Saturday, November 12, 2011


Kim, Vince, Sally, Jessica, Me, Wendy, Sean, June, Jenna

I lead my 2nd "real" yoga class today, at The Nest.  Before I break it down, I gotta unload my thank you's:

Sean and Vince, two young men who I can count on to come through, show up, and sweat it out.  Both of you are tough as nails and yet willing to experience "girly" yoga with me, it says a lot about your character and open mindedness.  A lot of dudes would have a tough time doing that.  Thank you for cranking out the heat.

Wendy, June and Sally, the three additions since the first class.  You made this class special for me by your willingness to experience something new for yourself.  All 3 of you are off my periphery since most of your workouts are done with the central team, and yet you were able to trust me off the few interactions we've had.  That says a lot about your character.  Especially June, your courage to explore your limits and trust that we would take care of you meant a ton to me.  Thank you all, you are three very classy ladies.

Jessica and Kimberly, my two yoga rock stars.  You both really knocked it out of the park today and I'm so stoked for you and for being able to share those two classes with you.  I really hope you both find some joy on the mat the way I have, I'm quite certain you will be shredding it up if you decide to dabble a bit more.

Caitlin, wow, what can I say?  You made this space, _and_ you let me invite myself in to come and teach.  You trusted me and your generosity has allowed me to sharpen my skills.  Your dream, realized just a few months ago, now allows me to explore my own dreams.  You support me with all of the compassion and understanding I could ask for, a willingness to serve and a patience for me to make my own mistakes as I walk down a path you traveled long ago.  Every moment with you leaves me more and more impressed.  Oh, and thanks for all your help with the music (more on that later.)

Jenna, you've become a such a wonderful, dear friend to me.  You've been there for me every single time I asked and you always make me smile.  You pulled off some awesome demos, you worked endlessly to spread the love around, and you never once corrected me or made me feel like the rookie that I am.  Acceptance comes so naturally to you, it's a gift.  I've watched your own teaching skills sharpen, I've watched you grow and live and learn and explore as we've both become such great friends.  Some strange stoke of luck brought us together, and I think we've both built each other up ever since we met.  Being friends with you is effortless and always feels special because your inner light is warm and bright.  Thank you for being there to support me through this, for accepting all of my insanity and even embracing it.

OK, enough blowing sunshine around, right?  Let's get down to business.

First, the music.  I botched the tunes again, 0-2 on that.  This time I spent a lot of time lining up the songs based on the timeline and by some idiotic move I left my ipad in shuffle mode.  I was scratching my head half the time as the songs came up out of order, but Caitlin helped out a lot by adjusting the volume.  And since most of the songs in the playlist are pretty mellow, it worked out OK.  I hand-picked the song for core at the right time, so that worked out OK.  But it threw me off b/c I didn't realize until about 2/3 of the way through, when I turned off shuffle.  Rookie goof.  Oh well.  I'm pretty sure I didn't get one or two of the songs on the playlist in, and I think I repeated 2 or 3.  I even set up an extra song for a long intro and used it because half of the peeps showed up 10 minutes early.  Oh well, I'll keep learning and focusing on this stuff, it's easy enough to get the music right.

My greetings this time weren't as awesome as last time.  I need to keep the effort up with that.  I have a tendency to get too comfortable with people I know and skip formalities.  That's a total growth area.

The rest of this is going to be a bit difficult to follow for anyone who doesn't know the Core Power C1 sequence, but I'm going to write it for a reader who knows it well because this whole post is intended to serve as a learning experience for me with my peers and instructors.

I felt like I did OK with integration series.  I tried to spend the right amount of time in balasana, and I stumbled over my words a little less than before.  I did a demo with Jenna in table top to try to set the stage for tucking the tailbone later on and I think that was fairly successful even though I burned some extra time there.  My cues for downward dog weren't awesome, but I felt like I lead through a decent samasthiti and kept it rolling through Surya Namaskara A and the chaturanga demo.  Using Jenna for the demo was a great crutch, I felt it was definitely worth taking advantage of since she was there so that I could focus on the words and she could be the body.  I'm curious what Caitlin thinks of how it came off.  I got the impression from at least one of the students that there was more of an understanding from the two early demos in table top and chaturanga than my first class where I demo'd everything myself.  I know this isn't something I can count on as an instructor, but I also think when you have the tool in the box, you might as well use it instead of doing things the hard way.

I spent a bit of time on tadasana too.  Perhaps I spent too much time talking about "I" and "me" during these demos but I really wanted to explain why I was spending the time focusing on what must seem like minutia to beginners, why I found that stuff important.  I wonder how it came off.  Maybe I am too OCD on that stuff, maybe I should just let it be, maybe I took the focus off the students by relating to personal experience and preference.  My intention was to really crank on alignment in the early stuff and then let the rest unravel.

Surya Namaskara B went pretty well.  I tried to demo/assist with Jenna for warrior 2 and maybe spent a bit too much time but I felt this set up things reasonably well for some good lunges later on.  Everyone was oriented facing center which made for some good vision to the demo space, and I think I milked it since I had Caitlin to adjust alignment while I demo'd on Jenna.  It was really fun, I think this is where I really started to relax and enjoy the experience.  The first class was just giving, pouring myself out and feeling empty at the end.  This 2nd class was different, I felt like I was filling myself while I filled up the room.  Sun B was where it started flowing.  I probably pushed the pace a bit too much for the 2nd and 3rd rounds of Sun B, but I tried to explain why I was doing that.  I was a little surprised at how tentative everyone took their SUN B chaturanga's, but I also wanted to give them space to practice how they wanted to, so I cued an extra inhale/shift forward on almost all of them.  It seemed to work OK.  I think we were maybe 5 minutes behind schedule after Sun B, going off total guesses.

Core went OK.  I think a bit better than last time.  I could really see and feel the effort at this point, the room was engaged and that got me excited.  Navasana seemed really strong to me.  I can't take full credit for this, I think having the 4 repeat customers helped because they knew it was only 3 minutes and it is safe to push hard for those full 3 minutes.

Crescent lunge was another walkthrough on Jenna and I think all the visual reinforcement helped the others.  I would imagine Caitlin and Meg when they dual teach get a lot of good information across, since they are both so experienced.  A demo on a girl body is just way better than a demo on an inflexible boy body.  I was happy enough with my cues through cresecent lunge series, though I think my revolved crescent cues could improve a bit.  I forget if I suggested a modification in revolved crescent, but I remember adding it in for both vasistasanas and also for runner's lunge.  I felt like I gave enough space in runner's lunge for some quiet time.  I think Caitlin might have turned down the music a bit for each of those moments.

Prayer twist and gorilla seemed to flow OK, though I may have been stumbling a bit here, I just remember being fully engaged in the moment.  Bakasana demo was unrehearsed, and my intention was to offer lolasana instead.  I'm not sure Jenna knew what I meant by lolasana, I sort of expected her to have infinite experience with it, but it's not part of any sequence that I know of, and I'm not sure she spends as much time messing around with arm balances like I do with Shane.  It seemed klunky as I tried to cue something I've never cued before, purely off memory and reading one article the day before.  So I sort of gave up on that and talked through a bakasana demo.  I forget if I offerred a baksasana prep demo/explanation.  This part just got slopppy, and ironically I pulled off a much beter version in teacher training a few hours later, demo'ing with my own body and skipping lolasana.  I do think crow makes zero sense in the C1 and that lolasana would be a better choice because 2 or 3 sets would be something just about anyone can do by leveraging weight in their toes and it would build strength for future arm balances.  But I also think I'm not nearly a good enough teacher to pull off a swap like this without some thought and preparation.

I'm blank on the 2nd balasana, I know I hit it well in teacher training afterwards, but I forget if I gave out any love out at the nest.  However, the next part was the biggest surprise of the day.  I suck at balancing in my own practice, and I don't think I'm a very good instructor for the balancing series, but I swear there was just a moment during vrksasana that felt electric.  Even natarajasana felt steady.  Perhaps I've improved a bit?  Garudasana went OK, the whole series was better than I expected.  I think I have a hangup on this series because I typically fall out a few times, so it was a big confidence boost to rock it out and it really set a special tone that lasted the rest of class.

Triangle series was the one I had gone way too fast through the Monday prior.  I had a huge intention to slow down and let that series soak in, particularly vera bhadrasana I.  I'm not one to congratulate myself very often, but I felt like I hit the mark with my timing for triangle series and that meant a lot to me.  To observe a deficiency or tendency and then be able to correct it is exactly what learning from experience is about.  It gives me hope.  Timing and tempo is so critical to the student's experience, you want a full chance for deep expression, and that may involve some quivering or shaking, but you don't want to leave anyone hung out to dry.  It can be a fine line.  My cues may not have been perfect, but I was just very happy with my tempo.  I did leave out reverse warrior after prasarita paddotanasana though, that's something to try to remember to add in, but I don't think anyone minded, there was a look of fatigue at that point.

Half pidgeon went really well, not necessarily the cues, but the mood and bringing down the intensity.  I felt like I heard my own voice softening at just the right time, and I felt like I gave adequate space here.  I was tempted to talk more, to introduce more of a theme, but silence just felt right this time.  In retrospect, the class ended up fairly themeless, but somehow silence and rain seemed enough.  It seemed like a chord was struck without using so many words, so I just let it be.  In the future, I'd really prefer to have a solid theme to interweave, but today it was OK to just let it be a little open ended.

Bujangasana and Daunurasana were acceptable, not awesome, but probably better than last time.  Camel was a little better since I didn't second guess myself and consider leaving it out.  Then seated forward fold before bridge which is something that doesn't feel perfect.  We've talked about this a bit, and it's something to continue thinking about.  If pachimotanasana follows ustrasana and leads into septu bandha sarvangasana then it should be a hamstring stretch, not a lower back stretch, otherwise there is just too much backward bending and forward bending without a chance to neutralize the spine.  But if you do bridge before seated foward fold, then you're coming down to the mat and then back up.  Neither feels right to me yet, but I think camel to forward fold to lying down to bridge seems like the best option.  Anyway, bridge was OK, better than before, fairly decent actually.

My happy baby could use a little work, and supine spinal twist wasn't perfect, but not horrible.  Savasana somehow felt so serene that I just didn't want to talk, I wanted to give space.  I felt like it was about the right amount of time in savasana before I started bringing them back, but it might have been a bit short.  I ran about 10 minutes over in total, which is probably a pretty normal C1 if I had thrown out camel and bridge and all the extra demo's.  Of course I'd still like to dial it in to an exact 60 minutes, but I think with less demos I'd be closer.

Areas for improvement:

1. Breathe with the class more.  Add in more quiet time.  I think I've made good progress here but I still have a ways to go.

2. Better cues for surrender series.  This is the newest and hence my weakest, but I'm happy with my progress.

3. Better greeting and intro.  Always have a theme, a solid, clear, crystalline theme, and drive it home.  I was losey goosey with that this time, after overdoing it last time.  Find the middle ground, short and sweet, have a quote or two ready, and sew it throughout the class.

4. Music.  It needs to be spot on.  There's no excuse for that, especially for a tech minded guy like me.

5. More adjustments.  I only did a few hands-on adjustments.  I'd like to challenge myself more with that.  I'm comfortable touching people, I just need to get out of my own head long enough to remember to jump in.  Having the two ladies was a crutch that I relied on.  I need to work towards being more self sufficient.

That's about all I can think of for now.  I feel a lot better about how this class went.  We'll see how the eval goes from Jenna and Caitlin as I consider if I'm going to keep trying to teach classes...

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