Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today I attempted to "teach" my first yoga "class".  I use that verb and noun combo very loosely to describe the confusion and epic #FAIL I put poor Charisa through.  However, as hoped, there are some brilliant takeaways from the experience and I am very grateful to have it behind me.

1. I can't possibly suck any worse than I did tonight.  Partly because it just doesn't seem possible to be any suckier, and partly because everyone expects to naturally suck a little less each time they do something, after that first initial suckiness.  But then again, maybe I have a few more major #FAIL's left to experience.  So, whatever, I accept that.  At least I know what it feels like now.  I expect it.  It'll be comfortable failure soon enough.

Contrary to my typical form, the rest of this is all going to be positives.  I apologize in advance for being glass-half-full on this one, so not like me...

2. I'm happy enough with my sanskrit.  It's not awesome, but it's not horrific.  I think it helps that I've started dreaming in sanskrit every other night or so.  I still struggle to pronounce Prasarita Padottanasana, love the word prasarita, but that second little sucker is a tongue twister.  I'm not ready to attempt Rjakapotasana, but I guess that's why everyone tends to use half pidgeon.  I need to dial in a few that I never hear but seem very learnable, like Anjaneyasana and Jathara Parivatanasana.  It just seems so ugly-american-esque to use crescent lunge and supine spinal twist all the time.  And then there is the whole emphasis on that one letter difference between utanasana and utkatasana, which is especially important since they both tend to follow tadasana.  I'm sure there are some good verbal cues to help differentiate.

3. I was completely surprised, even after having to stop a few times and flip through the cheat sheets, that I wound up at 53 ish minutes from start to finish.  After watching Rex Grossman give away this week's Monday Night Football game, I just assumed that I'd be horrific on timing myself.  But somehow my internal clock seemed to work ok.  I stumbled, I screwed up, but I kept plodding along, and I wound up done at just about the right time.  So I take that as a small win.  Even if I can't say the right words, even if I expect the person on the mat to read my mind, at least I know when it's time to give up and move along.  I only missed one side of extended side angle and I think I threw in a couple of unnecessary chaturangas, all of which seems reasonably excusable.  Of course I did have my nose inches from paper for 90% of it.  Let's just forget for a moment that there was only one student in this "class" and let me pretend to think I actually kept pace.

4. Touching people is just strange.  I'm a big fan of receiving a strong adjustment, but it takes a lot of confidence in yourself to give an adjustment, even to a good friend, or maybe especially to a good friend.  And yet, the hallmark of a great yoga teacher is knowing exactly how to touch to get the best out of their students.  This is one area where Shane completely rules.  And I suppose our 1-1's have helped me understand a lot about how to encourage by touch.  Some of his adjustments aren't even adjustments.  For example, when he sticks his head above mine, while I'm in dead man's pose, and busts out a cheshire cat grin to counter the agony of my grimmace, that's not really an adjustment, it's just Shane being a goofball.  But, when he holds his palm just out of reach and tells me to touch it while in twisted crescent lunge, well, that's an example of goal setting at its finest.  And then there's the hell he puts me through in twisted trikonasana and that horrific twisted utthita parsvakonasana, where it feels like he has 8 arms and legs and then he actually expects me to be able to vigorously push my hips one way and my knee the other way.  I pretty much fail at those every time, even in my dreams.  I'm hopping the awkwardness and butterflies of invading someone's personal space can at least recede a bit when it's yoga time.  Because adjustments, even light, fingertip adjustments, make a huge difference for me in knowing where to focus.  And they cost nothing in terms of word choice.  They are intuitive ways to communicate attention and the best teachers know how to use them to extract maximum intensity.

5. Teaching guardasana (eagle) and natarajasana (dancer) is fairly challenging.  There is a lot going on with them, and then there's the whole challenge of balancing, and you only have so much time to spout off about whatever you're spouting about.  Those are two I should pay special attention to when I observe.  Vrksasana seems more straightforward, but I noticed the need to really put the brakes on in the transition between left and right sides and smooth that out.

I think the best takeaway, though, is how much more I respect and admire the teachers who inspire me after walking a mile in their shoes. Being a great teacher is so much more than being a great student.  Seing things through their eyes, or through a foggy version of their eyes, has helped me to understand just how unique their gifts are.


  1. It definitely didn't suck. I thought it was great. It was actually more fun that it wasn't perfect and a few times cheat sheets were used :)

  2. I cant wait for my private class tomorrow!! Lola and Annie are especially excited-- they've got the downward dog down pat. ;)

  3. Oh yes I know these challenges well! If you face them with a positive attitude (or attempt to mirror them while you are teaching:) with positivity and humor you go more than teach the poses you share your energy with your students as they give back to you!

    Are you taking teacher training Dave? Cool stuff!