Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I will be teaching this Sunday. That sentence sounds so strange to me. I haven't attempted to teach since 2011. With two weeks to prepare for my section of roughly 15 minutes, I've had so much time to think and then overthink this weekend that I'm approaching a state of mind which is not unlike my pre-Ironman nerves. As I notice this happening, I'm laughing at myself for how strange I am. Why do I care so much about 15 minutes which will be forgotten by everyone else as soon as it is over? The answer to that question opens up a pandora's backpack full of thoughts on what yoga means to me and what I hope it might mean to others.
When I started my practice, I knew next to nothing, but I was pretty fit. I stumbled into yoga tropics one morning on a whim and spilled my sweat all over the floor. I decided I wanted to be able to touch my toes, so I kept coming back. It helped that at that point in time I was the lightest I've been in the past two decades because the lack of bulk helped with twisting and some of the more claustrophobic asanas. It was the right time to adopt a new passion and yoga fit the bill. It began as a physical journey at that point in time. Although the spiritual element was present in the class, I was not plugged into it. As I was fresh off the most difficult breakup of my life, my emotional wounds were fairly raw and I tended to ignore them in class.
Paul and his then-girlfriend Carmela got me to try out Haute. While I enjoyed the instructors at Tropics, and while I appreciated the convenience and quality, I was not truly hooked into Tropics as a community. At Haute I first experienced what the yoga community feels like as I made friends with Shane and Jenna and began to pair up names and faces. I remember Lex using 3 or 4 different names for me in some of her classes that first month or two at Haute, and I also remember one specific class where I gave up on standing head to knee and instead looked over at Jenna sprawled out over her leg in perfect balance and surrender only to be woken from my trace with what I remember as "Jason, focus on your practice, not Jenna's." I remember my first few Katie Brauer classes, and how I began to understand a few of the differences between vinyasa, anusara, ashtanga, and iyengar. The hook was set at Haute, within the space that Dino had created for just that purpose.
I started working privately with Shane and that opened up a world of yoga which I am still trying to absorb and understand. Throughout 2011, with the help of a few very special instructors, I subtly and patiently began healing from whatever emotional scars remained from my failed engagement. It wasn't really a direct addressing of any of my thoughts of feelings which I needed. I had tried a few rounds of traditional therapy and found it to be empty and pointless. The worst hell for me is sitting in a room with a fat guy in a sweater vest spilling my guts to a poker face who's only contribution was "I can't tell you where we're going or how long it's going to take to get there." I chose my mat for my own dynamic healing, I chose my mat because of how I was able to feel during class. What I found on the mat in 2011, off the seed that I planted in 2010, was a reconnection to the joy of living, breathing and feeling, a reconnection to change, and an opening to all sorts of new experiences. I was excited to take class, excited in a way I hadn't been in many years. And a huge reason for this excitement was the environment created by my favorite instructors. I knew what gifts they would bring into the room and how good I would feel in the presence of those gifts. I would build up tremendous anticipation and expectations which I carried into the studio with me. The best instructors, my favorites, lived up to these expectations and routinely exceeded them.
I haven't taught much yoga yet, just tidbits and smidgens, but from what I've observed of myself, I am not the instructor I wish I were because I am not able to create the type of experience which I desire as a student.
I have watched my fellow teacher-trainers as they've gone off into the wild and started teaching on their own. Trevor, Jordan, Matt, Tricia, Shelley, and this week Anna. I've seen their progress in various ways and I've enjoyed their lead. Matt in particular has reached a level of awesomeness which approaches what I feel around some of my favorite instructors. I know it's a long road and I know the only way to get somewhere is to start. Matt has proven that progress comes from dedication.
But here's the thing. I am willing to suffer through the worst misery imagineable if I think I'm heading in the right direction. I've proven that to myself many times. But what I struggle with, where I feel most drag in my yoga teaching pursuit, is my inability to offer to others the experience which I crave for myself. I know there is no path to excellence which does not first visit suckiness and I know I need to do my time sucking and then sucking a bit less and maybe one day sucking only a little. I'm fine with sucking. I just hate subjecting other people to my own suckiness when I know they could be in the same room at a different time and experience wonder, joy, excitement, and amazement.
So, anyway, I take another step this Sunday. And I'm nervous about that. More nervous than I've been in a long time.