Ready to be a Student

Friday I had to call a hiatus on Friday Drop-in Lunch Yoga.  I feel confident I can start back up that last Friday in November.  As I was chatting with Dori, one of my yoginis, in the hallway this week about all the things coming up in the next month at work she assured me a break might be in order.  As we parted ways I felt she had a point.  It would be better to take a break than to add to my stress by trying to be the kind of yoga teacher I want to be.  I have been less than focused these last couple weeks.  If you remember I was unable at the last minute to even make it to class two weeks ago.  I still feel terrible about that.

Next week I will be off work completely so that I may assist my husband post surgery.  The following week I will be working off site so that I can be available if additional care is necessary.  The week after that is the holiday week of Thanksgiving, so a class that Friday will be unnecessary.  It was with relief  I emailed the group that we won’t be coming together for yoga.

In the meantime, while I am taking this break I will be going back to my home yoga studio, the studio that is my place to hang out as a student.   It is a great studio.  The teachers there are focused and yoga centric while they are teaching.  Very few people there know that I am a yoga teacher.   I am ready to be a student again.  I am ready to  immerse myself in the motions of yoga with regard only to my own alignment, to allow my own focus to build back up.  I need to fill up so that I again have the enthusiasm I had when I started this drop-in class.  I look forward to freshening up my practise.  My hiatus may have just turned into a very short sabbatical.  I get to be the student.  A little break in the action is sometimes a very good thing.

Back on Course

It is Friday Lunch Drop-in Yoga Class day and I was there.  I was in our yoga room and ready for my students.  Shelly came in first and we had a moment to chat about last week.  Last week I was unable to get to class.  Shelly took up the reigns and led the group.  Today I was able to say thank you and to hear how she felt about the experience.

She felt good.  Shelly sounded strong and confident as she told me how they cobbled through the hour.  There is a newfound appreciation of what it takes to fill even an hour of time with postures that flow seamless from one to the next.  She did share that more than once  she found herself wondering what posture to try with the group next.  “Um, well let’s do a pidgeon pose, okay?”

Class went well today.  We spent more time than usual at the beginning just breathing and relaxing into ourselves as we waited for our latecomer to set up her mat and join us.  The extra time paid off.  I felt the class was in alignment as we started our into our sequence of postures.

I have been working on podcasting meditations.  As I listen to the meditations I have recorded I can hear where the cues are a little more jarring rather than relaxing.  I can hear where I am being too direct and not leaving room for the listener to interpret where they need to.

Today at the end of our session, as we cleared our minds again in savasana, I was able to apply some of the techniques I have been working on to our final savasana meditation.  Mostly what I have been learining is to be quiet, be specific but leave some of the specifics of relaxation to the imagination of my listener.  I asked my peeps to clear their mind.  To envision an empty teacup.  When the mind tries to fill the cup with thoughts to empty the cup again.  As they relaxed, I relaxed with them.  When my own mind became active I said outloud for the group, “Empty.”  In the two minutes that we had for savasana I merely said softly, “Empty” three more times.  As we returned ourselves to the room and came back into a seated posture everyone looked refreshed.

Every one of my peeps said thank you.  These are the times that make me glad I can help.

Missed Opportunity

It finally happened.  A year and a half of teaching Friday Lunch Drop-In Yoga and I was unable to get to my class.  I didn’t have any way of getting to the room to post a sign.  I didn’t have anyone’s information to text a single one of my regulars to let them know I couldn’t get there.  I didn’t even have the opportunity to panic on my students’ behalf.  When life intervenes it is best to be present where you are.  I was present in the moment even as I watched the clock tick past my opportunity to get to class slightly late.

When I was finally able to get to my email I sent out an apology.  I sent it while class would have been in session, 45 minutes into it.  It was my first opportunity.  I apologized.  It’s all I could do.  And the response, 20 minutes later, was lovely.  One of the ladies sent back, “We are sorry you couldn’t make it today.  We knew something was up.  Shelly stepped in and guided us through.”  The reason this is so lovely is my class still did yoga.  They didn’t walk away and go back to their desks or their jobs.  They stayed and did yoga.  I am proud of Shelly.  She has never led a class.  Yet she stepped up and into a role I’m sure she has been curious about.  Shelly became the instructor.  Shelly is a seasoned yoga practioner, she enjoys yoga and fully engages in her postures.  Shelly was the perfect choice and she didn’t miss this opportunity.  I am proud of her.

I can’t wait to meet up with my peeps next week.  I ache to be there.

Stability

89 hours.  I have guided yoga classes for 89 hours now.  That’s not a lot, I know.  But there’s a groove that is growing within me, I can feel my voice leading the group.  Even as the class size and participants rotate and ebb and flow, I feel stable.  I have regular classes and they are set and happen the same time every week.  I feel stable.

As much as I practise asanas for myself and others I am coming to rely on meditations, or moments of meditation, to calm me through any personal doubts in being a teacher.  After being an Asana practitioner for decades, using the postures to clear my head and stretch my body for peace, these days the meditation side of yoga is blossoming.  Sitting in meditation goes further to focus my desires.  Sitting in meditation has brought much of this stability into being.  I am finding the more I let loose my thoughts on what ought to be, the more what is is what I thought it ought to be.  By letting go with my thoughts, more of what I expect arrives.  Every wonderful little thing feels like a gift these days.  Meditation is allowing me to see it that way.  Gift from life.

I have some favorite meditations, things I have picked up over the years.  I should record some here.  Something to refer to.

The Best That I Can Do

The best that I can do as a teacher is to inspire my band of merry yogis to continue their practice.  I don’t get to own my students.  They are merely passing through.  I see the “passing through” part every time class opens with a different set of regulars.  They rotate in, and out and back in again.  They show up out of the blue and it feels like old friends coming back to say hi.  I like that.  I want to be sure that I give them something they can use.  There is no assurance – everyone gathers what they need – regardless if I had anything to do with it.

My hope, other than the immediate benefit of each practice we have together, is that they will want to move on, that they will want to keep going with yoga.  Of course, it doesn’t matter if their practice is at home, or with another teacher.  My hope is they find what they need out of yoga.

Second best thing that I can do is that I do no harm. Two years ago January I was holding yoga classes for my friends in my living room.  And they kept coming back.  We focused on cats and cows, forward folds, and floor twists mostly.  I did the sequence almost word for word from the instructor I was attending at the time.  This Yoga with Friends class got too crowded for my living room, so we changed houses.  I was leading five of my dear friends through a full hour of yoga practice twice a week.  Eventually, timing was an issue and one or another couldn’t come.  We went down to once a week.  Then old injuries and scheduled surgeries started to keep people from class. All but one fell away from coming over for yoga.

The injuries and the surgeries my friends were going through made me want to get certified.  The last thing I wanted was to make any of these illnesses or injuries worse.  These women were all hurting one way or another.  Between them there were knee surgeries, a hip replacement, reconstructed foot and osteo-arthritis.  Spring chicken does not describe the group.  The youngest of us was 49 at the time.

I don’t know that being certified has made me any more competent at assessing these issues or teaching with and around them.  I am just as aware now as I was when I started that there is a lot of healing that needs to be addressed.  Maybe I am more aware at how much this healing is truly the responsibility of the one hurting.  The best I can do is offer an option toward this healing.  And yes, I am partial to yoga benefits.

I’m also partial to benefits of chocolate, a glass of wine and a great night’s sleep.  That may be a different kind of healing…as we continue to breathe.

 

Sunday’s Neck

On Sunday as we went through Chair Pose (Utkatasana) I saw that Sunday was holding her neck and shoulders funny.  Funny, as in awkward.  I said the usual, “Drop your shoulders.” But I could see that Sunday’s shoulders were fine.  It was her neck that was out of kilter.

“Let’s get your neck aligned with your back.”  I said.  I kept us in Utkatasana while I spoke.  “Feel the angle of your spine and bring the back of your neck along the same angle.  Your neck is an extension of your spine here.”  Sunday lowered her chin, “Oh!”

These ah-ha moment are great!  Sunday’s shoulders came down naturally, all by themselves and I could see how much more comfortable Sunday was for adjusting her neck.

We came and went in and out of Chair pose two more time.  Sunday let me know each time, “This is so much nicer.” And “See, that’s why I like doing yoga with you.”  I was allowing myself to fill up just fine with all the praise.  My ego feels good for doing yoga with Sunday.

For the rest of our time together – during flying warrior, triangle pose, side angle – all through our standing poses I stayed focused on the alignment of Sunday’s neck.  I found myself stumbling over myself, iterating and re-iterating the balance and alignment of her neck for every pose.  I had found my focus, but was undercutting Sunday’s focus?

As I went to bed last night I came across the Dharma talk from Seanne Corn in February 2017 – “Get out of the way of your students.  They will have aha moments.  Those are for the students, not for you.  Get out of the way.”

I can only hope, after reading that in my notes, that Sunday has another aha moment soon so that I can practice, this time, staying out of the way.

A New Student

Fridays is the drop-in class.  I have gotten used to the same people coming pretty much every week for this drop-in class.  There is a series of six people that seem to trade off so that each week three people, more or less, show up for class.  This week we had a new student come in.  Dottie has never done yoga before.  Ever.

Dottie tells me she has wanted to try yoga for years now.  She told me this first thing Friday morning as we walked into work together.  I told her we have class today, and that she is dressed right if she would like to stop in.  Dottie is wearing the stretchy pants that are in fashion right now.  “Here’s your invitation to join us, Dottie.  It’s a perfect day to give it a try.  We met up on the right day, so come on in.”

I did make some promises as I tried to talk her into coming.  I promised we don’t sweat.  I promised to have her back to her work area on time.  I promised it wasn’t hard to do yoga.  Yes, I do some incredible personal marketing when given the chance.  So far Dottie is only the second person I have talked into joining us.  The first one never came back – that’s another blog post.

I do shameless promotion of the drop-in class.  I mean, really, it’s free.  It’s a no sweat way to get yourself out of your work area.  It’s easy and quiet and fun.  It’s perfect when the weather sucks because we are inside.

So Dottie came to class!  I was grateful – actually grateful – to have her join us.  My regular yoga expert was in class this Friday.  She right away introduced herself.  It was wonderful.  Just sharing names was welcoming.   I introduced Dottie as her first ever yoga.  I am glad I did.  This shared information gave me the power to slow down our postures.  My regular practitioners knew to hold their postures while I instructed Dottie on what, or rather how to move into the next asana.  Everyone was totally cool with it.

It was wonderful to have a seasoned practitioner in class to help show good posture and movement while I narrated what we are doing and how to get there.

Dottie did not make it correctly into a posture or two.  Like Natalie’s’ Law of Algebra she caught on after the test, or as we were moving into the next posture. But she caught on.  I saw the light of understanding blinking repeatedly in Dottie’s eyes.  The light was always just in time for some adjustment.

One of Dottie’s concerns was that she would slow down the rest of the class.  I assured her our class is slow enough she can’t slow it down.  Of course, I lied.  I take verbal shortcuts with the regular group.  We do more repetitions or stay longer in a pose with particular muscle group in mind.  For today I just wanted to introduce Dottie to yoga so that she was comfortable.

So yes, I slowed the class down.  In our forty minutes we did seated twist, cats & cows, two sun salutations (one each side), mountain pose, warrior series, forward wide leg fold, boat pose (twice), windshield wiper knees, 4 pose, knee to ankle twist, happy baby and Savasana.  Fifteen poses in all.  That’s it.  I did allow us to stay in our poses a little longer, to breathe into the muscles.  My regular participant went ahead more than once on the warrior series while I was explaining knees behind toes and opening one’s chest to breath and accept the amazing energy of a warrior.  In this way I know we lingered in the pose a little too long, but Dottie was still getting situated, so she may have felt a little rushed.  I hope that this feeling of being rushed allowed her to believe that we did not slow down the class for her.

Dottie did ask, at the end of class, if she can invite someone to join us at these drop in classes.  I was enthusiastic in my yes – please do, we want you to.  Dottie asked, How many can come?”  and my Subject Matter Expert piped right in, “As many as the mats we have here on the cart.”  That was THE perfect answer!  Oh how I would love to have all those mats in use.  How many mats are there?  That’s how big I want my class to be…every week.

Subject Matter Expert (photo)

They think I’m an expert.

I still hold a full-time job.  I like being able to pay my bills. I like having the lights on at home and good food in the cupboards.  At work, when people hear I am teaching yoga, I get visitors stopping by to ask about quick fixes and physical or health advice.  It is flattering to be considered the subject matter expert.  Even when I know that I most certainly am not.  I am not supposed to be flattered.  I am supposed to be humbled, and I am actually.  When the questions come up, I am very humbled that my co-workers would ask me health and yoga questions.  It is after they leave that I feel all full of myself.  I feel like maybe I am pretty good at this and of course they would come ask me.  I am as ego driven as the next person.

So far I haven’t steered anyone wrong on the yoga and health questions.  So far, I am two-for-two.  Okay, so this advice thing is not an everyday occurrence.

I had been visiting in the office with one friend – the kind of work buddy that makes work bearable.  She has been feeling miserable lately.  Her legs are swelling, her feet hurt, etc.  Now my buddy has some physical ailments – her back, her hips, extreme weight, I don’t know what all else.  But I hate to see her in such pain.  She shared with me when I said I had finished yoga instructor training that her doctor recommended for her to practice yoga.  For me, I would love to be her yoga instructor.  But I would want to be there every other day like clockwork – or she won’t do it.

In the meantime I told her there is one yoga pose that may do her more good than any other right now and that is Legs Up The Wall.  I told her to go home tonight and for the next week and put her legs up the wall.  I even got on the office floor, real quick before anyone could come by, to show her how easy this is, and to prove it is just what I am saying it is.  This asana is to simply lie down and put your legs up the wall. (Insert Photo

Together we laughed at how crazy we are to be getting onto the floor and how the visit had deteriorated into one of those visits.  I did tell her before I left her area to do it.  Put her legs up the wall every night for the week and then tell me how she feels.  My buddy has not told me how it felt.  We haven’t talked about it.

But she must feel okay, because a week later an old supervisor stopped by my desk to tell me her doctor has recommended yoga for her ailments as well.  She has issues with hips and joint pain.  We were chatting away and I described some hip-openers she can do in bed before she gets up and some floor twists to just gently “wake up” her hips and knees.  I didn’t demonstrate this time.  I know better now.  My old supervisor seemed to understand.  I only shared maybe three things to help.

Is she feeling better?  I think so because I got word that the two of them have been talking about how they do yoga now and Sarah helped them with their yoga moves.  Between the two of them I only shared maybe four different asanas.  There was no assist.  I spoke of alignment, but how much information was retained?  How can this be considered “doing yoga”?

If I jump rope for one revolution is it considered jumping rope?  Well, yes, I suppose I did jump the rope.  But hey, the full effect of rope jumping (and yoga) is lost on these one-hit wonders.  And yet, hey, if each of them are doing these postures, semi-regularly even, they are doing themselves good.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the yoga.  It’s about feeling better.  It’s about individual healing.  I need to step away now that the advice is given.

I am no expert.  And they are only doing a yoga posture or three as far as I know.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble regarding the full nature of yoga, it’s not in a posture.  Who knows when they will want to expand or deepen their practice?  I would like to be there for that.  In a dharma talk I was able to attend the speaker said, “These are not your students.  They are here for a little while for you to prepare them for the next teacher.  You are only the bridge to what is next.”  Maybe my advice is all I get to give them.  I need to be okay with that.

User Friendly Band of Merry Yoginis

We did a quick Savasana.  I meant to be quick.  We had done some great postures and had worked on allowing a strong Flying Warrior (Virabhadrasana III) for our peak pose.  This isn’t the first time this Flying Warrior is my go to.  Today was particularly nice for everyone.  They looked strong.  But we had taken our time and now there wasn’t much time left for a strong Savasana.

This is a day I am glad there is no clock in the room.  My battery operated clock is facing me.  I guide the gang down onto their mats and started the slow relaxing mantra as I walked over to the light switches to calm the room.  I had to think about staying at a calming pace with my guided relaxation.  I can’t just say – be calm for half a minute – and expect it to work.  I thought about it.

I came back to my mat at the front of the room and sat to watch the group.  Usually I watch for twitching and restlessness to know when the Savasana is no longer serving its purpose.  Today I was watching the clock.  We went into Savasana at the time we usually are done with Savasana.  There isn’t going to be enough time to clean our mats and roll them up if we get in a full three minutes.

I don’t know how long Savasana is supposed to last.  I just know that around three minutes everyone is done, put a fork in them and let these folks sit up and get about their day.

At a minute and a half – I am getting crazy nervous about ruining any relaxation by having to get up too quickly and vacate the room – I called it.  “It is time, already, to bring yourselves back into the room.”

Shelby smiled, she must have known it was coming.  Steph didn’t’ twitch once to be released.  She is the first one to start getting antsy to be moving.  I feel like I beat her to the punch.  Usually I am pleased to have her learn to wait it out a little.

Even with a short Savasana the cartel seemed pleased with our practice today.  It is going to be difficult to have a bad practice with this group.  I am extremely lucky.  I am so honored to be practicing my skills with them.  I got really lucky.