a strength that I have felt very few times. And it’s not just physical strength I am feeling, but focus, determination and will-power. We talk about our yoga practice as a meditation, but how often do we actually clear our minds for the full 90 minutes? There is always something that trickles in. Did I pack my underwear? What time is that meeting? God, I can’t wait to get a coffee!! (The coffee one seems to hit me around Fixed Firm Pose every morning!) But lately, I get to final savasana, and suddenly “snap out of it”. Whoa. Class is done. And I rocked it.
There is a statement that has been running thru my head every time I step into the hot room. It is something that Craig Vilanni said during training. “Manifest impeccable form.” It has become my mantra. It has opened the door for me to constantly concentrate… meditate. I’m practicing presence. In the moment, in the posture, I am 100% invested. Is this what we call meditation? I challenge you to still your mind for 90 minutes and be completely present in that room. By manifesting impeccable form from start to finish throughout the postures, we have no other choice.